British Universities Reject Student Decision to Boycott Israel

Universities U.K. says it 'firmly opposes academic boycotts on the basis that they are inimical to academic freedom.'

An Egyptian boycott activist holds a BDS pin (illustrative).
AP

The representative body of universities in the United Kingdom on Wednesday strongly rejected the academic boycott of Israel announced on Tuesday by Britain's National Union of Students.

Universities U.K., which counts all British universities among its 133 members, said in a statement that it "firmly opposes academic boycotts on the basis that they are inimical to academic freedom, including the freedom of academics to collaborate with other academics."

"Given the reported perception in Israel that U.K. universities support an academic boycott," the statement continued, "the board of Universities U.K. wishes to confirm its previously stated position that it is firmly opposed to any academic boycott of Israeli universities.

"The board also confirms its view that all universities must uphold, in the interests of free expression of ideas, the fundamental right of academics to question national and international policies."

The leadership of Britain’s National Union of Students voted on Tuesday to boycott Israel and affiliate itself with the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement. The motion, which passed 19-14 in the union’s National Executive Council, confirmed a similar vote taken last August during the Gaza conflict. 

The vote, which was put forward by the student union at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, was criticized by both the Union of Jewish Students and a number of leading NUS members.

“Anti-Semitism is like a virus, it mutates and infects everything it touches. It’s mutated into BDS and NUS is infected,” NUS vice-president Joe Vinson tweeted after the vote.