Universities should treat attempts to boycott academics as blasphemy, says the new president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Professor Menahem Ben-Sasson said he had “deep concerns” about new efforts by the University and College Union to broaden the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) front against Israel.
“It is endangering the academic discourse whenever it infiltrates even marginal institutions. It comes from the margins into the heart,” he said.
“Whenever we see a block or boycott, all universities should automatically refer to it as blasphemy. They must talk about it and not ignore it. The situation here is of deep concern to me.”
Prof Ben-Sasson, professor of the history of the Jewish people at HU and a former rector, was speaking at the start of his first visit to London as president to meet the British Friends and communal leaders. He is a former Kadima member of the Knesset.
He said: “We don’t want a doctor to treat only his people and not others, nor scientific advances only for those who discovered them.
“We want them to be shared by everybody. The stent was developed in Israel by the Hebrew University and implanted in the hearts of Iranians and Palestinians, as well as Israelis, to give life. We want developments in agriculture to be shared with the Palestine Authority. It’s the language of science and in an age of tolerance, some are using that tolerance to ruin it for others. This is not for the sake of Israeli universities alone. It is for the entire scientific world.”
He said British academic institutions had strengthened their ties with Hebrew University “and HU was established by British academics anyway, so there will always be strong links”.