Hundreds of British academics sign letter vowing to boycott Israel

27 October 2015

A letter in support of the Palestinian cause signed by 343 British academics is due to be published as a full page advert in the Guardian newspaper today.

Reporting on the letter, the Jewish Chronicle said that the signatories come from 72 institutions, including the prestigious Oxford and Cambridge universities.

“As scholars associated with British universities, we are deeply disturbed by Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land, the intolerable human rights violations that it inflicts on all sections of the Palestinian people and its apparent determination to resist any feasible settlement,” the academics write in the letter.

The signatories of the letter undertake to reject invitations to visit Israeli academic institutions, to refuse to act as academic referees and to stay away from all conferences “funded, organized or sponsored” by Israeli institutions.

However, they say that they will continue to work with their Israeli colleagues “in their individual capacities.”

The letter follows the launch last week of a pro-Israel initiative backed by 150 writers, artists and musicians, including Harry Potter author JK Rowling. That initiative opposes boycotts of Israel.

The Jewish Chronicle quoted Professor Jane Hardy of the University of Hertfordshire as saying: “This is an opportunity for academics to add their voices to the growing international movement to hold Israel accountable for its human rights abuses and specifically the deprivation of opportunity for our Palestinian colleagues to participate in the global academic community.

“The commitment does not call for the termination of links with individual colleagues nor the end of dialogue, rather it is a boycott of institutions directly or indirectly complicit in the systematic and illegal occupation of Palestine.”

Dr Rachel Cohen of London’s City University is quoted as saying that “it is the responsibility of those of us who have the freedom to act to exercise that freedom in support of our colleagues in Palestinian universities who do not have such freedom.”

While Israel presents itself as an enlightened funder of academic pursuits, Cohen said, it “ systematically denies Palestinian academics and students their basic freedoms, such as the freedom of movement necessary to attend international academic conferences, or simply to get to lectures on time.”