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Fearing boycott, Israeli academics warn against accrediting West Bank school

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Now, after Israel's committee on higher education in the West Bank formally upgraded the university, concern is growing that such a move could fuel international efforts to boycott Israel, particularly its academic community, which often finds itself viewed by international colleagues as a proxy for the Israeli government. Accreditation of a university in the West Bank, they say, may be one step too far.

"It's a strategic threat to the state," said Hebrew University PresĀ­ident Menahem Ben-Sasson, acĀ­cording to Israeli news outlets. "We are putting the next Nobel Prize in danger."

Fair protest or delegitimization?

Since the second intifada and the collapse of the Oslo peace process more than a decade ago, Israel has faced efforts by Palestinian solidarity activists to promote an international boycott of Israeli professors, companies, and concerts because of their alleged association with Israeli government policies.

Palestinians and their supporters say the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, intended to persuade the Jewish state to end more than four decades of military occupation in the West Bank and to remove settlements, is a legitimate form of political pressure.

But even though some boycott proponents say they are solely focused on settlement activity considered illegal by the international community, many supporters of Israel consider boycotts part of a broader campaign to delegitimize Israel's right to exist.

Organized efforts at a boycott of Israeli academia started in 2002 in Britain, when a pair of Israeli language experts from universities inside Israel were dismissed from the editorial board of a British journal on translation studies.

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