Professor Boycotts Israeli Soldier
Articles in chronological order
don rejects student because he is from Israel
June 30, 2003
An Oxford University professor is facing disciplinary action after
rejecting an Israeli student's application to work with him because
he had a "huge problem" with his country's "abuses
on the Palestinians", it emerged yesterday.
Andrew Wilkie, who was last month elected Nuffield professor of
pathology, apparently rejected an approach by Amit Duvshani, 26,
a student at Tel Aviv University, solely because of his nationality.
A spokeswoman for the university would not rule out dismissal as
one of the possible disciplinary actions the vice-chancellor, Sir
Colin Lucas, might take against Professor Wilkie when he rules on
a "thorough report" on the incident which he is expected
to receive this week.
Mr Duvshani, who is approaching the end of a masters degree in
molecular biology, had applied to work in Prof Wilkie's laboratory
towards a PhD thesis, but said he was shocked by the email response
he received on June 23.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that in setting out his reasons for
rejecting him Prof Wilkie wrote: "I have a huge problem with
the way that the Israelis take the moral high ground from their
appalling treatment in the Holocaust, and then inflict gross human
rights abuses on the Palestinians because they [the Palestinians]
wish to live in their own country."
The professor, who is a fellow of Pembroke College, went on: "I
am sure you are perfectly nice at a personal level but no way would
I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army."
Mr Duvshani had done his mandatory three years' national service
and this was noted in the CV he had forwarded.
The student told the Sunday Telegraph: "I was appalled that
such a distinguished man could think something like that. I did
not expect it from a British professor. I sent similar applications
all round Europe and did not have another response like that. Science
and politics should be separate. This is discrimination."
The University of Oxford agreed the rejection at least appeared
to be discriminatory. A statement said: "Our staff may hold
strongly felt personal opinions.
"Freedom of expression is a fundamental tenet of university
life, but under no circumstances are we prepared to accept or condone
conduct that appears to, or does, discriminate against anyone on
grounds of ethnicity or nationality, whether directly or indirectly."
Prof Wilkie has since made an apology to Mr Duvshani. The professor
said: "I recognise and apologise for any distress caused by
my email ... and the wholly inappropriate expression of my personal
opinions in that document."
Mr Duvshani has made it clear that he is no longer interested in
studying at Oxford.
Some British academics have called for a boycott of Israeli scholars
and conferences in Israel in protest at the country's treatment
of the Palestinians. In May the largest university lecturers' union
voted at its annual conference by a majority of about two to one
to reject a call for an academic boycott of Israel.
campaigner backs Oxford's Israeli rejection
June 30, 2003
A leading campaigner for academic freedom today offered his support
to the Oxford don at the centre of a new row over a boycott of Israel.
Andrew Wilkie, Nuffield professor of pathology at Oxford University,
is facing possible disciplinary action after refusing to consider
an Israeli student for a PhD because of his nationality.
Professor Wilkie wrote in an email reply to Amit Duvshani, a 26-year-old
Tel Aviv University student: "I am sure that you are perfectly
nice at a personal level, but no way would I take on somebody who
had served in the Israeli army."
He has issued a full apology for his comments and the university
is investigating the matter. It has refused to rule out disciplinary
action against the professor.
Michael Cohen, a founding member of the Campaign for Academic Freedom
and Standards, speaking in a personal capacity, told EducationGuardian.co.uk
that he would back someone who refused to work with a member of
an Israeli university as a demonstration against the Israeli government.
He said: "I'm perfectly happy to support someone who feels
that they want to boycott Israeli members of academic institutions
- it's a way of bringing home to the Israeli government how appalling
their behaviour is.
"It's appalling that disciplinary procedures might follow.
He has a perfectly legitimate point of view and I would support
him if that's the argument he wants to make. It's a question of
balance of the rights of the individuals involved. But that seems
insignificant in contrast with the rights of the Palestinian people.
If we're concerned about academic freedom, we should look at what's
going on in Palestinian universities where lives are being made
In an email addressed to a colleague, Professor Wilkie made a full
apology. He wrote: "I regret that it [the email] is not a hoax.
My act was out of conscience about the war and I was completely
open about my reasons. It was totally out of order I agree but it
was done honestly.
"I am deeply sorry for this and realise that I took the wrong
action. In addition an official apology has been issued by Oxford
University and the student's case will be taken forward. I retract
what I said, which was caused by too personal and emotional a response
to the terrible situation in Israel. I hope you can forgive me."
And he asked that the colleague circulate the message.
But Professor Wikie's action has attracted widespread condemnation
from around the world.
Dr Andy Marks, founder and director of the International Academic
Friends of Israel, a group founded to oppose the boycott of Israel,
said: "We are saddened and outraged that efforts to isolate
Israeli academics continue to gain momentum. Professor Wilkie's
blatant discrimination against a scientist based on his nationality
is a dangerous threat to academic and scientific freedom. We cannot
use political litmus tests to decide who can and cannot conduct
Investigating Professor Who Rejected an Israeli Student
by Richard Allen Greene
JTA - The Global News Service of the Jewish People
8 July 2003
An Oxford University professor could be fired after rejecting a
graduate student because he is Israeli.
Andrew Wilkie, a professor of pathology, dismissed an application
from Amit Duvshani to work in his laboratory in late June, partly
on the grounds that the Tel Aviv University student had done his
mandatory service in the Israel Defense Forces.
"I am sure you are perfectly nice at a personal level, but
no way would I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army,"
Wilkie wrote Duvshani in an e-mail that has been widely circulated.
Wilkie accused Israel of gross human rights abuses against the
Palestinians, even citing the Holocaust in his argument.
"As you may be aware, I am not the only U.K. scientist with
these views, but I´m sure you will find another suitable lab
if you look around," the e-mail concluded.
Israel supporters from New York to Tel Aviv responded with outrage.
In London, the Board of Deputies, the umbrella organization representing
most British Jews protested to Oxford.
"Oxford University is expected to be a place where ideas are
freely upheld and exchanged," board President Henry Grunwald
wrote to Sir Colin Lucas, Oxford´s vice-chancellor. "This
cannot happen if there remains any scope for refusing to admit or
hire someone on the basis of their nationality, religion or race,"
Andy Marks, founder and director of the International Academic
Friends of Israel, said such "blatant discrimination against
a scientist based on his nationality is a dangerous threat to academic
and scientific freedom."
The group was formed to fight against a boycott of Israeli academics
by British academics, which has been the subject of fierce international
debate since it was launched last summer.
Baroness Susan Greenfield, a neurobiologist and director of Britain´s
Royal Institution, has campaigned against the boycott.
She said the controversy over Wilkie´s comments underscores
the seriousness of the boycott movement in Britain.
"This will show that it´s something that´s real,"
she told JTA. "It´s not just a flash in the pan."
Although a British academic union rejected a boycott motion at
its annual conference in May by a vote of two to one, "that
still means a third voted for it," she noted.
Oxford University was quick to distance itself from Wilkie´s
move, describing itself as "appalled that any member of its
staff should have responded to an inquiry from a potential graduate
student in the terms in which Professor Wilkie e-mailed Amit Duvshani."
Wilkie apologized for "any distress" his e-mail caused,
and said the inclusion of his "personal opinions" was
"I entirely accept the University of Oxford´s Equal
Opportunities and Race Equality Policies," he said in a public
Despite Wilkie´s apology, Oxford convened a special disciplinary
committee last Friday.
The Visitatorial Board, as it is called, has the power to recommend
that Wilkie be dismissed. It could also recommend a lighter punishment,
such as a warning.
Wilkie has four weeks to present his case in writing to the committee,
which consists of four Oxford staff members chaired by an outsider.
He also has the right to appear before the board in person.
He will not take part in selection of Oxford students or staff
while the board is considering the case.
Only one other Visitatorial Board has been convened at Oxford in
the past year, a university spokesman said.
The Board of Deputies welcomed Oxford´s move, telling JTA
it was "gratifying to hear that the case is being taken so
Wilkie did not respond to JTA requests for comment.
But Sue Blackwell, a boycott supporter who teaches in the English
department at the University of Birmingham, said Wilkie´s
apology should be the end of the matter.
"I understand that Prof. Wilkie has now apologized to the
student and withdrawn his original position of refusing him a place
in his lab," she told JTA via e-mail.
"I don´t see what he had to apologize for in the first
place, but especially in view of his apology it is completely unacceptable
that the University of Oxford should be considering disciplinary
action against him," she added.
Blackwell, who proposed the boycott motion that the academic union
rejected this spring, highlighted the fact that Wilkie referred
specifically to Duvshani´s army service in rejecting him.
"This is an important issue because doing military service
involves supporting the occupation either directly or indirectly,
and for this reason a growing number of young Israelis are refusing
to do their initial period of service or to become reservists,"
"Israelis who have not done military service are unlikely
to be considered for most jobs, which thus excludes most Israeli
Arabs as well as the refuseniks,´ " she said. "So
this single act of discrimination´ against a student
who has done his military service in Israel has to be seen in the
context of the institutional discrimination in Israel against anyone
who has not done military service."
There have been concerns that the boycott movement could attempt
to portray Wilkie as a martyr, but anti-boycott campaigner Greenfield
said she doubted such a defense would be convincing.
"Were he to be punished, I can´t see how anyone could
condemn it," she said. "I can´t see how" his
e-mail "could not be racism."
Greenfield said she was amazed that Wilkie whom she does
not know personally had sent such comments by e-mail.
"Sometimes people fire off e-mails without thinking them through,"
she said. "That is one of the reasons I oppose the boycott."
Forwarding e-mails asking colleagues to refuse to work with Israelis,
she said, can give people "a misguided and rather superficial
feeling of being liberal."