Israel boycott: British academic turns down prestigious award & cash prize for ‘political’ reasons

© Ammar Awad
A British academic has turned down a prestigious Israeli award and £225,000 ($300,000) in prize money for “political” reasons, in what appears to be the latest attempt by Western activists to boycott the Jewish state.

Catherine Hall, a history professor at University College London (UCL) was due to receive a third of The Dan David Foundation £690,000 ($1 million) prize for her work’s “impact on social history, as a pioneer in gender history, race, and slavery.”

Hall, however, declined to attend the award ceremony in Tel Aviv on Sunday, saying her rejection of the prize was “an independent political choice” after engaging in “many discussions” over the Israel-Palestine conflict, AP reports.

Professor Catherine Hall © ucl.ac.uk

Her stance appears to be inspired by the international Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which several prominent British academics have joined since 2005.

In a statement to the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, a pro-BDS group, Hall announced she withdrew from the prize “after many discussions with those who are deeply involved with the politics of Israel-Palestine, but with differing views as to how best to act.”

The foundation said Hall initially accepted the prize enthusiastically when she was selected in February, and only later asked to withdraw her name without giving a reason.

It said it would donate Hall’s prize winnings to support Israeli and international history scholars.

Previous prize recipients include former US vice president Al Gore, former British prime minister Tony Blair, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen.

BDS supporters say the movement uses non-violent means to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, but the Israeli government says the movement’s true goals are to destroy the country and has anti-Semitic undertones.