Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell travelled to Israel today to show solidarity with Israeli academics amid efforts by a British professors’ union to shun Israeli colleagues in protest of the occupation of Palestinian territories.
“In both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, there are both progressive views and reactionary views,” Rammell said during a visit to Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He criticised the boycott, saying it “entrenches the positions of people who want to take a hard-line position”.
Britain’s largest union of university and college professors decided two weeks ago to ask its members to consider an academic boycott of Israel. If approved, the measure would prevent Israeli and British professors from collaborating.
Rammell said he scheduled his trip to offer a contrasting view to that of the professors’ union. He said the British government had “concerns” about the occupation and its effects on education, but that these would be addressed with the Israeli government.
Rammell planned to meet tomorrow with faculty at the Palestinian Al Quds University, a British embassy spokeswoman said.
Responding to reporters’ questions, Rammell called for the release of Palestinian Education Minister Nasser Shaer, who is being held by Israel. He also criticised Israel’s refusal to allow most students from the Gaza Strip to study in Israel and the West Bank.