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New call by lecturers for Israeli academic boycott

Article Source: The Guardian , by Benjamin Joffe-Walt, Friday May 12, 2006

Britain's largest lecturers' union is expected to reignite an international controversy about academic freedom with a new call for a boycott of Israeli lecturers and academic institutions which do not publicly oppose "Israeli apartheid policies".

The motion will be put to representatives of the 67,000-strong National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (Natfhe) at its national conference at the end of the month.

The motion "invites members to consider their own responsibility for ensuring equity and non-discrimination in contacts with Israeli educational institutions or individuals, and to consider the appropriateness of a boycott of those that do not publicly dissociate themselves from such policies".

A year ago the smaller Association of University Teachers (AUT) overturned a boycott of Bar-Ilan and Haifa universities in Israel after international protest. "They haven't learnt the lesson from last year," said Ronnie Fraser, a union member and director of Academic Friends of Israel.

Critics point out that over the past decade Israel has been the only country whose academics have been targeted by a Natfhe boycott campaign. "Would we say to American academics that we won't accept you unless you have been publicly against the Iraq war and the Bush administration's foreign policy?" said Emanuele Ottolenghi, of Oxford University's centre for Hebrew and Jewish studies. "It's a disturbing loyalty test."

The Israeli ambassador, Zvi Heifetz, said: "Such an initiative only serves to distance Natfhe members from other academics, and particularly from those working towards coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians."

The AUT's annual conference this week did not include a boycott resolution.

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