British university told to apologize, compensate Israeli student

Assigned adviser active in anti-Israel activity.

Banner on London bus 370 (photo credit: Jonni Berger)
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.
In 2010, 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 Israel.
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.”
Her 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 students.”
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.
She also 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.”
Last month the independent investigators ruled that her complaint was partly justified and said that the university must apologize and pay Bakovic £1,000 ($1,600).
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 nationality.
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.