Academics clash over pledge to boycott Israeli institutions

Leon Litvack
Leon Litvack

A row has erupted between academics over a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Academics for Palestine – which sought support in Belfast this week – said in a statement that over 130 Irish academics have signed a pledge to “boycott Israeli institutions until Palestinian rights are respected”.

Spokesman for the group, Harry Browne, told the News Letter yesterday that the petition was “against the ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands” – however, he said the group had no specific agreed aim.

Mr Browne said: “The boycott only applies to representatives of Israeli institutions.”

He added: “We will not work with projects financed by the Israeli state.”

Up to 40 people from St Mary’s College in Belfast have signed and “a handful” from Queen’s University, he said.

But Stephen Jaffe, of NI Friends of Israel, responded: “It is strange that those advocating boycotts of Israel are silent about other countries in the Middle East with deplorable human rights records and no academic freedom.

“Could the urge by leftist academics and others to isolate Israel be anything to do with the fact that it is a flourishing democracy allied to the west?”

QUB reader in Victorian studies, Leon Litvack, said the boycott threatened academic freedom. He added: “Israel has made many concessions for peace. But most countries in the region are technically still at war with Israel.”