Higher Education: Israel

Innovation, Universities and Skills written question – answered on 7th October 2008.

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Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Comptroller (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Commons)

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills

(1) what discussions his Department has had with universities and colleges on their response to the boycott by the University and College Union of Israeli Academics;

(2) what assessment he has made of the effects on the reputation and attractiveness of British universities to prospective students of a boycott of Israeli academics by the University and College Union.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Minister of State (Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills) (Higher Education & Intellectual Property)

The UK Government fully support academic freedom and are firmly against any academic boycotts of Israel or Israeli academics.

Boycotts and any severing of links with Israel would be counterproductive, and completely at odds with the principles of open exchange that should underpin academic life. I profoundly believe ending such links would do nothing to promote the Middle East peace process. Both Israel and the occupied territories contain progressives and reactionaries, and the problem with boycotts or moves to severe links is that they make the job of progressives much more difficult and entrench the position of the reactionaries.

The UK Government have made their support of international academic links clear. Alongside the Israeli Government, we have actively supported the establishment of the Britain Israel Research and Academic Exchange partnership—BIRAX—which aims to strengthen academic links between the UK and Israel through the awarding of grants to support academic exchanges for research purposes. We are exploring options for supporting academics in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

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