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Israeli university heads establish forum to counter academic boycotts
By Lidar Gravé-Lazi
07/08/2014
Boycotts have surfaced mainly in the humanities but there is concern that the phenomenon will spread to encompass the sciences.
 
The Committee of University Heads in Israel announced on Tuesday the establishment of a forum to counter academic boycotts against Israel.

Prof. Zvi Ziegler, professor emeritus at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and chairman of the Inter-University Senate will head the panel.

“An academic boycott is an unacceptable and dangerous process contrary to the spirit of research, undermining its foundations. This is an increasingly growing phenomenon with one aim – attacking the State of Israel and the research performed within its borders,” Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and chairman of the Committee of University Heads, said on Tuesday.

According to Ben-Sasson, the boycotts aim to attack the state by damaging its “most important national resource” – scientific academic research.

“For a long time this important resource has come under attack internationally by anti-Israel parties who are encouraging academic boycotts against the state,” he said.

The forum aims to examine and map out the scope of the threat, gathering information on potential boycotts as well as coordinating with relevant parties and institutions in Israel and abroad to minimize the damage.

“We see the importance of information regarding cases of discrimination against Israeli researchers such as rejecting articles for illegitimate reasons, refusal to take part in conferences alongside Israeli researchers or discrimination against inviting Israeli researchers to conferences,” Ziegler said.

Such activities “oppose the universal principal of science” and have no place in an academic setting, he said. “Foreknowledge of boycott endeavors will help us thwart the initiative before it stews.”

Academic boycotts have surfaced primarily in the humanities, though there is great concern among Israeli universities and officials that the phenomenon will spread to the sciences.

In December, the 5,000-member American Studies Association announced it would participate in a boycott of Israeli universities and academic institutions. It was later joined by the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.
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