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Petition raps Norwegian university vote on Israel boycott

BERLIN (JTA) — A European-based pro-Israel group is circulating a petition condemning plans for an Israel academic boycott initiated in Norway.

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, which includes several Nobel laureates, is objecting to the possible boycott of Israeli scholars and academic institutions by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.

The university’s board is to vote on the recommended boycott on Nov. 12 following a  lecture on Israel’s alleged use of anti-Semitism as a political tool. The lecture is part of a six-session seminar on Israel that has been given by Norwegians and Israelis known for highly critical attitudes toward Israel.

Critics called on "academic colleagues from around the world … to refute and condemn the campaign" at the university, according to a statement released Saturday.

"We stand in solidarity with Israeli academics and academic institutions; if you boycott them, boycott us as well," the online petition reads in part.

In addition, academic and other employees at the university, Norway’s second largest, stated their opposition in a letter to the boards of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology  and Sor-Trondelag University College.

"Even we who sign this petition have different views as to how the conflict should be solved," wrote Professor Bjorn Alsberg and colleagues.

They argued that adopting such a boycott would harm the university’s international reputation as an educational institution, would cause internal rifts among staff and would force the university to take a stand on "other nations who perform far worse human rights violations."

As of Monday, the petition had more than 1,000 signers, including Nobel laureates Kenneth Arrow, economics, Stanford University;  Roald Hoffmann, chemistry, Cornell University; Steven Weinberg,  physics, the University of Texas; and Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, physics, Ecole Normale Superieure.

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