Lecturers reject call to boycott Israelis

May 16, 2003

The AUT has rejected an academic boycott of Israel amid concerns that it would alienate "progressive" Israeli academics who share the union's concerns about the country's human-rights record.

Delegates in Scarborough voted about 2:1 against a motion calling on all AUT members and all UK universities to sever academic links with Israeli institutions in protest at "repeated breaches of United Nations resolutions and of the Geneva Conventions".

Sue Blackwell of Birmingham University, who proposed the motion, said that academics should take a lead from the boycott of South Africa and impose similar sanctions against "today's apartheid regime".

She said there had been half a century of human-rights abuses against Palestinians by Israel, and numerous aggressive acts towards its neighbours.

She urged members not to attend any academic conferences in Israel, and not to participate as referees in hiring or promoting decisions by Israeli universities, or in the decisions of Israeli funding agencies.

"Such links should be restored only after full withdrawal of all Israeli forces, opening of negotiations to implement UN resolutions and the restoration of full access to all Palestinian higher and further education institutions," she said.

Bradford University's Alan Waton, speaking for the executive, said a boycott would not be effective. "We should work as closely as possible with those progressive forces both in Israel and in Palestine to hasten the day when we have two independent states," he said.

Simon Renton of University College London said a boycott would be "intolerant, arrogant, imperialist behaviour".

The union agreed to affiliation to the Trade Union Friends of Palestine, "to show ongoing support for the occupied people of Palestine", and resolved to establish closer links with Palestinian universities.

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