Hundreds of U.K. Academics Announce Israel Boycott in Full-Page Guardian Ad

Hundreds of British professors and lecturers are planning an academic boycott of Israel's institutions of education, saying the schools are complicit in Israeli violations of international law.

The boycott will be announced on Tuesday in a full-page ad published in the British daily newspaper The Guardian.

Three hundred and forty-three academics from 72 institutions signed the commitment to the academic boycott and pledged to not accept invitations to visit Israeli academic institutions, act as referees in any of their recruitment processes or participate in conferences funded, organized or sponsored by them.

The advertisement, paid for by the academics, shows the signatories' names surrounding the initiative's central message entitled "A Commitment by U.K. Scholars to the Rights of Palestinians."

"As scholars associated with British universities, we are deeply disturbed by Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land, the intolerable human rights violations that it inflicts on all sections of the Palestinian people, and its apparent determination to resist any feasible settlement," the statement reads.

"We will, however, continue to work with our Israeli colleagues in their individual capacities," the statement continues. "We will maintain this position until the State of Israel complies with international law, and respects universal principles of human rights."

Signatories of the boycott include professors from Britain's top universities, such as Oxford University, Cambridge University, the London School of Economics, University College of London, Imperial College and King's College London.

The Israeli Embassy in London criticized the boycott, saying it was not conducive to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It condemned the academics for choosing to announce their boycott amid a wave of Palestinian violence that has killed 10 Israelis and wounded dozens in Israeli cities and the West Bank since October 1. In the same period, Israeli forces have killed 54 Palestinians, including 27 that Israel says were attackers.

"Divisive Boycott initiatives such as this one serve only to sow hatred, alienating the sides rather than promoting coexistence," a spokesperson for the embassy told Newsweek in an emailed statement. "Progress toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians will be made in the negotiating room; Israel has repeatedly called to renew negotiations immediately and with no preconditions."

The initiative, started by the www.commitment4p.com website, calls for more academics to join the boycott. It was not organized by the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a campaign that advocates applying economic and political pressure on Israel to achieve equal rights for Palestinians in Israel and an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Dr. Amjad Barham, President of the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, said that the move by the academics marked a step forward in what he called the Palestinian struggle for equality.

"We warmly welcome this fresh commitment by hundreds of prominent British academics to heed the call, issued in 2004 by the absolute majority of Palestinian academics, to cut off links with Israeli universities due to their deep complicity in planning, implementing and justifying Israel's regime of occupation and apartheid," Barham said in a statement by email.

"As in the South African struggle for freedom, holding Israel's academic institutions accountable for their human rights violations are necessary measures on the path to freedom, justice and equality," he added.

Earlier this year, British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn endorsed an academic boycott of Israeli universities involved in the research and development of hardware used in the military's operations in the Palestinian territories.

One Israeli academic institution involved in such research is the Haifa-based Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, which develops drones and a number of technologies employed by the Israeli military, such as robot bulldozers that have been used to destroy buildings that Israel claims are linked to Palestinian militants in the West Bank and Gaza.

The U.K.-based Union of Jewish Students (UJS), the representative body of Britain's Jewish student population, condemned the academic boycott of Israeli institutions as "unconstructive."

"Efforts such as this, and the rhetoric of the BDS movement (which this group have affiliated themselves with), aim to simplify a complex conflict where both sides have responsibility to redress injustices," Russell Langer, campaigns director for UJS, said in a statement.

"This does nothing to support the peace process and hurts rather than helps many of the Palestinian people whom these academics claim to be acting for."

In June, Britain's National Union of Students endorsed a full boycott of Israeli companies and institutions but the representative body of British universities, Universities U.K., said that it "firmly opposes academic boycotts on the basis that they are inimical to academic freedom."

The academics' announcement of the boycott comes less than a week after 150 British artists, authors and politicians, including author of the Harry Potter series J.K. Rowling, published a letter in The Guardian opposing a cultural boycott of Israel and calling for Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and co-existence.

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