'UK scholars using Soviet-like tactics'

Hebrew University professor says boycott would hurt Arab researchers as well.

May 31, 2007 22:43
3 minute read.

British academics who have endorsed a boycott of Israeli researchers are adopting the "reprehensible tactics of the former Soviet Union, which colored its scientific research with its own political views," said Prof. Alik Honigman, chairman of planning and development at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Medical Faculty.

  • Fears spread of UK boycott campaign
  • A vote that shames all of British academia Honigman was commenting on Wednesday's decision by the British Union of Colleges and Universities to consider imposing a boycott on Israeli academics. The deans of Israel's four medical schools plan to meet soon to discuss the UCU vote, and the Knesset Science and Technology Committee will hold a special session about the threatened boycott on Monday. "Academic work is all aimed at promoting the good of mankind. Medical research is universal and not national or political. They must not distort science. It must be free from perversion by political views," Honigman said. "Science in Britain - and certainly medical research and care - is not better than in Israel." Honigman said if there were a boycott of Israeli academics, "it will of course hurt our Arab researchers as well. We have many at the Hebrew University. If British journals don't publish our research and foundations don't issue grants, it will harm Israeli Arabs as well as Jews. "The last time the British raised the boycott issue, it didn't work. I hope and believe it won't work this time as well. I don't think it will spread to the European continent, where we are equal members in EU research. But a declaration is also dangerous. You never know where it will end." Israel Academy of Sciences president Prof. Menachem Ya'ari said that Israeli scientists and other academicians "work hard to advance peace, understanding and dialogue in the Middle East, much more than those who observe from afar and claim to pass judgement." The academy noted that the UCU's decision "does not call for a boycott, but a discussion, encouragement and support for the request of Palestinian organizations to declare such a boycott. Nevertheless, these decisions hint at a negative tendency that greatly worries the academy," a statement said. Prof. Ruth Arnon, the world-acclaimed Weizmann Institute scientist who is deputy president of the academy, protested to the Committee for Freedom and Responsibility in Science of the International Council for Science, in which Israel is represented. She wrote that the "tendency of the decision violates the principles of scientific freedom and may discourage academic cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian scientists." Prof. Shaul Sofer, dean of Ben-Gurion University's School of Health Sciences and head of Soroka University Medical Center's Pediatric Emergency Department, said, "There hasn't been a single day in the last half year when we didn't have at least one child from Gaza under treatment for injuries sustained in internal Palestinian violence. We have contact with the Palestinian Authority health authorities all the time, and we continue to treat Palestinians despite the Kassam rocket barrage on Sderot." Sofer said a boycott would create "psychological damage and hurt our feelings. But I don't think the British could really hurt us. It will harm them. We are world leaders in many fields, especially in medicine. There is almost no medical conference abroad at which Israelis are not invited to lecture and to receive prizes for their academic achievements. "The British are the last ones who should have political complaints against us. Every British colony was left in chaos. Look at India, Cyprus and South Africa. They have internal problems and problems in their medical system. They can learn solutions and advances from us." Prof. Peter Hajek, director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Centre, Queen Mary University of London, who attended a conference at Kfar Maccabiah in Ramat Gan this week, said of the threatened boycott: "I think it's terrible. It's appalling. I would consider it very unfair for British academics to boycott their Israeli counterparts." At the recent BGU board of governors meeting, the Academic Development Committee "condemn[ed] in the strongest terms the attempts to boycott Israeli institutions of higher education, which is counter to Statute 5 of the International Council of Science that states: Freedom of association and expression, access to data and information, and freedom of communication and movement in connection with international scientific activities without discrimination on the basis of such factors as citizenship, religion, creed, political stance, ethnic origin, race, color, language, age or sex."

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