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Anti-Israel Academic Boycott Resource Centre
Academic Boycotts targetting Israel

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Background on the Academic Boycotts

A Zionism On The Web Special

This article provides a brief historic background to the Academic Boycotts, where possible references to news articles are provided.

2001 - The Durban Conference

The first proposal for an academic boycott of Israel appears to have emerged during the fiasco that was the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban (South Africa) in 2001. The proposal came from SANGOCO (the South African NGO Committee), who had a close relationship with the PLO, and who proposed an application of the "South African Model", that is acting against Israel in a similar fashion to what was done in the past against South Africa to combat apartheid [1].

2002 - The Roses call for a boycott

On April 6, 2002, Steven and Hilary Rose had a letter published in the Guardian proposing a moratorium on all research and cultural with Israel. The letter was signed by 123 other academics. [1][2] See a response here. Also of interest, before the boycott letter, the Guardian wrote a biography on Stephen Rose. He is shown as a scientist, left wing radical and humanist (athiest) from his student days until today.

On April 23, 2002, the European Union Commissioner for Research responded saying "the European Commission is not in favour of a policy of sanctions against the parties to the conflict but rather advocates a continuous dialogue". See the Commissioner's full reply.

2002 - Nature urges co-operation not sanctions

On May 2, 2002, in an editorial, "Donít boycott Israelís scientists" (mirror), the leading science periodical Nature outlined the case to support three way collaboration and the benefits this woudl have for science across the Middle East, compared to the damage to science that boycotts would cause.

2002 - New York Academy of Sciences: boycotts a violation of science

On May 3, 2002 the Committee on Human Rights of Scientists of the New York Academy of Sciences issued a statement opposing the moratorium proposed by the Roses. The statement which was co-sponsored by the Committee on Concerned Scientists, Inc., stated that the "proposed moratorium/boycott on funding violates the basic principles of scientific freedom and scholarship" and that science "will be undermined for the sake of some political goals."

See the full text of the statement.

2002 - Mona Baker sacks Israeli academics

On June 8th, 2002, Mona Baker sends an e-mail sacking two Israeli academics from the board of two academic journals she owned. In her e-mail she said "I do not wish to continue an official association with any Israeli" and asked them to resign, stating she would sack them if they did not. Both academics refused and were sacked, one asked that it be noted that he was "was appointed as a scholar and unappointed as an Israeli". More Mona Baker dismissing Israeli academics. [2]

On October 1, 2002, the University of Manchester Instuitute of Science and Technology (UMIST) appointed an independent committee to investigate Bakers sackings. More on the the UMIST Investigation. The investigation eventually concluded that the Journals had no relationship to the university so they did not have have any jurisdiction, but thated that had they been run by the university the Israeli academics would have been immediatly reinstated.

2003 - Prof Wilkie refuses to supervise Israeli student due to nationality

On June 23, 2003 Prof Wilkie at Oxford University replied via e-mail to an Israeli student Amit Duvshani who had written to him asking if he would work under Prof Wilkie towards his PhD. Prof Wilkie replied saying "I am sure that you are perfectly nice at a personal level, but no way would I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army." As national service is compulsory this was no more than a blanket refusal to supervise or employ any Israeli. The university responded promptly, called and investigation and in the end suspended Prof Wilkie for 2 months without pay. This was the most serrious penalty they could apply short of sacking him. The university ordered him to attend anti-discimination training, and he resigned from his college.[2][3]

Prof Wilkie recognised the mistake that had been made in mixing his personal politics with his academic role and appologised for this, offering to reconsider the application (the student understandably preferred to apply else-where).

More on the Wilkie case.

2005, 2006, 2007 - The Union Boycott Motions

In 2005 the AUT voted in a boycott of three Israeli institutions. A few months later at an emergency meeting of the union (called by a petition of union members) the decision was over turned. Our AUT Boycott Archive.

In 2006 just prior to the merger of the AUT and NATFHE (to form the new union, the UCU), NATFHE voted in a boycott of all Israeli institutions. This was never implemented (and never intended to be implemented) as all policy was set to "fall" the following month due to the merger. This was guesture politics. Our NATFHE Boycott Archive.

In 2007 the new union, the UCU, at its first ever conference voted for a proposal in support of a boycott of Israeli academic. The wording did not call for a boycott directly, but expressed support for the idea of a boycott and resovled to facilitate meetings around the country to discuss havign a boycott. Our UCU Boycott Archive.

General Reference

[1] Manfred Gerstenfeld, "The Academic Boycott against Israel," Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 15, Nos. 3-4 (Fall 2003) p. 25 also online at JCPA.
[2] Ronnie Fraser, "The Academic Boycott of Israel: Why Britain?", 1 September 2005 at JCPA
[3] Manfred Gerstenfeld, "The Academic Boycott Against Israel and How to Fight It", September 1, 2003 at JCPA

(c) Zionism On The Web, 2007. This article may be reproduced for educational purposes only, please site at Zionism On The Web as the source.

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