British academics: Stop boycott plan now


British academics renewed their plea for the immediate recall of a proposed academic boycott of Israel.

The added urgency comes in the wake of a full-page ad threatening a retaliatory boycott of British institutions that appeared in the Aug. 8 issue of The New York Times. The ad was signed by more than 300 American university and college presidents.

Professor Mark Pepys, head of the Department of Medicine of the University of London’s Hampstead Campus and a member of the University and College Union sponsoring the proposed boycott, warned that British academic institutions must distance themselves from any boycott of Israeli academia or risk seriously damaging ties with U.S. colleges and universities.

A letter to be distributed to British universities by the joint chairs of the Stop the Boycott campaign will request each institution to clarify its position on the boycott. Such universities as Cambridge and Oxford have come out in opposition.

In the letter, Pepys noted that “American academia, with its depth, breadth and scale, has enormous impact in the U.K. at all levels of academic life.” Later, he said, “There is now an immediate imperative for all British universities to take an equally rigorous and unequivocal public stand so that they are not tainted by association with those individuals who propose a boycott.” Pepys said before even more damage is done to British universities and the country’s reputation, universities should announce their opposition to the boycott.

Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council and joint chair of Stop the Boycott Campaign said, “We will be writing to every university in the country urging them to clarify their position so that they do not become unfairly associated with the boycott.”

He applauded the clear rejection of the boycott by Oxford and others, and said, “It is time for every major U.K. campus to declare themselves boycott-free zones.”

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