'We are deeply disturbed': 343 British academics vow to boycott Israeli universities

© Sebastien Pirlet
Over 300 scholars from UK institutions have signed a letter vowing to boycott Israeli universities, citing Tel Aviv's “illegal occupation” of Palestinian land and “human rights violations.” The move has drawn criticism from Jewish organizations and diplomats.

The letter, signed by 343 academics, appeared as a full-page ad in Tuesday's Guardian newspaper.

“As scholars associated with British universities, we are deeply disturbed by Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land, the intolerable human rights violations that it inflicts on all sections of the Palestinian people, and its apparent determination to resist any feasible settlement," it reads.

The letter goes on to state: the scholars will not accept invitations to visit Israeli academic institutions; act as referees in any of their processes; participate in conferences funded, organized or sponsored by them, or otherwise cooperate with them.

“We will maintain this position until the State of Israel complies with international law, and respects universal principles of human rights.”

The academics did, however, say that they will continue to work with Israeli scholars in their “individual capacities.”

The letter called for others to join the boycott.

"We urge our academic colleagues throughout the UK to join us in putting their names to this personal Commitment," it states.

British ambassador to Israel David Quarrey said the UK “firmly opposes” the call to boycott Israel.

“We are deeply committed to promoting the UK’s academic and scientific ties with Israel, as part of the flourishing partnership between the two countries. The reality is one of rapidly strengthening trade and tech links between Britain and Israel,” he said, as quoted by the Jewish Chronicle.

The move was also criticized by the Israeli Embassy in London, which said it will only “sow hatred” and “slow the peace process.”

Embassy spokesperson Yiftah Curiel said the move shows a “callous disregard for Israeli lives,” as it was published the same month that 45 stabbing attacks on Israelis by Palestinians took place. 

Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, also condemned the letter, calling it both “divisive” and “discriminatory.”

It comes less than one week after some 150 people from the British arts world signed a letter – also published in the Guardian – that criticized the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling was among the signatories.

It was written in response to a February letter from UK artists published in the same newspaper, in which they announced their intention to boycott Israel culturally.

Over 300 scholars from UK institutions have signed a letter vowing to boycott Israeli universities, citing Tel Aviv's “illegal occupation” of Palestinian land and “human rights violations.” The move has drawn criticism from Jewish organizations and diplomats.