A Brighton University lecturer has condemned Israel studies courses as “an Israeli state propaganda initiative”.
Tom Hickey, a supporter of a boycott of Israel, said the courses, at four British universities, were established “to try to divert the world’s attention and to alter its perception of Israel as a state indelibly associated with such things as guns, dead children, demolished houses and other similar war crimes”.
Speaking at Sussex University’s Palestine Awareness Week, Mr Hickey, a senior member of the University and College Union’s national executive committee, called on Sussex to scrap its newly established chair in Israel studies.
He claimed there was “the possibility of impropriety” in its funding — the Chair was set up with the support of benefactors including the Pears Foundation and Jewish philanthropist Lord Weidenfeld.
Mr Hickey also protested against the naming of the Chair after Israeli army officer Yossi Harel, who commanded the immigrant ship Exodus which carried 4,500 European Jews to British Mandate Palestine in 1947.
He suggested Mr Harel could be “open to the charge of something that would be called nefarious activities, if not war crimes”.
Mr Hickey’s comments were posted online. He was unavailable for comment this week.
In a statement, Sussex University rejected his claim. “Our donations policy, which all donors agree to, makes absolutely clear that a funder can have no influence over the academic freedom and independence of the university,” it said.