Israelis react with fury to British boycott call

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

How The Independent broke the story on yesterday's front page

    * Photos enlarge

Israeli scientists and officials reacted angrily yesterday to calls by more 
than 400 British academics for the Science Museum to cancel educational 
workshops planned to promote Israeli science tomorrow.

The cancellation call and claims that Israeli universities are "complicit" in 
the occupation of Palestinian territories and this year's "disastrous" 
offensive in Gaza, reported in The Independent yesterday, were condemned as 
"absurd" by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Its spokesman, Yigal Palmor, said: 
"These calls cannot but be motivated by extreme blindness and silly ideology. 
This of course does not promote the good causes which the boycotters are 
presumed to promote – not peace, understanding, nor compromise."

The British academics, among them 40 professors, include many of those behind 
the eventually unsuccessful campaign to impose a full-scale boycott of Israeli 
academics. The "educational seminars" – in Manchester yesterday and at the 
Science Museum in London tomorrow – are being run by the UK Zionist Federation.
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Yivsam Azgad, a spokesman for Israel's Weizmann Institute, said: "We don't 
believe that science and politics should be combined. Period." Dan Zaslavsky, 
professor of hydrology at the Technion-Israel Institute in Haifa and one of 
Israel's leading energy experts, said: "It's ugly and it is 100 per cent 
certain that this will hurt British science in the long run if the largest 
group don't stand up and reject this repulsive stance." Professor Zaslavsky 
said academics who thought good would come out of boycotts and protests of this 
kind were "distorted in their minds".

Professor Amnon Yogev, a former professor of laser chemistry at the Weizmann 
Institute, said that "freedom of speech is one of the basic principles of 
democracy". He said that singling out Israel on human rights issues when so 
much of the Arab world, Iran and Afghanistan had "no human rights" was "an 
illness". He added: "If you look back at history you will see that when they 
want to stop people communicating their ideas, it starts with the Jews, then 
goes on to other minorities and then you can't stop it."

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