OU professor revives call for Israel boycott

July 16, 2004

UK academic Stephen Rose has renewed calls for an international academic boycott of Israeli universities at a conference to find solutions to Israeli-Palestinian hostilities.

Professor Rose, a founder of the international academic boycott campaign, read out a letter from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel at the opening session of a conference on solutions to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, held in Brussels.

The letter calls on the international academic community to refrain from any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions, including a suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies.

It says: "The Israeli academy has contributed, either directly or indirectly, to maintaining, defending or otherwise justifying the military occupation and colonisation of the West Bank and Gaza."

The letter, which sparked an impromptu workshop to discuss the proposed boycott, has outraged some academics, who feel the focus of the debate has been derailed.

But Professor Rose, professor of biology at the Open University, referred to a number of Palestinians who were unable to attend the conference because they were not authorised to travel.

He said: "There can be no academic freedom without human rights. The pressure we in the European Union can exert has to come by means of this sort, both by seeking positive collaboration with the Palestinians and also by increasing the pressure on the Israeli state."

Oren Yiftachel of Ben Gurion University, whose work was boycotted last year when an article he wrote was rejected by the journal Political Geography , said that a boycott would be counterproductive because it would punish Israelis who opposed their government's policies.

Andre Faber, dean of social sciences at the University of Brussels, said that the university had voted against a proposal to exclude Israeli universities from EU scientific programmes because it was important to support continued contact between European, US, Israeli and Palestinian universities.

Supporting a boycott, Vidar Thorsteinsson of the University of Iceland, who is a member of the Iceland-Palestine Association, said that Israeli academics should view the proposed boycott as "an act of solidarity" with imprisoned Palestinian colleagues.

Miriam Shlesinger of Bar-Ilan University is the most high-profile Israeli academic to have been formally boycotted - Mona Baker of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology dismissed her from the editorial board of a translation journal. Dr Shlesinger said that anyone who thought an academic boycott would change Israeli policies was "incredibly short sighted".

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