Hundreds of UK scholars pledge to boycott Israeli universities

More than 340 senior academics at UK universities have published a pledge not to cooperate with Israeli institutions.

Appearing as a full-page advert in The Guardian newspaper Tuesday, the list includes big names whose work relates to Palestine or falls within Middle Eastern studies, such as professors Laleh Khalili, Nur Masalha and Myriam Salama-Carr and doctors Dina Matar, Anna Ball, Anthony Gorman and Adam Hanieh.

However, other signatories include those whose academic work has nothing to do with Palestine and the region, but who have still felt compelled to take a stand. They include theologian Timothy Gorringe, art critic Julian Stallabrass, physicist Sir Tom Kibble and psychologist Erica Burman.

Several Israeli Jewish academics also appear on the list, including mathematician and philosopher Moshe Machover, linguist Hagit Borer and architect Eyal Weizman.

The scholars state that they are: “motivated by deep concern for Palestinians, including Palestinian academics, struggling to sustain some semblance of normal life in intractably difficult circumstances of occupation, and denial of basic human rights. Recent events have provided, once again, grim evidence of Israeli intransigence.”

The pledge also explicitly links to the 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, in which large numbers of “Palestinian political parties, unions, associations, coalitions and organizations” asked that international professionals of many kinds refuse to cooperate with Israeli institutions.

The statement notes that ”Academics in other countries have already signed up to similar commitments in large numbers. We believe that many people working across the university sector in the UK will wish to do likewise.”

Blatantly illegal occupation

A press release accompanying the advertisement included testimonies from a number of the scholars who have signed, including Dr. Rachel Cohen of City University, London, who said that she felt that:

It is the responsibility of those of us who have the freedom to act to exercise that freedom in support of our colleagues in Palestinian universities who do not have such freedom. The Israeli state presents itself as an enlightened funder of academic pursuits, and yet it systematically denies Palestinian academics and students their basic freedoms, such as the freedom of movement necessary to attend international academic conferences, or simply to get to lectures on time.

And Professor Malcolm Levitt FRS, a chemist at the University of Southampton, described how he believed that:

For decades Israel has enjoyed special protection and privileges despite its blatantly illegal occupation and settlement policy. This privileged status has lured Israel into a dead end, with consequences that are becoming increasingly apparent to everyone. In the face of the silence and complicity of our elected representatives, individuals must exert pressure as best as they can. This commitment allows me, as an academic, to collaborate with Israeli individuals in the best scientific traditions, while still resisting the attempt by Israeli institutions to normalize their complicity in grossly illegal and unjust activities.

The British academics’ commitment comes – as their statement notes – in the wake of several years’ worth of pledges by large groups of scholars around the world to respect the Palestinian call for a cultural and academic boycott of Israel.

These have included the African Literature Association, an ad hoc grouping of senior specialists on the Middle East, hundreds of anthropologists, the Critical Ethnic Studies Association and the American Studies Association.

Organizations such as the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions have supported the wave of boycott motions and statements by providing information on how academics can go about boycotting Israeli institutions, and the legal and professional implications of doing so.




Bravo! Brava! To all the UK academics who see through the fascist Zionist state of Israel - on behalf of their academic colleagues - and their students - in Occupied/plundered Palestine.


Thank you so much for standing up for what is right .BDS is the best non violent way of protest .It worked in South Africa and will work in Israel .The direction of Israel with their forever confiscating more land must stop.It is what drives violence.The Palestinians have a right to a Palestinian state and we need a return to what was originally demarcated as the state of Israel. All other lands must be a Palestinian state.The Jewish people and the Muslim people can live together again as they did prior to the Zionist incursion into the territory.The present direction on the Likkud government breeds more violence and is giving the Jewish people of the world a very bad name.


Do it! It is a stain on the humanity of the world that Israel is allowed to blatantly and savagely occupy and oppress the people of Palestine on their own lands. Until the world bears down of Israel's war crimes in all ways possible, actions like this are so valuable. All best thanks to those in the UK who are participating in isolating the Israelis from participation in the world.


The Guardian (neo-Con supporting newspaper with otherwise liberal social views) chose to publicise this online in a far less prominent position than it did the hundred and fifty people who said they would wish to engage with Israeli civic society.

And note the Leads, under each headline. On the Israeli supporting item is said, 'JK Rowling, Hilary Mantel and other leading British arts figures sign a letter published in the Guardian that warns against cultural protests singling out Israel'.

And on the pro-BDS item it said, 'British and Israeli governments condemn pledge by 343 professors and lecturers who criticise what they call ‘Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land’. You gotta love the insertion of the 'what they call' conditional. International Law be damned.

JK Rowling, who supported engagement, had an article published explaining her reasoning. We have yet to see an article explaining why a leading academic would want to support BDS.

As always with the Guardian, any articles concerning Israel have to pass the gatekeeper, Executive Editor Jonathan Freedland, who's views in these matters are well established.

Sarah Irving

Sarah Irving's picture

Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.