An Israeli professor urged fellow academics on Monday to shun a Jewish settlement college in the occupied West Bank, a move that could effectively import an international pro-Palestinian boycott movement.
Uri Ram, president of the Israeli Sociological Society, told local broadcaster Army Radio that the group “will not cooperate with the institution called Ariel University, which is not within the state of Israel’s boundaries.”
He was referring to an institute of higher learning in Ariel settlement on which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet conferred university status in a 2012 move that critics condemned as entrenching Israel’s hold on land Palestinians want for a state.
The boycott initiative by Ram, a sociology professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in southern Israel, is not immediate. It requires approval by the Israeli Sociological Society’s board, which is due to convene next month, he said.
The society had in 2011 passed a motion against conducting academic activity at Ariel University which Ram now intended to implement, he said in a statement to Reuters.
The West Bank college strongly criticized the decision, saying it was not in line with the values of pluralism that the academic group supposedly embodied.
“Ariel University is surprised and disappointed that people whose professional emblem is pluralism are working under models of behavior that are semi-fascist, and that they are unable to live alongside those whose opinions are different from their own,” a statement read.
“People of all different world views work at Ariel University—Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, left and right wing, from all over Israel,” the statement continued.
The Netanyahu government, which says Israel should keep settlement blocs including Ariel as part of any eventual Palestinian statehood deal, also condemned Ram’s initiative.
Internationally, Israel has been waging a diplomatic campaign against the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which advocates a boycott of all Israeli goods and questions Israel’s legitimacy.
“A boycott is not pluralism, it is the opposite of pluralism, and it will be handled accordingly,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett told reporters referring to Ariel University.
“Israeli tax-payers fund higher education to the tune of 10 billion shekels ($2.6 billion) a year and we have no intention of allowing boycotts.”