A group of Palestinian academics is boycotting an international academic conference in Tunisia because of Israeli participation, according to an Arab newspaper. The Al-Hayat newspaper in London reported that Dr. Musalem Abu al-Helu, director of the Palestinian Geographers Society and head of the geography and urban studies faculty at Al-Quds University, has informed the Tunisian Geographers Society that his group will boycott the International Geographers Congress, due to be held in Tunis from August 12 to 14, because Israel is participating. Helu told the pan-Arab daily that Israeli representatives to the conference were "army officers who had committed war crimes against the Palestinians." This was refuted by University of Haifa Prof. Aharon Kellerman, chair of the Israeli National Geography Committee and of an International Geographical Union Commission. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, he said he was surprised at the decision to boycott the conference and that he would be happy to work with Palestinian geographers. "There are three Israelis who serve as chairs of IGU commissions. As far as I know none of these was an army officer, and claiming for any Israeli to have committed crimes against the Palestinians without checking their records is not too meaningful. "I am a bit surprised at the reaction of the Palestinian geographers, since the IGU Congress will take place in an Arab country. The IGU has always been an open scientific organization, namely open to geographers from all nations. We would be keen to cooperate with the Palestinian geographers, and specifically towards the next IGU meeting in Tel Aviv in 2010." He added that he hoped the Palestinians would reconsider the boycott.