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Twenty-one Nobel Prize laureates will send a letter to the British Association of University Teachers (AUT) urging it to cancel the decision to impose an academic boycott on the Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities.

"Mixing science with politics, and limiting academic freedom by boycotts is essentially wrong and should be strongly and promptly rejected," the letter says.

The move comes two days before a special conference of the AUT to reconsider the boycott decision, which was made about a month ago. Sources from Jewish organizations in London, who have been exerting pressure to revoke the boycott, said the AUT is expected to revoke its decision at the meeting.

The writers describe the boycott as "dangerous" and say "there is nothing more intrinsic to the academic spirit than the free exchange of ideas. This fundamental enables us to share our views, advance our thinking, challenge our premises and bridge our disagreements."

Not private property

"Academic freedom has never been the private property of the few and must not be manipulated by them," the letter says.

The group includes two Israeli Nobel Prize winners Professors Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover, Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Elie Wiesel, Professor Daniel Kahneman, Professor David Gross, Physics Professor Steven Weinberg, Professor Aaron Klug and biologist Guenther Blobel.

Sue Blackwell, of the University of Birmingham, who is a central figure pushing for the boycott decision, said a few days ago that one could not speak of the "free exchange of ideas" and ignore the fact that "the Palestinians have no freedom under the occupation."

The AUT decided on the boycott last month, a decision which has caused a rebellion within the AUT.

A special conference which could overturn the decision is being held next week.


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