Students walk at the campus of the Ariel University Center in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ariel.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Knesset Education, Sports and Culture Committee criticized the Israeli Sociological Society on Wednesday for its call to boycott Judea and Samaria-based Ariel University.
“There is no room for academic boycotts in the State of Israel,” acting committee chairwoman Meirav Ben-Ari said at the meeting.
Earlier this month, Prof. Uri Ram of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the newly elected president of the Israeli Sociological Society, called for a boycott of the university.
“We will not cooperate with the institute, known as Ariel University, which is not located within the bounds of the State of Israel,” he said in an interview with Army Radio.
Igal Cohen, a representative of Ariel University, told the Knesset committee that a conference is scheduled to be held at the university this summer.
However, Prof. Ram informed the school that the society, under his leadership, intended to boycott the conference, and that he would bring this decision to a vote among all the members.
Cohen said that the vote had yet to take place and so no official decision had been taken.
However, he said, planning for the conference has been put on hold in face of the threatened boycott.
Ram’s boycott initiative will first need to pass a vote of the Israeli Sociological Society, which includes some 1,000 researchers and academics.
The members are expected to discuss the initiative at the group’s April meeting. Should the motion pass, it would mark the first time an Israeli academic association is boycotting an Israeli university.
A representative of the Council for Higher Education told the Knesset committee that the council has held numerous discussions over the issue of academic boycotts in Israel and opposes such actions.
“Our decision from many years ago maintains that the CHE considers academic boycotts or any call for an academic boycott of institutions in Israel as very wrong in principle and which undermines academic freedom,” he said.
With regards to the Israeli Sociological Society, he said the CHE had not addressed the issue with the society, adding that academic institutions are autonomous and regulate these activities themselves.
At the end of the committee discussion, Ben-Ari summarized its conclusions: “The committee expresses the opinion that it cannot be that, in Israel one university will boycott another university. The committee is for freedom of expression and academic freedom but opposes a boycott; the committee calls to take steps to prevent similar future occurrences. The committee takes a grave view of the statement by Prof. Uri Ram calling to impost an academic boycott of Ariel University and will turn to Prof. Uri Ram to retract his statement and respond to the committee on this matter.”
In addition, Ben-Ari called on the CHE to contact Ram for a reaction and also called on the Association of University Heads in Israel to intervene on the issue of academic boycotts.