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Uni boycott overturned

by: Diana Bahur-Nir, Ynetnews - Last updated: 2005-05-26



The British Association of University Teachers (AUT) has decided to lift the academic boycott imposed on Bar-Ilan and Haifa Universities it started last month.

In a meeting called in the wake of an international campaign orchestrated by the Israeli universities and the Foreign Ministry, lecturer representatives were asked to vote on whether to continue the boycott.

A group representative announced the decision to end the ban was taken by a "very large majority."

The decision to boycott the two universities was lauded by Palestinian Authority figures, who expressed their hope to see more international groups to exert pressure on Israel. Meanwhile, senior Jewish figures in London slammed the decision as irresponsible and dangerous.

Israel’s Ambassador to London Tzvi Hefetz told Ynet in response to the decision “We are very pleased with the result. Within two months they managed to understand what we have been trying to explain for 2000 years – you can’t advance issues byway of a boycott.”

“Ironically, the fact that the boycott was imposed and lifted within a month and stirred public outcry has strengthened our position” he said.

When the boycott was imposed last month Palestinian Authority sources praised the move and expressed their hope that more international organizations would apply pressure on Israel.

“The taboo has finally been shattered,” Omar Barghouti, the organizer of the Palestinian campaign to promote an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, said at the time.

“From now on it will be acceptable to compare the Israeli Apartheid with that which was prevalent in South Africa.”

At the time Israeli Deputy Ambassador to the U.K. Zvi Ravner told the “Guardian” he is surprised and concerned regarding the decision by leading academic institutions in Britain to impose an academic boycott on Bar-Ilan and Haifa universities.

He said he was uncertain whether the British institutions intend to boycott Palestinians and Arab Israelis who work in the Israeli universities or whether they are actually calling for a boycott on Jews.

Anti-Defamation League Director Abraham Foxman said in response to the boycott “Those who now urge a boycott of Israeli universities must know that such a boycott is an assault on the very idea of the university as a citadel of intellectual freedom and informed debate.”

"The fact that AUT chose to target Israel, the only country in the Middle East that has complete academic freedom for all segments of the population and all political streams is scandalous," the ministry said in a statement when the boycott was imposed.

British Ambassador to Israel Simon McDonald said at the time that the British government opposes academic boycotts in general and the boycott against the Israeli universities in particular.

The British boycott stirred great interest in Israel, with some figures such as far left activist Uri Avnery justifying the decision. Others, however, slammed the ban as a dangerous limit on scientific freedom and said academia should not be used as a tool in what is essentially a political struggle.

Reproduced with permission and copyright: Ynetnews