Israel

British IVF Pioneer: Boycotters of Israel are Mostly “Second-Rate Academics”

Lord Robert Winston, a British academic and leader in the field of in vitro fertilization (IVF), said that anti-Israel boycotters are “mostly second-rate academics from minor universities who have never done anything,” during a dinner hosted last week in his honor by the British ambassador to Israel, Ha’aretz reported. Winston received an honorary degree from the Weizmann Institute of Science on Monday.

“The people who have signed up for that boycott are mostly second-rate academics from minor universities who have never done anything. They really are,” Winston emphasized in a pre-dinner interview with Haaretz. “Not exactly at the cutting edge of British intellectual thought.”

Winston, who was born into an Orthodox Jewish family and first visited Israel in 1958, said that his religion complemented his chosen field. He added that his work, which included pioneering surgical techniques that improve fertility treatments, was “always backed” by rabbis.

His lectures were, in the early days, picketed by those who considered his work to be “immoral,” and “an infringement on human dignity,” and he was called – by many in the Catholic church, among others – “evil.” But the rabbis, he points out, always backed him.

Winston also commended Israel for its extensive support of IVF treatments for infertile couples, and noted that in the bible most of the matriarchs were infertile. It is “remarkable,” he observed, that Jews became a nation despite being “from an infertile stock.”

Winston is the latest notable British figure to denounce the movement to boycott Israel. Last month, more than 150 British artists, including J.K. Rowling, Simon Schama, and Hillary Mantel, signed a letter declaring that “cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory and will not further peace.” A week later, Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren said in an interview, “I completely agree with Hilary [Mantel] and J. K. Rowling, a cultural boycott is really a bad idea,” while she was attending the Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Also last month, the British government condemned a letter signed by some 300 university professors and teacher calling for a boycott of the Jewish state. David Quarrey, the British ambassador to Israel who hosted the dinner honoring Winston, said that the United Kingdom “firmly opposes” boycotts of Israel. Quarrey 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.”

Various anti-Israel boycott activists, particularly those affiliated with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, have previously gone on record opposing the two state solution and affirming that they seek Israel’s destruction. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti, a hardline opponent of the two state solution, said in 2014 that Palestinians have a right to “resistance by any means, including armed resistance,” and leading activist As’ad Abu Khalil wrote in 2012 that, “Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”

[Photo: UK in Israel / Flickr ]