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.
* Science Museum accused over links to Israel
* Steve Connor: Science makes a difference to a small nation
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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