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Israeli academic boycott 'anti-Semitic', says Harvard president

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Israeli academic boycott 'anti-Semitic', says Harvard president

Source: Financial Times

by Jon Booneand & Rebecca Knight, 1st June 2006

The decision by the country's biggest lecturers union to boycott Israeli academics has been denounced as "anti-Semitic" by the president of Harvard University.

Larry Summers attacked the decision by members of Natfhe on Monday to support a boycott of Israeli academics who fail to dissociate themselves publicly from Israel's "apartheid policies".

He said: "There is much that should be - indeed that must be - debated regarding Israeli policy. And all views can be, should be and will be expressed by those in academic life.

"However, the academic boycott resolution passed by the British professors union in the way that it singles out Israel is in my judgment anti-Semitic in both effect and in intent."

He added that he hoped the decision would be repudiated "in the strongest possible terms" by scholars around the world.

Many groups have done just that, with the Israeli-led International advisory Board for Academic Freedom announcing that it was prepared to pursue legal avenues to overturn any boycotts.

Malcolm Grant, the president and provost of University College London, joined the chorus of disapproval saying he was "deeply worried" by the motion.

"I find it extraordinary that any academic union should attack academic freedom in this way. An academic boycott for political ends is in direct conflict with the mission of a university, and betrays a misunderstanding of our function."

The boycott is only an advisory motion to highlight the issue and ceases to be policy today when Natfhe officially merges with another big academic union, the Association of University Teachers.

However, Professor Grant and others fear the new University and College Union will be "contaminated from the outset".

Concern, particularly in the US, about anti-Israeli activism among British academics was triggered last year after the AUT voted for a boycott of two institutions in Israel, one of which was accused of illegal construction on Palestinian land.

Campaigners this week said that it was inconceivable the issue would not re-emerge and be voted on at UCU.

Professor Steven Rose, a distinguished neurobiologist at the Open University and a leading light in the boycott campaign, said Mr Summers's remarks were "grotesque".

"There is nothing anti-Semitic about putting pressure on Israeli institutors and their academic staff to fight against the illegal and anti-human-rights policies of the Israeli state.

"When Israeli academic institutions and staff protest for the academic freedom of their academic colleagues in Palestine then I will feel more sympathetic to them."

Our links relevent to this article

Students at the Peace Vigil 2005
Simon Wiesenthal Center: Press Release: Ban all grants to boycotters
AUT: Press Release: AUT does not endorse this policy
AJ6: Press Release: The Association of Jewish Sixthformers “dismayed” by NATFHE boycott
SPME Press Release: SPME Strongly Condemns the Boycott / Blacklist of Israeli Scholars 29/5/06
ADL Press Release: ADL Slams British Academic Boycott Policy 29/5/06
Spare us the analogies, Brian Klug, 30/5/06
INN: Sharp Reactions to UK Teacher Vote to Boycott Israel Academia 29/5/06
BLOG: Normblog - Vote of shame
Ynet: Britain slams Israel academic boycott 29/5/06
Ynet: UK educators shun Israeli academics 29/5/06
AP: British academics' union votes to boycott Israeli academics 29/5/06
BLOG: Adloyada - Surprise, surprise: NATFHE passes boycott motion
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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