UK academic boycott to resurface soon

A new attempt to bring about an academic boycott of Israel is now being made by British academics affiliated with The British Committee for Universities of Palestine (BRICUP).

Last May, the Association of University Teachers (AUT), one of Britain’s two academic unions, overturned a proposal made by a group of its members to boycott Bar-Ilan University and the University of Haifa.

On October 1, however, some of the same AUT members who campaigned earlier this year in favor of the boycott – including Bradford University’s Hillary Rose and Birmingham University’s Sue Blackwell – plan to relaunch their campaign with a series of public gatherings on different campuses.

In addition, a conference opening this Friday at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) purports to engage in a post-boycott debate. The conference, which is called “Fear of the Other and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” will also include members of Engage, a group of British academics who came together earlier this year to oppose the boycott.

On Wednesday, Bar-Ilan University rector Yosi Yeshurun told The Jerusalem Post that he and his colleagues had convened a series of meetings to discuss the new boycott effort, though it had not caught them by surprise.

Yeshurun said that while “the BRICUP threat is less real than the AUT campaign, our unpleasant experience with British attempts to boycott us has led us to convene, and we will carefully follow the developments.”

“We have our thumb on the pulse and we will react if the need arises,” Yeshurun said.

He added that, since the boycott campaign last spring, the university had been invited to join an international organization affiliated with the University of Bologna in Italy. The organization, Magna Carta Universitatum, includes 480 universities, in Europe and worldwide, who had committed to protecting academic freedom and autonomy.

According to Yeshurun, a number of Magna Carta members had already agreed to attend an international conference that would take place this coming January at Bar-Ilan on the subject of academic freedom.

Keyword(s): National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE)