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President Emmert signs letter protesting threatened British boycott of Israeli universities


University of Washington President Mark A. Emmert is one of the signatories of a letter from presidents of U.S. universities published today which protests an effort by British academics to boycott scholars at Israeli universities.

On May 30, the policy making body of the University and College Union (UCU) in Great Britain passed a resolution recommending to its members that they bar academic exchanges with Israeli researchers. The boycott, which will be considered over the coming year, seeks to pressure Israel to improve its relations with Palestinians.

The letter from American presidents states, in part, “In seeking to quarantine Israeli universities and scholars this vote threatens every university committed to fostering scholarly and cultural exchanges that lead to enlightenment, empathy, and a much-needed international marketplace of ideas.”

The letter goes on to suggest that, if the UCU proceeds with its boycott, it should include all the institutions which have signed the letter of protest in its boycott, “for we do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish.”

“The position of the UCU,” said Emmert, “ís quite simply antithetical to all that we at the University of Washington hold as core values of our university and the global academy. Limiting our intellectual engagement with faculties from countries whose policies we may or may not approve would substantially shrink our academic universe. It’s the wrong message to send, regardless of one’s political views.”

The letter was published today in The New York Times as a full-page advertisement, sponsored by the American Jewish Committee.

More than 200 presidents have signed the letter. In addition, more than 8,400 individuals have, for purposes of any academic boycott targeting Israel, agreed to regard themselves as “Israeli academics,” and will decline to participate in any activity from which Israeli academics are excluded.


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