Gould: Boycotts divide people and reduce understanding

Matthew Gould at the ceremony

Matthew Gould at the ceremony

The British ambassador to Israel has criticised those "who would rather go down the route of boycott than engagement".

Speaking after receiving an honorary doctorate from Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Matthew Gould said he and the British government rejected academic boycotts "because we believe that boycotts divide people and reduce understanding, when what we need is to bring people together".

"Our mission, of building scientific and academic links between our nations, is deeply unwelcome to some," he said. "My government has stood firm by this mission, in part because of the knowledge that universities in Israel are places where the measure that counts is excellence, not agreement.

"We are working with a country whose politicians and commentators may hate some of the arguments that are made in the universities, but treasure the academic freedom that allows them to be made."

Mr Gould referred to the different areas of academic collaboration between the two countries, labelling "science as a potential force for good, above politics, beyond nation, that can unite, and heal".

He also described academic freedom "as the essential underpinning of any liberal and tolerant society that values knowledge and accepts debate".

"The phenomenon of a diplomat who understands and appreciates the role of academia in research and development is rare and appreciated," said Professor Rivka Carmi, BGU president. Mr Gould was described as "a gifted diplomat" in the scroll that he was honoured with.

Last updated: 10:31am, December 27 2012