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Fearing boycott, Israeli academics warn against accrediting West Bank school

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In April, The Co-operative Group, Britain's No. 5 food retailer, said it would end trade with companies that export produce from Israeli settlements. Earlier this month, European Union members got a legal opinion stating they could legally ban trade with the settlements. Efforts at the Park Slope Food Coop in Brooklyn, N.Y., to ban Israeli goods from the shelves were ultimately rejected, but only after a bitter battle.

Though the South African boycott provoked an angry response from the Israeli government, one former top official expressed support. Alon Liel, who served as Israeli ambassador to South Africa and foreign ministry director general, wrote in a commentary this month for South Africa's Business Day that he supported the South African decision as a "small but symbolic" protest "that holds a mirror up to Israeli society."

While a few companies, such as lockmaker Mul-T-Lock Ltd., have relocated from West Bank industrial zones to factories inside Israel, the trade boycott efforts have had a negligible impact on the overall economy, say Israeli officials.

"In the big picture it hasn't yet impacted Israel," says Paul Hirschhorn, a spokesman for the foreign ministry. "Culturally and economically, Israel continues to be a remarkably successful venture."

Academic community wrings its hands 

The same can be said for Israel's seven public universities, many of which enjoy world-class reputations. Last month, the presidents of those institutions published an open letter to the government suggesting that accrediting AUC would cannibalize already strained higher education budgets.

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