Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan is a professor at Haifa University, and a member of the left Zionist party Meretz. She spoke to Solidarity after the special conference of the Association of University Teachers on 26 May, 2006, which overturned the AUT's previous decision to boycott two Israeli universities, Haifa and Bar-Ilan.
Haifa University is, among all universities in Israel, the one which has the highest proportion of Arab students and faculty. 20% of the students are Arab, and in my department, English literature, 30%.
The overriding spirit of the university is pluralistic. There are all sorts of voices, both on the right and on the left. Some of them are extremely irritating to those on the other side, but there is an acceptance that all these voices should be heard.
I'm not suggesting that there are no tensions. We are living in a state of war. But the conflicts are contained within a general commitment to dialogue.
So why target Haifa University, of all places, for a boycott?
Some pro-boycotters say that the situation of the Palestinians is so desperate that we should support anything which might put pressure on Israel.
How would a boycott of Haifa University improve the situation of the Palestinians? It would be a boycott of some of those most concerned with and committed to the peace process.
In Israel we have 50% who are left of centre, and 50% who are right-wing. So what do you do? Go to demonstrations, sign petitions, and so on, and try to win a majority. That's what I do.
I don't think we should be penalised for not achieving results. British academics have been concerned with conditions in the Third World for thirty years or more, and there are few results to show for it. But I don't think they should be boycotted.
To those who want to do something to help the Palestinians, I would say: come to Israel and Palestine, and see for yourself. Don't believe your newspapers. Offer help in your own field. There is so much that can be done in a positive and constructive way.
But the occupation, the Wall, the expansion of the West Bank settlements...
I'm dead against all that. But I think that eventually a two-states solution will happen. It has to happen. Talk to ordinary Israelis, and they say that they are absolutely willing to give up the Territories and the settlements for a secure and lasting peace.
There is fear and anxiety on both sides, and we have to defuse that.