The Association of University Teachers (AUT) voted on Thursday to end its boycott of two Israeli universities, put in place last month, a step described as a victory to the boycott foes, Israeli sources reported on Friday.
The vote, in Britain’s biggest union of university teachers had passed by two-thirds majority, amidst promises by the boycott supporters to continue their efforts to boycott Israel.
The council of the 40,000-member Association announced it had decided in a special session to overturn the boycott against Bar-Ilan and Haifa universities immediately.
The union said it would now base its policy on "providing practical solidarity for Palestinian and Israeli trade unionists and academics by agreeing on a motion committing the union to a full review of international policy."
The union’s Secretary General Sally Hunt had made a call "to build bridges between those with opposing views here in the U.K. and to commit to supporting trade unionists in Israel and Palestine working for peace."
However, Sue Blackwell, a lecturer at Birmingham University and a key supporter of the boycott, said she would continue her efforts.
Blackwell stated that while she had been accused of harming academic freedom, the discussion of such freedom had no significance while Palestinian students did not even have the freedom to get to university.
The boycott decision had made outspoken criticism, by Israeli academics.
Professor Aharon Ben-Ze’ev, president of the University of Haifa, said that the school was considering suing the union for libel, claiming that the decision was based on a web of lies.
"I am disappointed that the leaders of the organization have not apologized to the university for the capricious maligning of its name," Ben-Ze’ev stated.
The rector of Bar-Ilan University, Professor Yosef Yeshurun, praised the union’s decision to end boycott, saying boycotts should not be part of academia. But "the damage has been done," he said.