A group of 160 academics representing 21 countries has urged the European Commission to use its leverage and ban Israeli universities from receiving funds from a European Union (EU) program worth over $100bn.

Iran PressEurope: In a letter sent to the Commission, the group commended the EU's existing principled position in its funding guidelines for Horizon 2020 by prohibiting the allocation of funds to Israeli entities situated in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

But the academics called on the body to go further and exclude all Israeli academic institutions, which is charged with "complicity in Israel's regime of military occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid".

"The complicity of Israeli academic institutions in Israel's structural violence perpetrated against Palestinians across historic Palestine has been broadly and systematically documented," the letter read.

The funding program - known as Horizon Europe - is the EU's biggest research and innovation program. It has a budget of around $112bn.

"Given the emerging consensus among some of the most prominent human rights organizations, the crux of the problem goes beyond the Occupied Palestinian Territory," the letter said.

"It would be important to extend the prohibition of European research funds to include Israeli institutions complicit in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights, regardless of where they are situated."

The letter's signatories were all current or prior recipients of EU research funding and included faculty at institutions including UCL, the University of Edinburgh, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Oxford, the Paris Nanterre University, and the University of Westminster.

The group of academics joins a host of other institutions calling for the academic boycott of Israel. 

In May, 400 New York University (NYU) affiliates signed a letter calling for non-cooperation with the NYU Tel Aviv campus.

The letter also comes after the recent decision by ice cream company Ben & Jerry's to stop working in the occupied Palestinian territories, a move that was applauded by Palestinian rights activists as well as demonized by Israeli politicians.

Calls for boycotting Israel over its occupation of Palestinian territories as well as its rights violations against Palestinians have intensified in recent months.

Following Israel's most recent offensive on Gaza, which killed at least 248 Palestinians including more than 60 children, hundreds of employees at Amazon, Google, and Apple called on the tech giants to support Palestinian rights and cut ties with Israel's military and intelligence agencies. 

More than 600 musicians also issued a boycott of performances in Israel until it ends its occupation of Palestine.