The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine has led to hundreds of UK academics boycotting Israeli schools. The petition, “A Commitment by U.K. Scholars to the Rights of Palestinians,” was signed by 343 higher education professors and lecturers from 72 institutions. In their declaration, the academics say they will refuse any invitations from Israeli universities in view of what they claim is the country’s repeated violations of international law and human rights offenses committed against Palestinians.
The petition, which was published in a full-page ad in The Guardian, states that the boycott will be lifted if the state of Israel starts to act in accordance with international law and stops offending Palestinians’ human rights. London School of Economics professor Jonathan Rosenhead said the boycott should have begun five years ago, arguing that many academics opposing Israel’s practices didn’t voice them publicly, Telesurtv.net reports.
In their petition, the 343 professors state the need for supporting the Palestinian people during the escalated conflicts and violence in the region:
“Palestinians are driven to desperation in the face of Israeli intransigence, and its continuing ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem.”
Despite the academic boycott, the professors said they will continue working with Israeli peers in their individual capacities.
The signatories have been accused of double standards. and Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, accused the professors and lecturers of divisiveness:
“Those who wish to improve the situation in the middle-east have a chosen a divisive and discriminatory path rather than creating inclusive academic debate. …. The double standards here are evident and cannot lead to any real progress on the issue.’” the Daily Mail reports.
The UK Union of Jewish Students said the existing relationship between UK institutions and Israeli organizations benefits both the Israeli and Palestinian people. In condemning the boycott, the Union said that such actions do more harm than good for the Palestinians, Jack Moore writes in NewsWeek.
Richard Verber, senior vice President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, voiced a concern shared by many individuals opposing the boycott as he pointed out the double standards at play:
‘We would ask why these academics are singling out Israel in such a discriminatory fashion?’
Rachel Cohen, a senior lecturer in sociology at City University London, was one of the professors who signed the declaration. She said that the state of Israel takes away the freedom of movement of Palestinian academics and students.
The petition is part of a broader international initiative, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, that encourages the boycotting of services, products and interactions with Israel in support of the Palestinian community.
Jonathan Rosenhead said that there was pressure exerted on academics not to publicly reprimand Israel’s practices, Chris Havergal in The Time Higher Education reports.
David Quarrey, the British ambassador to Israel, criticized the boycott, saying that there is tremendous effort put toward nurturing the academic and research relations as part of a thriving partnership between the United Kingdom and Israel.