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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
UK welcomes Israel boycott review
Kim Howells
Kim Howells called for a full debate on the issue
UK Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells has welcomed a move by the Association of University Teachers to reconsider a boycott of two Israeli universities.

The association voted last month to boycott Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities over alleged complicity in Israeli "suppression of the Palestinians".

Its council is reconvening next week to reconsider the controversial decision.

Dr Howells said Britain believed "close engagement" was the best course.

'Full debate'

Dr Howells was, until the post-election reshuffle, the minister responsible for higher education.

His is the first government minister to comment on the dispute.

He said he hoped the AUT would ensure the issue was "fully debated" and would invite the two universities to express their views.

Much of the criticism of the original council vote centred on the way debate had been curtailed for lack of time, meaning opposing viewpoints were not heard.

The University of Haifa said in a statement in response to the vote that it was "saddened and not a little outraged".

'Astounded'

It accused the authors of the boycott campaign of adopting "a three-year-old urban legend" about its treatment of one of its academics, politics lecturer Ilan Pappe.

"We are astounded by the fact that the AUT never requested our response prior to adopting their resolution, and did not allow our position to be presented by members of the AUT who are familiar with the facts," it said.

Bar-Ilan's rector, Prof Yosef Yeshurun, rejected the accusation of links with the College of Judea and Samaria in a settlement in the occupied territories.

He said the college was "autonomous and on the way to full independence", and there had been "anti-Israeli and, at times, anti-Semitic motivations lurking in the background" of the AUT decision.

The international community considers all settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

The AUT's council meeting on Thursday 26 May was called, as its rules allow, following the receipt of a request from more than 25 members.

"The sole business of this special council meeting will be to have a full debate on proposals to boycott Israeli universities," the association said in a statement.




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SEE ALSO:
Israel founds W Bank university
02 May 05 |  Middle East
Academics back Israeli boycotts
22 Apr 05 |  Education


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