Israeli academics will set up a new forum to fight the international academic boycott of Israel, the heads of the country's universities decided at a meeting Thursday with Minister for Diaspora Affairs Natan Sharansky.
At the meeting, the university presidents warned that the boycott, though still sporadic, was steadily worsening. Professor Joshua Jortner of the National Academy of Sciences and Humanities reported that some members of Norway's national academy had urged treating Israel "like Germany of the 1930s."
Hebrew University Professor Menachem Magidor suggested setting up an organization to which academics could report any instances of the boycott that they encountered, and which would then coordinate responses to the boycott. He also suggested setting up a non-governmental body under whose auspices Israeli academics would present Israel's case through lectures at overseas universities.
The other participants agreed, with the caveat that the lecturers must be seen as representing Israel, rather than defending government policy.
The presidents also proposed trying to mobilize Israelis studying overseas in this effort.
The international boycott has been publicly supported by a handful of left-wing Israeli academics, including Dr. Ilan Pappe of Haifa University and Professor Tanya Reinhardt of Hebrew University. The presidents of these universities, Yehuda Hayuth and Magidor, noted that donors had pressured them to take steps against Israeli boycott supporters, and some had even halted their donations on the grounds that they were unwilling to pay the salaries of people who call for boycotting Israeli academe.
Nevertheless, both presidents said, they refused to infringe on academic freedom by taking any action against these professors.