BBC News | 31 August 2010 | 13:51 GMT
More than 150 Israeli academics say they will no longer lecture or work in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. In a letter, they said they supported the recent decision by a group of actors and others not to take part in cultural activity there. The academics said that acceptance of the settlements caused "critical" damage to Israel’s chances of achieving peace with the Palestinians. The actors were criticised for refusing to perform at a new cultural centre. On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the last thing Israel needed as it resumed direct peace talks, was a boycott from within.
In a letter published on Sunday, the academics said they would no longer take part in any kind of cultural activity, or lecture in any kind of academic setting, in settlements built on land occupied following the Middle East war – demarcated by what is commonly known as the "Green Line". They explained that they wanted to show support and solidarity for the 53 actors, writers and directors who last week said they would not take part in performances at the new cultural centre built in Ariel. "We’d like to remind the Israeli public that, like all settlements, Ariel is also in occupied territory," the academics said. "If a future peace agreement with the Palestinian authorities puts Ariel within Israel’s borders, then it will be treated like any other Israeli town." "Legitimatisation and acceptance of the settler enterprise cause critical damage to Israel’s chances of achieving a peace accord with its Palestinian neighbours."
Close to 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this. A separate letter, signed by a number of well-known Israeli authors and artists, is expected to be published in the coming days. Yigal Cohen-Orgad, the chancellor of the Ariel University Centre, told Haaretz newspaper on Tuesday that "stupid behaviour seems to attract academic stupidity". Several right-wing politicians have criticised the actors, saying they are subsidised by the Israeli state and should have their funds withdrawn if they refuse to work in any settlements.