One of the founding leaders of the movement to boycott Israeli academia has begun taking doctoral courses at Tel Aviv University.
Thousands of students at the university have already signed a petition calling on the board of governors to bar Omar Barghouti from the lecture halls, but the university is upholding the cause of academic freedom.
Mr Barghouti is a Palestinian political activist who studied for his BA and master’s degree at Columbia University in the United States. In 2004, he was a founder of the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel Campaign (PACB) which called upon lecturers’ unions around the world, but especially in the UK, to sever their ties with Israeli universities and research centres.
A frequent speaker at pro-Palestinian events around the world, last summer he led calls for Paul McCartney not to perform in Israel. He has called for a one-state solution and regularly calls Israel an apartheid state.
Tel Aviv University has steadfastly maintained its belief in academic freedom in the face of the students’ petition, which questions the “university’s agreement to grant an enemy of Israel the means to achieve a doctorate. As citizens of Israel, we are disappointed that an academic institute, which is supported also by our taxes, sees it fit to allow such a person to use its services.”
A small number of radical left-wing lecturers in Israeli universities have supported the academic boycott in the past.
Mr Barghouti, when contacted by Ma’ariv newspaper, said: “My studies at Tel-Aviv University are a personal matter and I have no interest in commenting.”