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Should we consider a boycott of Israeli academic institutions? Yes

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39266.495567.AD (Published 19 July 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:124
  1. Tom Hickey, chair of the University and Colleges Union
  1. Faculty of Arts and Architecture, University of Brighton, Brighton BN2 1RA
  1. T.Hickey{at}bton.ac.uk

    Tony Blair's appointment as Middle East peace envoy is intended to invigorate the peace process. Tom Hickey thinks boycotting universities might encourage the Israeli government to reach a settlement, but Michael Baum believes collaboration is a more effective way forward

    The proposal adopted by the University and Colleges Union congress to discuss whether it should boycott Israeli academic institutions has caused a furore. The House of Lords set aside time for a full debate, and the British government dispatched a minister to reassure its Israeli counterparts. Whole page advertisements rapidly appeared in national newspapers condemning the decision. The great and the good were mobilised. Irrational, one sided, anti-semitic, and counterproductive were some of the accusations levelled against us for deciding to debate.

    As the motion's mover, I have been subjected to sustained vilification. Eminent American professors, and supporters of Israel, have threatened to bankrupt and to destroy the careers of any union members who support a boycott. The conflation of a boycott proposal and a proposal to debate the appropriateness of a boycott clearly serves the purpose of those who wish to deflect attention from the substantive issue: the plight of people suffering under occupation.

    So why has the union brought this predictable condemnation down on …

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