Academic boycott of Israel condemned

Liberal Democrats today condemned the academic boycott of Israel as counterproductive and wrong.

Delegates at the autumn conference voted to condemn a motion passed by the University and College Union (UCU) earlier this year to support a boycott of Israeli universities.

The conference supported a motion calling on UCU general secretary Sally Hunt to honour her manifesto commitment to put the policy to a referendum, and for UCU members to reject it.

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Michael Moore said: “Academic boycotts do nothing to encourage free debate and serve only to punish individuals, many of whom are trying to encourage dialogue between different communities.

“There is nothing to be gained by politicising a body of academics that are autonomous from government and who should be allowed to embrace the free exchange of ideas.”

The motion noted Israeli academics are at the forefront of opposition to their government’s illiberal policies and it would be counterproductive to severe links.

Furthermore, Israeli academics are no more accountable for their government’s actions than British academics are for British policy.

Delegates also agreed academic freedom and the exchange of ideas are of “paramount importance” in conflict resolution and Israeli universities are currently centres of free debate and discussion.

Moreover the motion stated it was wrong to boycott individuals because of their nationality while it seemed “perverse” to boycott Isreal when other countries have worse records on academic freedom.

Mr Moore concluded: “I hope that the UCU’s members will get the opportunity to reject this boycott and return to the spirit of free academic exchange that will do much more to improve relations in the Middle East.”