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International Politics Blog

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

British boycott Israeli lecturers

LONDON: Britain's largest lecturers' union has voted in favour of a boycott of Israeli lecturers and academic institutions who do not publicly dissociate themselves from Israel's "apartheid policies".

Delegates at the annual conference of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education in Blackpool narrowly backed the proposal, despite mounting international pressure from those opposed to a boycott, including a petition from more than 5000 academics and a plea from the Israeli Government. The decision was greeted with disappointment and anger by anti-boycott campaigners, but Palestinian groups issued declarations of support.

Presented on the final day of the conference on Monday, the motion criticised "Israeli apartheid policies, including construction of the exclusion wall, and discriminatory educational practices" and invited members to "consider the appropriateness of a boycott of those that do not publicly dissociate themselves from such policies".

After failed efforts to prevent the debate, speakers outlined the many difficulties experienced by Palestinian students and lecturers living under occupation, including the number of Palestinian schools shelled by the Israeli Army.

"The majority of Israeli academics are either complicit or acquiescent in their government's policies in the occupied territories," said Tom Hickey, a philosophy lecturer at the University of Brighton, a member of the union's national executive committee and the proposer of the motion. "Turning a blind eye to what an Israeli colleague thinks about the actions of their government is a culpable blindness."

But the union's general secretary, Paul Mackney, spoke against the motion.

"Most of us are very angry about the occupation of Palestine," he said, "but this isn't the motion and this isn't the way."

A conference delegate, Ronnie Fraser, chairman of Academic Friends of Israel, the primary opponent of the motion on the conference floor, said the vote brought "dishonour and sheer ridicule" upon the union.

The Guardian

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