Boycott plan puts our reputation at risk
By authors as listed below, June 12, 2007
Source: The Guardian, Letters
The proposal by the University and College Union for a boycott of Israeli universities is against all the principles of academic freedom that universities espouse. Such action threatens the universality of research and learning and is condemned by the Royal Society, the Academy of Medical Sciences, and Universities UK, representing all universities' vice-chancellors. It is explicitly opposed by the International Council for Science on the grounds that it conflicts with the vision of universities founded on freedom of inquiry, independent of political pressure. Nor will a boycott help the cause of the Palestinians or their universities, where there are many ongoing Israeli-Palestinian joint academic activities. These constitute one of the few avenues for dialogue between the two peoples and, as the president of al-Quds University has stated, a boycott would be harmful to the Palestinian cause.
We strongly believe these efforts, by less than 0.15% of the membership of the UCU, to undermine academic dialogue tarnishes the reputation of the UK academic community and of the union itself.
Leslie Turnberg House of Lords, Prof James Barber Imperial College, Prof John Bell Oxford, Colin Blakemore Chief executive, Medical Research Council, Alec Broers House of Lords, Prof Jonathen Cohen Brighton, Prof Ara Darzi Imperial College, Prof Mark Ferguson Manchester, Aaron Klug Nobel laureate, Harry Kroto Nobel laureate, Prof Alex Markham Leeds, Naren Patel House of Lords, Keith Peters Past president, Academy of Medical Sciences, Stewart Sutherland House of Lords, (Prof) Raymond Tallis Manchester, Stephen Tomlinson Provost, University of Wales, Richard Trainor Principal, King's College, London, Mark Walport Wellcome Trust, John Walton House of Lords, (Prof) David Weatherall Oxford, Nick Wright Warden, Barts and the London Medical School
Academics have a professional responsibility to spread knowledge and promote understanding. The proposal by the UCU is an assault on academic freedom and intellectual exchange. Recently, MPs had the opportunity to meet the editor of the Jerusalem Post, David Horovitz, a journalist of great courage and integrity who argues that the sharing of information and knowledge is the best defence against extremism. Yet the UCU has been captured by a minority on the British left. We share David's disappointment that the unions representing the professions of journalism and academia should promote boycotts of Israel. We back Sally Hunt's proposal to call a full ballot of the members. This controversial decision affecting academic freedom and Britain's international reputation should be taken by every member of the UCU.
Jane Kennedy MP Chair, Labour Friends of Israel, Gillian Shephard President, Conservative Friends of Israel, Alan Beith MP President, Liberal Democat Friends of Israel, Roger Lyons Chair, Trade Union Friends of Israel
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