Alan Dershowitz, one of America's leading lawyers, has promised he will personally visit legal and financial ruin on any UK academic supporting a boycott of Israeli academe.
The Felix Frankfurter professor of law at Harvard University revealed his intention to The Times Higher ahead of the University and College Union's annual conference in Bournemouth this week at which pro-boycott motions were expected.
Professor Dershowitz, who has triumphed in high-profile trials - including those of O. J. Simpson and Claus von Bulow - said he would organise a campaign to ruin British academics supporting the boycott by imposing legal, economic and academic measures against them. "I guarantee that we will obtain legislation dealing with this issue, imposing sanctions that will devastate and bankrupt those who seek to impose bankruptcy on Israeli academics," he said.
The sanctions and potential legal action might be based on US law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of nationality and could be used against British universities with co-operative agreements with American partners, he said.
He has already begun working with a leading British barrister, whom he declined to name, to find legal avenues to challenge a boycott. He said he would pressure major American financial institutions to stop doing business with UK universities.
Professor Dershowitz said he would urge "at least 1,000" US academics to accept honorary posts at Israeli universities and declare themselves Israelis - thus becoming the de facto targets of a boycott.
He said a boycott would "mark the end of British academics' reputation as serious scholars".