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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May, 2005, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Israel boycott 'stitch-up' claim
The main organiser of a lecturers' boycott of two Israeli universities says she fears a "stitch-up" when her union meets to reconsider it.

The Association of University Teachers voted last month to sever links with Haifa and Bar-Ilan over their alleged support for "suppressing" Palestinians.

English lecturer Sue Blackwell said the leadership wanted to "squash" this move at a meeting in London on Thursday.

But opponents say AUT members are "80-20" against the boycott.

Closed to media

The union is calling the extra meeting, as its rules allow, after 25 members demanded it.

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

The reconvened session will be closed to the media, following legal advice to the union.

Ms Blackwell, who teaches at Birmingham University, told the BBC News website: "It's an appalling stitch-up. The executive is determined to squash the policy as rapidly as possible.

"I'm not optimistic about the outcome."

She added: "If the people who come to the council are the usual people, who are dedicated unionists who care about the issue, we could win.

"If we find the meeting is packed with people who are opposing the boycott, we may struggle."

Ms Blackwell accuses Bar-Ilan of helping with degree programmes at a college in a settlement in the West Bank.

Haifa University is accused of mistreating politics lecturer Ilan Pappe for defending a graduate student's research into controversial areas of Israeli history.

Both universities deny the charges, which have stirred up international debate, with academics and other organisations arguing both for and against the boycott.

Jon Pike, a senior philosophy lecturer at the Open University, gathered the 25 signatures needed to reconvene the AUT's council.

He said "large" local meetings had shown 80% of members were against the boycotts.

Of the 31 resolutions to go before the council on Thursday, 24 called for an end to the action, Dr Pike said, adding: "There is a members' backlash against the boycott.

"No one is trying to stitch us up. It is pressure from below that will make the union remove the boycott."

Academics back Israeli boycotts
22 Apr 05 |  Education
UK welcomes Israel boycott review
18 May 05 |  Education

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