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Last Updated: Friday, 8 June 2007, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Education minister goes to Israel
Bill Rammell
The UK government said it supported academic freedom
England's Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell is visiting Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories to strengthen educational links.

His visit this weekend follows a vote by the UCU academic union to discuss a boycott of Israeli universities.

Mr Rammell said he was taking up a long-standing invitation, but that he would discuss the proposed academic boycott with Israelis and Palestinians.

Both the Israeli and British governments have condemned it.

Mr Rammell said the UK government fully supported academic freedom and was firmly against any boycott of Israel or its academic institutions.

'Moral implications'

"Whilst I appreciate the independence of the UCU, I am very disappointed that the union has decided to pass a motion which encourages its members to consider boycotting Israeli academics and education institutions.

"I profoundly believe this does nothing to promote the Middle East peace process. In fact the reverse," he said.

At its annual conference last week, the UCU backed the motion urging it to consider the "moral implications" of links with Israeli universities.

It condemned Israel for its "denial of educational rights" to Palestinians and said "passivity or neutrality was unacceptable" in the special circumstances of the Israeli occupation.

Ahead of the debate, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt had urged delegates not to support the boycott call.

Ms Hunt said she did not believe the majority of her union's members supported an academic boycott of Israel.




SEE ALSO
Dons to consider Israeli boycott
30 May 07 |  Education
Lecturers overturn Israel boycott
26 May 05 |  Education
Academics back Israeli boycotts
22 Apr 05 |  Education

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