AAAS condemns British group's proposed academic boycott of Israel

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general science society, today urged a British teachers association to withdraw a motion calling on its members to boycott Israeli scholars and academic institutions that do not publicly declare their opposition to Israel's policies in the territories.

The boycott proposal is scheduled for consideration during the May 27-29 annual conference of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, the largest trade union and professional association for lecturers, researchers and others working in higher education and adult education in the England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A vote is expected Monday.

In a statement, the AAAS Board of Directors said it joins with other organizations "in condemning this proposed boycott as antithetical to the positive role of free scientific inquiry in improving the lives of all citizens of the world, and in promoting cooperation among nations, despite political differences." It added, "Free scientific inquiry and associated international collaborations should not be compromised in order to advance a political agenda unrelated to scientific and scholarly matters."

Last year another British faculty group, The British Association of University Teachers, voted to boycott Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities, charging them with complicity in Israel's "suppression of the Palestinians." The council of the association reversed the decision after objections by leading scholars and academic organizations, including AAAS and the American Association of University Professors.

Bar-Ilan University's International Advisory Board on Academic Freedom has called for an immediate withdrawal of the pending boycott motion. It warned recently that "silent" boycott efforts already have been exercised by some British academics, including a classics professor who refused to write for an Israeli academic journal because of what he called the "brutal and illegal expansionism, and the slow-motion ethnic cleansing" of the Israeli government.

In its statement, AAAS noted that it has stressed the importance of safeguarding free and open communications among scientists throughout its history. The association, founded in 1848, is publisher of the international journal Science. It has 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals worldwide.

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The full text of the AAAS Board's statement follows:

Call for the UK National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) to Withdraw Its Motion Urging a Boycott of Israeli Scholars and Universities

Throughout its 158-year history, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has stressed the importance of safeguarding free and open communication among scientists. The fundamental value of the international exchange of scholars and freedom of expression is embodied in international human rights treaties and conventions as well as in declarations adopted by scientific and other professional organizations throughout the world.

Last year the AAAS Board of Directors declared its opposition to the resolution adopted by the British Association of University Teachers that called on its members to "refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, or joint projects" with two universities in Israel. That resolution was subsequently repealed. This year, another UK organization, NATFHE (the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education) is considering a motion for a similar boycott. We urge NATFHE to withdraw this motion. As we did last year, we join with other organizations in condemning this proposed boycott as antithetical to the positive role of free scientific inquiry in improving the lives of all citizens of the world, and in promoting cooperation among nations, despite political differences. In the context of the highly charged atmosphere of the Middle East, it is crucial to keep channels of communication open in order to foster a dialogue that is inclusive of all affected people. Free scientific inquiry and associated international collaborations should not be compromised in order to advance a political agenda unrelated to scientific and scholarly matters.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the international journal, Science. AAAS was founded in 1848. It has 125,000 individual members and 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals worldwide.


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