The British government swiftly denounced a letter calling for a boycott of Israel that was signed by 343 British university professors and published as an advertisement in The Guardian on Tuesday, reiterating that London “firmly opposes” boycotts of Israel, The Jewish Chronicle reported.
The government’s opposition was expressed by David Quarrey, Britain’s ambassador to Israel, who said that the United Kingdom “firmly opposes” boycotts of Israel and added, “As David Cameron has said, the UK government will never allow those who want to boycott Israel to shut down 60 years worth of vibrant exchange and partnership that does so much to make both our countries stronger.”
British-Jewish communal groups and the Israeli government have also condemned the letter.
Yiftah Curiel, a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in London, was quoted as saying:
Those calling to boycott Israelis during a month of 45 stabbing attacks – in which over a hundred Israelis were injured and 10 were murdered – exhibit an especially callous disregard for Israeli lives and for the conditions necessary for peace.
Divisive boycott initiatives such as this one serve only to sow hatred, alienating the sides rather than promoting coexistence.
Progress toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians will be made in the negotiating room; Israel has repeatedly called to renew negotiations immediately and with no preconditions.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that Ronnie Fraser, who heads the group Academic Friends of Israel, said in a statement that the professors who pledged to boycott Israel represent less than a quarter of a single percent of all U.K. academics and called them a “statistically insignificant minority.”
Richard Verber, senior vice-president of Britain’s Board of Deputies, a Jewish communal organization, released a statement decrying the call for a boycott of the Jewish state:
We would ask why these academics are singling out Israel in such a discriminatory fashion? At a time of immense, often barbaric upheaval in other parts of the Middle East, Israel remains a beacon of academic excellence and progressive thinking, with women, minorities and LGBT people at the forefront of many initiatives. It is telling that these academics have nothing to say about the recent wave of terror directed towards Israeli citizens nor the incitement of Hamas and Fatah. In the complex conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, boycotting either side will lead to zero progress. Their energy would be much better spent encouraging academic dialogue and relations between like-minded Israelis and Palestinians who believe in a brighter future.
The academics’ call for a boycott of Israel comes on the heels of a letter published last week in The Guardian that was signed by over 150 British artists, including Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling, and declared, “Cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory, and will not further peace.”
Many anti-Israel activists who promote a boycott of the state, including those affiliated with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, as the academics are, have previously affirmed that they seek to destroy the Jewish state. Co-founder of the BDS movement Omar Barghouti, who is a staunch opponent of the two state solution, said in 2014 that Palestinians have a right to “resistance by any means, including armed resistance,” while BDS activist As’ad Abu Khalil wrote two years prior that, “Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”
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