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Hundreds of UK academics pledge academic boycott of Israel

British academics have pledged not to work with Israeli universities until Israel complies with international law and human rights norms
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech during a special Knesset session (AFP)

A letter was published in UK daily the Guardian on Tuesday in which 343 British academics declared their support for an academic boycott of Israel.

The full-page advertisement declared that signatories will not “accept invitations to visit Israeli academic institutions”, “act as referees in any of their processes”, and neither “participate in conferences funded, organised or sponsored by them, or otherwise cooperate with them”.

It said the academics’ commitment to boycott Israel is “motivated by deep concern for Palestinians, including Palestinian academics, struggling to sustain some semblance of normal life in intractably difficult circumstances of occupation, and denial of basic human rights.”

Academics said they will "continue to work with our Israeli colleagues in their individual capacities."

The signatories include academics from across prestigious UK universities including Oxford, Cambridge, and the University of London.

“This commitment is our response to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land, and the intolerable human rights violations inflicted on all sections of the Palestinian people,” the letter said. “We will maintain this position until the State of Israel complies with international law, and respects universal principles of human rights.”

Critics of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement have accused its singling out of Israel as covert anti-Semitism.

The academics, on a website set up to spread their message, pre-emptively addressed concerns of anti-Semitism by arguing that allegations of prejudice are designed “to deflect criticism of Israel, to intimidate critics and to silence serious debate”.  

“BDS is a universalist movement that categorically opposes all forms of racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. This is not negotiable. We should never welcome racists in our midst, no matter what.”

The declaration of an academic boycott comes at a time of increased violence across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Scores of Palestinians and several Israelis have been killed in October, sparking a debate about whether a third Palestinian intifada (uprising) has begun.

Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces erupted at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound in September as Muslims protested an increase in Jewish visitors during their religious holidays.

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