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British academics' union votes to boycott Israeli academics

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British academics' union votes to boycott Israeli academics

Source: The Associated Press


Members of Britain's largest college teachers' union on Monday voted to boycott Israeli academics over what members termed "apartheid" policies and discriminatory practices toward Palestinians.

The 69,000-member National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) passed the motion at its annual conference in the northern English city of Blackpool. Two parts of the proposal passed with a show of hands, while a third went to a vote.

But union spokesman Trevor Phillips said the motion will only act as an advisory policy and will not necessarily be adopted, as the union is to merge this week with the Association of University Teachers, or AUT, to become the University and College Union with more than 100,000 members.

Ronnie Fraser, director of the Academic Friends of Israel, said his group would continue fighting the boycott and called the union's move "racist." "If the sponsors of this boycotting campaign succeeded in something, it is only to undermine further progress, collaboration and peace in the Middle East and to marginalize the standing of NATFHE," Fraser said.

The third section of the motion called on union members to consider if they should refuse to cooperate with Israeli academics or Israeli research journals that do not "disassociate themselves" from the policies described in the motion.

It said members had a responsibility to ensure "equity and nondiscrimination" in Israeli education institutions and was passed with 106 members in favor, 71 against and 21 abstentions, Phillips said.

The first two parts of the boycott motion noted Israel's "apartheid practices" toward Palestinians, including the construction of a wall between Israel and the West Bank, and called for more meetings in secondary schools and universities on the subject.

Delegates also said a potential humanitarian disaster could be caused by withholding EU and U.S. aid since Hamas won the Palestinian election in January.

The proposal reopened debate sparked last year, when the 40,000-member AUT voted to boycott Israel's Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities for actions which it said undermined Palestinian rights and academic freedom.

That union said it targeted Bar-Ilan University for its links to the College of Judea and Samaria in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. It accused Haifa University of threatening to fire an Israeli political science lecturer for supporting a student's research into allegations of killings by Israeli troops.

The universities said many elements of the allegations were false, and the move was condemned by the Israeli and British governments. The decision was overturned after a month. Some British academics continue to push for ties to be cut.

Professor Richard Seaford, a classicist at Exeter University, told the British Broadcasting Corp. this week that he and other academics were already engaged in an informal boycott, refusing to submit work to Israeli journals or collaborate with Israeli academics.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science urged the union to withdraw the motion, calling it "antithetical to the positive role of free scientific inquiry in improving the lives of all citizens of the world, and in promoting cooperation among nations, despite political differences."

Our links relevent to this article

The Inter-Senate Committee of the Israeli Universities for the defense of Academic Freedom

Prof Steinberg addresses the UK National Postgraduate Committee on the topic of Academic Freedom

A boycott is already on

Israel boycott resurfaces in NATFHE - AWL

NATFHE: Chuck out 198C! - Jon Pike (Engage)

Academic Friends of Israel situation update from 25/5/06

The Peace Vigil Page, the protest against the AUT boycott

Al-Quds University - Hebrew University. Cooperation Agreement

Principles of Palestinian-Israeli Cooperation

National Postgraduate Committee Says: Don't take Academia Hostage

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