Student unions reject academic boycott of Israel

December 20, 2002

Student unions are spurning attempts to extend the academic boycott of Israel to the undergraduate community.

Following moves by academics to boycott Israeli institutions in protest at its treatment of Palestinians, student unions at Warwick and Cambridge universities and the London School of Economics have rejected a campaign to make a similar boycott official student union policy.

A student boycott is being promoted by the Socialist Worker Student Society and championed by National Union of Students executive and SWSS member, Helen Salmon, who recently visited the occupied territories.

An NUS spokesman this week said it was strongly against an academic boycott. The Union of Jewish Students has attacked the boycott as "racist".

Meanwhile, the academic boycott has been gathering pace. It emerged this week that Oren Yiftachel of Ben Gurion University had a paper he had co-written with a Palestinian returned to him by the journal Political Geography, on the grounds that it could not accept any submission from Israel. It was later accepted after heavy editing.

Four prominent scientists - including Colin Blakemore and Richard Dawkins - who had been associated with supporting the boycott, clarified their positions. They said that while they supported an initial proposal for a suspension of research funding from European agencies to Israel, they were "unequivocally opposed" to a boycott of individual Israeli scientists or academics.

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