The 67,000 member National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education voted on Monday to encourage a boycott of Israeli academics who have not publicly renounced what it calls Israel’s “apartheid” policies. The boycott is not mandatory, rather it encourages members to cut professional ties with colleagues in Israel who have not publicly renounced the construction of the wall and separate educational systems. Last year a similar action was considered by the American Association of University Teachers, but was withdrawn after criticism of some members.
The position of the English academics is somewhat controversial. At their annual conference, the vote was 106 to 71 in favor of the resolution. There were 21 abstentions. Those who support the resolution believe that it supports the freedom of Palestinian academics, many of whom struggle daily to teach in adverse conditions, receive their paychecks, or even attend their classes due to the wall that has been built. The resolution in part calls for professors “to consider their own responsibility for ensuring equity and nondiscrimination in contacts with Israeli educational institutions or individuals.” The association resolved to develop concrete assistance to Palestinian universities, and to communicate this position to the Palestinian government.
Opponents of the resolution cite concerns over academic freedom. They believe that the resolution stymies exchange of information and instills a sense that political views become a pre condition for academic exchange and cooperation.
The American Association of University Professors continues to study the issues involved. Possible solutions include “graylisting” or publishing the names of academic institutions that do not adhere to standards supported by the association, as well as a full boycott.