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EDITIONS
Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
Morris attacks boycott of Israelis
Library
Students warn of the threat to academic independence
The Education Secretary Estelle Morris has condemned the sacking of Israeli academics from scholarly journals.

She has joined academics, students and other politicians in criticising the action.

Dr Miriam Schlesinger and Professor Gideon Toury were removed from the editorial boards of two linguistics journals in a boycott on academic contacts with Israel.

Hundreds of academics across the world are said to have signed a petition criticising Israel's treatment of Palestinians and urging non-cooperation with Israeli universities.


To exclude people based on their nationality is abhorrent and nothing short of racism and should be universally condemned

Daniel Rose, National Union of Students

The boycott, in response to Israeli military action in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, was applied to the journals by Professor Mona Baker of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (Umist).

In a letter to the shadow education secretary Damian Green, Estelle Morris said: "I understand that UMIST has very clearly disassociated itself from this action; and (higher education minister) Margaret Hodge and I have made it clear that any discrimination on grounds of nationality, race or religion is utterly unacceptable."

Umist had condemned the action - saying that it had no control over the journals, the Translator and Translation Studies Abstract, which are run by Professor Baker.

A statement from Umist, distancing itself from the boycott, said that it "believes strongly that discrimination based on nationality, race, religion or other grounds is wrong".

The move against Israeli academics was also condemned by the head of the National Union of Students' anti-racism campaign.

"To exclude people based on their nationality is abhorrent and nothing short of racism and should be universally condemned," said Daniel Rose.

International condemnation

The union said the action had "shocked and horrified" the student movement - and it said that individual academics could not be held accountable for the actions of their countries.

"To target individual academics for the actions of a government will lead to a complete loss of academic freedom of speech, irrespective of the issues.

"To target these two will eventually lead to a biased representation of the situation, therefore stifling debate and discussion at all levels," said the union's Michelle Codrington.

The shadow education secretary, Damien Green had written to Estelle Morris calling for a formal condemnation of the sacking, saying it was important that Britain's reputation for defending academic freedom was maintained.

There has also been international criticism of the sacking of the two Israeli academics.

Harvard University's Professor Stephen Greenblatt said the action against the academics was "intellectually and morally bankrupt".

"The pursuit of knowledge does not suddenly come to a halt at national borders."

See also:

04 May 01 | UK Education
18 Sep 01 | UK Education
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