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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May, 2005, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Lecturers overturn Israel boycott
Sue Blackwell
Lecturer Sue Blackwell promised to fight on
UK academics have voted to overturn a boycott of two Israeli universities accused of complying with anti-Palestinian polices.

Members of the Association of University Teachers had previously decided to sever all links with Bar-Ilan and Haifa universities.

The academics' body now says it is time to "build bridges" between those with opposing views and support peace moves.

The debate has caused bitter argument among academics and others worldwide.

Complaints

The council of the AUT was reconvened in central London after 25 members - the required number under the union's rules - complained about the original vote, held in Eastbourne last month.

Opponents of the boycott had complained that the debate had been curtailed and that the accusations were unfair.

Dr David Hirsh, from Goldsmiths College in London, welcomed the latest vote, saying: "A boycott is a tokenistic gesture which does more harm than good.

"The need for hard work, building links with Palestinian and Israeli academics, is less glamorous but much more important."

Pro-boycott activists accuse Haifa of mistreating politics lecturer Ilan Pappe for defending a graduate student's research into controversial areas of Israeli history.
Sally Hunt
It is now time to build bridges between those with opposing views here
Sally Hunt, AUT general secretary

The university denied this and threatened legal action against the AUT.

Bar-Ilan is alleged to have helped with degree programmes at a college in a settlement in the West Bank. But it insists this is autonomous.

Sue Blackwell, an English lecturer at Birmingham University and a leading pro-boycott activist, had predicted a "stitch-up" by opponents.

She said: "The struggle goes on. This is the end of the beginning.

"We are not surprised. We saw people who did not come to earlier meetings there and we knew what the outcome would be.

"We won the moral argument. They just won the vote."

Supporters of both sides gathered outside the Friends Meeting House in central London venue after the vote, which had been closed to the media.

Boycott opponents claimed three-quarters of members had voted to end the sanctions.

Luciana Berger, a member of the Union of Jewish Students, from Birkbeck, University of London, said: "We are very happy. It's a victory for peace and open dialogue.

"It's a victory that we shouldn't have had to have won in the first place."

However, Professor Steven Rose of the Open University, a boycott supporter, said the debate would lead to the state of Israeli higher education being discussed "on campuses up and down" the UK.

Sally Hunt, AUT general secretary, said: "It is now time to build bridges between those with opposing views here in the UK and to commit to supporting trade unionists in Israel and Palestine working for peace."



SEE ALSO:
Lecturers vote on Israel boycott
25 May 05 |  Education
Israel boycott 'stitch-up' claim
24 May 05 |  Education
UK welcomes Israel boycott review
18 May 05 |  Education
Academics back Israeli boycotts
22 Apr 05 |  Education


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