By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press Writer1 hour, 19 minutes ago
Members of Britain's largest college teachers' union have reignited a fierce debate about academics and politics by asking colleagues to consider boycotting Israel over what it calls "apartheid" policies toward the Palestinians.
The 67,000-member National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education is to debate the boycott proposal Monday at its annual conference in the English resort city of Blackpool.
The motion "notes continuing Israeli apartheid policies" including the construction of the separation wall between Israel and the West Bank, and asks members to consider a boycott "of those that do not publicly dissociate themselves from such policies."
The wording of the proposal is vague but it presumably would keep members, the equivalent of U.S. university and community college instructors, from working with Israeli academics who do not renounce their government's policies toward the Palestinians.
The teachers' association said it did not have an official position on the motion, which was put forward by a regional branch. No one from the regional branch wished to speak to the media.
Israeli officials were not available to comment Friday evening, the Jewish Sabbath.
"It's up to the delegates at conference to decide whether it's carried or not," a union spokeswoman said on customary condition of anonymity.
She said the conference's steering committee still could drop the motion from the agenda.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science urged the teachers' union Friday to withdraw the boycott motion, calling it "antithetical to the positive role of free scientific inquiry in improving the lives of all citizens of the world, and in promoting cooperation among nations, despite political differences."
Ronnie Fraser, a London mathematics lecturer and member of Academic Friends of Israel, said the proposal was "almost McCarthyite in its outlook."
"If it passes I'm not happy that my union will be one that has passed a policy that encourages discrimination and racism," said Fraser, who plans to speak against the motion at the conference.
The proposal has reopened a debate sparked last year, when another union, the 40,000-member Association of University Teachers, voted to boycott Israel's Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities for actions that it said undermined Palestinian rights and academic freedom.
The union said it targeted Bar-Ilan University for its links to the College of Judea and Samaria in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. It accused Haifa University of threatening to fire an Israeli political science lecturer for supporting a student's research into allegations of killings by Israeli troops.
The universities said many elements of the allegations were false, and the move was condemned by the Israeli and British governments. The decision was overturned after a month.
Calls for a boycott have cropped up regularly in the last few years and some British academics continue to push for ties to be cut. Professor Richard Seaford, a classicist at Exeter University, told the British Broadcasting Corp. this week that he and other academics were already engaged in an informal boycott, refusing to submit work to Israeli journals or collaborate with Israeli academics.