Last update - 01:48 29/09/2006
By Daphna Berman
Irish officials, together with prominent members of the community in Israel, denounced a recent call by Irish academics for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, describing it as counterproductive and discriminatory.
"The Irish government does not support any move to isolate Israel or Israeli institutions," a spokesperson for the Irish embassy in Tel Aviv told Anglo File. "Our aim is always to come to a maximum possible inclusive dialogue. We want to find a true solution to the situation and closing off dialogue would be counterproductive."
"This was a narrow-minded and prejudiced statement," former Chief Rabbi of Ireland Dr. Isaac Cohen, who lives in Jerusalem, said. "To boycott academics who are doing international work in Israel for the whole of society is an act of prejudice. The [signatories] are adopting current academic views in Europe, where anti-Semitism is growing at a rapid pace."
Last week the Irish Times published a letter in which 61 academics, including Prof. James Bowen, chair of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, called for a moratorium on European Union grants and contracts to Israeli academic institutions "until Israel abides by UN resolutions and ends the occupation of Palestinian territories."
"We feel it is time to heed the Palestinian call to take practical action to pressure Israel to comply with international law and basic human rights norm," the letter said. "We urge our fellow academics to support this moratorium by refraining, where possible, from further joint collaborations with Israeli academic institutions."
Dublin-born Malcolm Gafson, chair of the Israel-Ireland Friendship League, was critical of the boycott call and said the 61 academics who signed the statement are not representative of the overall Irish sentiment. "Like all boycotts, this one opposes international principles of academic freedom," Gafson said. "This letter was not put forth by an official academic body, as opposed to other calls in Europe," he noted. "There are certain groups that are hard at work in Ireland putting out untruths [about Israel]. These are people who are looking for a chance to promote their anti-Israel and anti-Zionist message and other people with their latent anti-Semitism are jumping on the bandwagon."