LONDON (JTA) — A pro-Palestinian group and an academic union failed to stop a lecture series at the University of London that marked Tel Aviv’s centenary.
The Centre for Jewish Studies, part of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, ran the Jan. 12- March 16 lecture series in conjunction with Tel Aviv University.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, backed by the local branch of the University and College Union, demanded the cancellation of the series. They claimed that it was "morally repulsive" to be celebrating Tel Aviv "while Gaza burns."
"A pro-Israeli propaganda exercise masquerading as an academic conference has no place in SOAS at the best of times, but to hold a celebration of Tel Aviv as the Israeli war machine wreaks death and destruction on the Gaza ghetto is nothing short of sick," the union’s representative, said Graham Dyer, a lecturer in economics with reference to the Near and Middle East. He claimed that it was not an issue of academic freedom but an expression of "basic humanitarian sympathy with the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza."
SOAS director Paul Webley insisted that "freedom of speech and tolerance" was "one of the school’s most fundamental values" and said the series would go ahead.
Colin Shindler, the only academic in Britian to hold a chair in Israel Studies, told JTA that "it is a question of freedom of expression in an academic environment that should be defended."