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A Ben-Gurion University professor has been chosen to represent Israeli universities in the fight against a British academic union's proposed academic boycott.
In May, the UK's University and College Union voted to consider such a boycott.
Prof. David Newman, head of the Political Geography Department at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, was appointed as Israel's official representative for all matters relating to the potential boycott, by officials from the Foreign and Education Ministries and local universities, at a meeting in Jerusalem earlier this month.
"The heads of the British universities, as well as government leaders, have made it clear that they are against any form of academic boycott. They greatly value the cooperation between British and Israeli scientists," Newman said, following a recent meeting in London with Education Minister Yuli Tamir and a host of British university rectors and the president of Universities UK.
"We will now take the challenge forward and work toward the creation of even more scientific collaborative projects between the two countries, as a fitting response to those illiberal and intolerant forces who would attempt to silence the voice of academic freedom," he continued.
Newman will work under the auspices of the International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom.
Newman, himself originally from the UK, will focus on developing and strengthening academic links between Israel and Britain. He will also work with the Stop the Boycott campaign - a coalition of UK academics, Jewish and non-Jewish, who aim to prevent the proposed University and College Union boycott.
In May, Newman was the only Israeli academic at the UCU Annual Conference in Bournemouth, England, where the boycott motion was passed. He led the opposition to the call at the conference.
Newman, who spent the past year as the Leverhulme Professor of Geopolitics at the University of Bristol, will also tour UK synagogues and address community organizations to raise awareness of the issue and highlight the Israeli response to the boycott call.
Prof. Yosef Yeshurun of Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, chairman of the International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom, told The Jerusalem Post: "The IAB was established by Bar-Ilan back in 2005 to respond to the call for an academic boycott. However it has now become a representative organization for all Israeli academia.
"Our mission is to fight for academic freedom and to strengthen academic ties with the UK. We think instead of fighting against the minorities who support a boycott, the most efficient way of fighting the proposal is to have stronger academic and scientific ties with universities and colleges in the UK. There are already hundreds of these collaborations; our goal is to see more. Through this we increase understanding of what is going on in Israel. Through exposure to Israeli academics, people will see complexities of life in Israel and that not everything is black and white."
Newman is an authority on political geography and has published widely on territorial dimensions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His work has focused on issues relating to borders and settlements and he was also involved in the Oslo Track II negotiations. He is also responsible for a United States Institute of Peace project examining models of trans-boundary cooperation between Israel and a future Palestinian state.
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