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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 April, 2005, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
Academics vote on Israel boycott
UK lecturers could sever links with three Israeli universities because of their attitude to an "apartheid" system in occupied Palestinian territories.

The Association of University Teachers is due to vote on Friday on a boycott of Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Staff and students who seek to research Israel's history in full are often "victimised", union members claim.

However, opponents say the planned boycott is "selective and unworthy".


The AUT, holding its annual council in Eastbourne, is being called upon to boycott of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem unless it "calls for a halt to all attempts to confiscate land from Palestinian families, and reaches an acceptable settlement" with them.

Haifa could face the same sanction if it does not commit to "upholding academic freedom, and in particular ceases its victimisation of academic staff and students who seek to research and discuss the history of the founding of the state of Israel".

Meanwhile, Bar-Ilan is criticised for supporting a college in "an illegal settlement" in the West Bank.

The resolutions have been proposed by AUT members in Birmingham.

Sue Blackwell, an English lecturer at Birmingham University, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme a boycott would involve not attending conferences at the three universities and an end to joint grant-funding applications.

No Palestinian university offered doctorates because of the "destruction wreaked by the Israeli government on the Palestinian infrastructure".

'Flow of knowledge'

Ms Blackwell said some first-year students from Gaza taking degrees in the West Bank had been "illegally deported" back to Gaza and could not complete their degrees.

But biologist Professor Raymond Dweck of Oxford University said the situation in universities in Israel was "even-handed" and that there was "intellectual freedom".

He added: "The flow of knowledge should be shared throughout the world.

"There shouldn't be boundaries as long as academics behave legally."

The AUT's executive is calling instead for contact to be established with Israeli higher education to discuss their differences.

The union represents staff mainly in older, pre-1992 universities.

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