Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv UniversityIsrael news photo: Tel Aviv U

About 500 professors and other members of Israel's academe, including two former education ministers, have signed a petition against Minister of Education Gideon Saar following his vow to take steps against Israeli academics who call for an academic boycott of Israel.

Saar said it is “unacceptable” for Israeli academics to call for an academic boycott on their own country: “I have already spoken about this to the chair of the Committee for Planning and Budgets in the Council for Higher Education (CHE) and I will also move on this with heads of institutions. This issue is on our agenda,” he said.

Saar's statements were made after he received a report compiled by Im Tirtzu, a self-described mainstream Zionist student group, which detailed subversive infiltration of the academe.

About 500 professors, lecturers and students, including former education ministers Yuli Tamir and Yossi Sarid, signed a petition which said that “freedom of expression and academic freedom are the life blood of the Israeli academic system.”

The professors warned Saar: "Grave damage will be caused to the Israeli academe if politicians – whatever their views and political-partisan position, whatever their status and role in the political system – dictate to it what is proper or improper to say, think, research and teach, and instruct it to adopt criteria of this type for acceptance, promotion or distancing of researchers or lecturers.”

"Your statements about your intent to use your authority of government – through the head of CHE and the heads of academic institutions – for acting against lecturers who supported an academic boycott on Israel – cause damage of this kind.”

The lecturers called on Saar to “wake up” and “retract your statements before it is too late to save Israeli higher education.

Analysts noted that if a boycott were to spread, it too might pose a danger to Israeli higher education, whereas if the academics would forego their salaries, leave the universities and and call for boycotts as private citizens, they could do so without interference..