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Last Updated: Monday, 30 July 2007, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
Academics oppose Israel boycott
Israeli soldier and a Palestinian argue in the West Bank
Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967
Thousands of academics from around the world have condemned plans for a UK boycott of Israeli institutions over its treatment of the Palestinians.

More than 10,000 academics have signed a declaration saying they would not join any project which barred Israelis.

The group, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), said the boycott plans attacked academic freedoms.

The UK's University and College Union voted in May to debate a boycott, and suspects this has been misunderstood.

'Moral implications'

The SPME is a US-based academic lobby group. Its stated aim is to counterbalance what it sees as the "increasing anti-Israel and anti-Semitic forces that have made their way to the college campuses today".

Thirty-two Nobel prize winners were among the thousands who signed the condemnation of the UCU boycott plan.

The end result [of a boycott] will be a self-inflicted wound on British academia
Professor Alan Dershowitz
Harvard Law School
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who drafted the statement for SPME, said the signatories represented a cross-section of academics from around the world.

"The message of the signatories is crystal clear," Mr Dershowitz said.

"Should the UCU go forward with a boycott of Israeli academics and institutions, the end result will be a self-inflicted wound on British academia."

At its annual conference in May, union members were urged to consider the "moral implications" of links with Israeli universities.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt had urged delegates not to support the boycott call, saying she did not believe the majority of UCU members supported an academic boycott of Israel.

But delegates voted in favour of a motion to further discuss an all-out boycott.

Ms Hunt has since written to UCU members outlining the process needed to conduct a debate over the proposed boycott, including nationwide appearances by Palestinian and Israeli academics.

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