Palestinian scholars win Israeli support

Petition calls on Government to end restrictions on academic freedoms, writes Melanie Newman

August 7, 2008

Hundreds of Israeli academics have signed a petition criticising their Government for limiting the academic freedom of Palestinian scholars and students through "checkpoints and blockades".

But the petition authors said that attempts in Britain to protest against Israel's "mistreatment" of Palestinians by calling for an academic boycott of Israeli universities were counterproductive.

Snait Gissis and Menachem Fisch of Tel-Aviv University, two of the authors, said: "Academics in the UK who wish to take action in response to Israel's mistreatment of the Palestinian people ... should direct their political protest against the civil and military institutions of the Israeli Government rather than ... Israeli institutions of higher learning."

The UK University and College Union passed a motion at its congress in May asking members to consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions in the light of Israeli academics' "complicity" in the human rights abuses of Palestinians.

The petition says: "To leave the situation as it is will cause serious harm to freedom of movement, study and instruction - harm to the foundation of academic freedom ... ".

The names of the 407 signatories from 11 institutions have been published online. "We received a number of letters objecting to our call: some of the authors sent reasoned responses, arguing their case against our petition; others chose to send insulting hate mail," the authors said.

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com

See the petition at http://academic-access.weebly.com.

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