|Legal warnings over Israeli boycott
|Legal warnings over Israeli boycott / The Guardian, U.K.|
Polly Curtis, education correspondent, Monday April 25, 2005
The head of the lecturers' union which last week
launched an academic boycott of two Israeli
universities has appealed to members not to begin the
boycott until they have received advice on how to do
so without breaking the law.
In her first public comments since delegates at the
union's annual conference in Eastbourne last Friday
narrowly voted to back the boycott, Sally Hunt, the
general secretary of the Association of University
Teachers (AUT), said: "The national executive will
issue guidance to local associations on the
implementation of the boycotts of the two Israeli
universities in due course.
"Until this guidance is issued, it is stressed that
members should be advised to not take any action in
relation to a boycott which would place them in breach
of their contract of employment."
The Guardian has reported increasing concerns about
the legality of a boycott against academics working in
Before Friday's vote, Steve Miller, the deputy
vice-chancellor of City University, said there could
be problems for any academic who followed the boycott.
"I would have thought that any academic treated
differently on the ground of race would be in breach
of their university's equal opportunities policy," he
said. "I believe that for City University treating an
Israeli academic differently on the grounds of their
nationality would be in breach of our policy."
And following the decision on Friday Jocelyn Prudence,
the chief executive of the Universities and Colleges
Employers Association, said that the boycott "would
appear to run contrary to contractual law, race and
religious discrimination law, and academic freedom
obligations, which are built into the contracts of
staff in pre-1992 universities".
The legal precedent is unclear. In 2003 Andrew Wilkie
was suspended without pay for two months from his post
at Oxford University and made to take equal
opportunities training after rejecting an application
from an Israeli student because he had a "huge
problem" with Israel's treatment of Palestinians.
In 2002 Mona Baker, a linguist who sacked two Israelis
from the board of a journal she edited, was cleared of
any wrongdoing after an official inquiry by the
University of Manchester Institute of Science and