Banner on London bus 370.
(photo credit: Jonni Berger)
LONDON – An Israeli student who challenged a British university for assigning an
anti-Israel lecturer as her dissertation supervisor has received an apology and
compensation after a ruling from independent investigators.
Smadar Bakovic from Neveh Ilan, west of Jerusalem, was completing a master’s
degree at Warwick University when she said that she claimed that Nicola Pratt,
associate professor of international politics of the Middle East, was a seasoned
anti-Israel activist and vocal advocate of the boycott campaign against
Bakovic wrote to the university to ask to be assigned another
supervisor in light of Pratt’s political stance.
“I am not challenging
Prof. Pratt’s intellectual abilities,” she wrote at the time. “I’m sure
she is extremely competent... [but] I would be much happier that a person
who is not involved in anti-Israel campaigns be my supervisor.”
request was refused. In a response, Chris Browning, who assigns dissertation
supervisors, said Bakovic had been given an adviser with “a particular expertise
in Middle East politics.” He added that “our policy is not to allow changes of
advisers once they have been assigned out of considerations of equity between
During Operation Cast Lead, Pratt was a signatory to a letter
in The Guardian calling for Israel to lose the battle with Hamas and in 2009 was
refused entry by Israel to the West Bank.
In November 2010, Bakovic
received her grade of a ‘pass’ – the lowest grade other than a ‘fail’ in the
British system – from Pratt.
Bakovic, who wrote her dissertation on
Israeli Arab identity, accused Pratt of being “under the spell of her
anti-Israel sentiments” and argued that after receiving high grades during the
year and being told she was on course for a distinction.
mentioned a comment Pratt made in the footnotes of her work – Bakovic made the
reference that minorities in Arab countries do not have equal citizenship
rights. Pratt cited this as “evidence of her tendency to adopt Israeli/Zionist
narratives as though they were uncontested facts.”
In 2011, the
university agreed to re-mark her dissertation and awarded her a distinction,
with a grade 11 points higher than marked by Pratt.
However, last year
she took the case to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator and complained
that Professor Pratt’s supervision was “biased and discriminatory.”
month the independent investigators ruled that her complaint was partly
justified and said that the university must apologize and pay Bakovic £1,000
Bakovic, who is now back in Israel, said she was “delighted”
with the outcome.
“This was a victory for all Israelis and for all other
people who have been discriminated against because of their
It shows that we can’t be kicked around and that we don’t
give up just because things get tough and messy,” she said.