The boycott proposal voted by delegates to the UCU Conference is the outcome of approximately 5 years of Trade Union and Academic Union activity in the UK (since the Second Intifada peaked) - and a downward slide that has been marked by rounds of voting and re-voting in fluidly constituted and re-constituted constituencies, with the membership majority only being consulted in the final instance. This is a reference especially to the AUT, one of the UK's stronger unions, (2005), and from there the Israel boycott campaign recently hit the NUJ (Journalist Union). There are also ecumenical arenas promoting boycott action – and many that vigorously oppose it.
The campaign to isolate and censure Israel has come full circle to the very political hotbed in which it all began in 2002 – the academic staff of the UK's universities and colleges. The manipulative campaign at UCU should, nonetheless, also be viewed as a stepping stone to demonize and delegitimize Israel in many strongholds and bastions of British society, where open animosity to Israel is rampant. If unstemmed, it poses a genuine threat to democracy and to bridge-building, and especially to fair representation of Israel in the media and international forums.
We believe that much can be done by involvement and sensible advocacy to bring this point home – to the UCU membership, Trade Union and academic constituencies, and the British public.
To read an updated overview of how it has spread throughout the Trade Union movement to 2008, professional, academic and cultural organizations, as well as commerce, please see this update from the Institute for Global Jewish Affairs (Ronnie Fraser).
The latest news is that UCU appears to have suddenly stepped down from the boycott, following legal advice (December 2008) - but after a lot of damage has been done.
2009: Updates in future available from http://www.zionismontheweb.org/academic_boycott/
* Please see 4#B below for the Academic Stop the Boycott petition to UCU, calling for a full membership vote.
* Links have now been added for review articles in Hebrew.
1. What was this resolution about?
A. Ostensibly, it began as an academic protest against Israeli actions, and the UCU said that it was only a recommendation to explore the issues before a vote. In fact, it was the outcome of various connections with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and other organizations hostile to Israel (some with terrorist connections!) who have long been showcasing an amenable constituency (here - academia) in a susceptible social culture (the UK), in order to isolate a vulnerable population (Israeli academics).
B. It's been about preventing the freedom of colleaguial and professional contact with Israeli academics [irrespective of their origin]: barring their access as visiting lecturers, to academic conferences, academic publishing, academic groups.
C. While not specifically mentioned, it would prevent Israel being presented or represented by academics in the UK, especially in Middle East Studies and related issues.
D. This sanction has never been applied to the many countries and regimes that trample human rights indiscriminately, i.e., it is biased against Israel specifically.
E. There have also been major implications and spin-offs: the boycott is designed to generally discredit Israeli academia by creating a hostile atmosphere – such that other spheres of public activities, media, publishing, other trade unions, etc., would be impacted by peer pressure. As this process continues, we can see that this tsunami has spread and taken a firm hold in many professional environments.
F. In line with the above, at root, it is all based on a campaign to delegitimize Israel across the board and deny Israel's moral and natural right to exist.
We address this, too, as the new face of Antisemitism, whereby Holocaust denial and antisemitic caricaturization of Israel have become the instruments and offer the meeting grounds for a respectable form of Antisemitism within elite sectors of society, as well as from both its left and right wings.
2. What did the British Government and the UK Embassy in Israel say about the UCU vote?
A. The British government is officially opposed to boycotts in the resolution of conflict, its representatives encourage the engagement of the relevant parties to resolve the issues.
Bill Ramell, the British Minister for Higher Education has condemned it, as has PM Tony Blair.
Ramell visited Israel for related discussions on June 10th, to meet Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Education Minister Yulia Tamir. Ramell was optimistic that the UCU vote would go against the boycott and his position is on record as follows:
"...education has got to be part of the solution to the peace problem, not a means to divide people... If there is anywhere that progressive voices should come together to actually try and creatively see a way forward, it is within the world of academia."
Baroness Deech, Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education), led a debate on Academic Antisemitism in the British House of Lords (12th June 2007), addressing principles of academic freedom, the vulnerability of Jewish students, and condemned the selective, biased, and opportunistic nature of the UCU boycott proposal on Israel [see #23 below].
B. Tom Phillips, the British Ambassador to Israel, has come out with a firm statement on dialogue and cooperation, pointing out that the UCU motion is probably not the majority feeling, that the NATFHE/AUT motions (in 2005) failed, and that ther are strong ties between Britain and Israel http://www.britemb.org.il/News/2007/phillips010607.htm
The Embassy's Public Relations Office points to the wording of the resolution in this specific vote, and to the fact that it does not impose a boycott, but presents the motion to the organization's membership and takes on board the need for any boycott resolution to be presented by a reputable local organization in the country concerned.
C. The British Council, which is an educational, scientific and cultural organization in Israel, under Embassy and Consular auspices, issued a response. Speaking from London, British Council CEO Martin Davidson stated, "The British Council is firmly opposed to an academic boycott of Israeli universities. Academic boycotts are bad in principle, and would be bad in this specific case... dialogue is unlikely to be sustained without exchange between academics and academic institutions..."
3. State the problem with UCU in a nutshell?
While the various trade union conferences voted on various boycotts, they have learned a lot from their experience, and UCU presented a new twist on the dynamics that defined the outcomes:
A. Some time ago, UCU adopted the recommendations of the report on the boycott resolutions and their overturn at AUT, namely that 'boycott and greylisting' resolutions require a 'reputable' local sponsor. This includes institutions of higher education – and UCU is engaged in collegial and political contacts with Bir Zeit University, for example. N.B.: The vote was carried by an "overwhelming majority (one vote against)".
B. Despite UCU Chairman Linda Hunt's position against boycotts in general and for resolving international issues, this is not a boycott resolution - but nor is it a matter for democratic decision by the UCU membership. UCU has worded the current resolution so that it will not go to the full membership for its crucial vote, but to branch offices, i.e. where activists are most likely to vote.
C. Examining the motions put to the same UCU conference, shows that a motion to address Antisemitism on campus had to be withdrawn: Jewish students and academics are being intimidated, too, and Antisemitism has become acceptable – even respectable – flourishing in this atmosphere.
Read this section of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism [on campus] and use the related resources brought by The Anti-Israel Academic Boycott Resource Centre : http://zionismontheweb.org/academic_boycott/UCU_boycott_of_Israeli_academics/
D. As pointed out above, and also by the CPMJO [see #13 below], the UCU resolution also calls for an unconditional restoration of funding to the Palestinian Authority - without any provisions for preventing such funding going to terrorist organizations, or addressing recognition of international agreements, acknowledgement of the State of Israel, putting an end to terrorist violence....
E. There is a lot of additional sub-text to the UCU motion as passed, e.g.:
- the unpleasant and undemocratic implications of the wording denying members the right of neutrality on the vote (non-politicization);
- the implications for teaching Middle East Studies in the UK - it would bar fair representation or might bar any mention of Israel in the curriculum by union members, at universities and colleges.
F. It doesn't stop here!
4. What is the knock-on effect?
A. Professor Geoffrey Alderman views this as the beginning of a major downward slide with wider implications, in the "Slippery Road to Totalitarianism". On the other hand, he has clear views about the limitations of the UCU academic boycott in practice, given the distinct separation between the academic world and the college (non-research) world. Please see: http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/worldwide/story/0,,2087280,00.html
B. The Russell Group of Universities, which operates 20 UK Universities and Colleges has rejected the UCU motion and call, as in contradiction to and betrayal of academic freedom. Other academic organizations and their employees' representative bodies have followed suit. Please see http://campusweb.leeds.ac.uk/newsincludes/newsitem4780.htm and #24 below.
Research Councils in the UK (seven of them under one umbrella) came out with a strong statement opposing the boycott proposal. This Council funds research in the UK. The American Federation of Teachers also condemned it. However, it could impact on Israeli research and collegial activity. Please see http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/worldwide/story/0,,2092516,00.html and #23, #24, below.
The Dalai Lama and many Nobel Prize Laureates have also issued clear statements opposing the boycott: http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1205
The National Postgraduates' Committee fights the boycott: see more about Dr Pike's presentation and their policy below [#32].
C. The Unison Council - the UK Public Services Union - which has a tremendously large constituency in local government, campaigned strongly over a few weeks and has just passed a wide-ranging boycott resolution. It is intended deliberately to create maximum impact of professional and commercial relations with Israel in the private and public sector, as well as relations with the Israeli Unions, Israel exports to the UK. See: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/865601.html
D. There is a definite sense of carefully orchestrated Trade Union and academic coverage by the Israel boycott lobby and its puppeteers in the UK. On the whole, it looks like more Trade Unions, rather than fewer, might try to vote for boycotts. Notwithstanding, in July 2007, coincidentally shortly after the release of kidnapped British journalist Alan Johnston by the Hamas group that held him for a number of months, the British National Union of Journalists (NUJ) passed a resolution that superceded its boycott motion earlier that year. This more or less coincided with: the attempted suicide bombings in London and Glasgow; and the proposal by a number of UK MPs to enter dialogue with Hamas (on the UK list of terrorist organizations), which is receiving significant media coverage.
At the same time, Mona Baker pursues the same goals as she did in 2002 [#31 below] - while Cambridge University Press recently destroyed an edition that included references that had been interpreted by a Saudi billionaire as connecting him to Al Qaida - so money wins in this round, hands down!
One American Holocaust survivor has written in to say (about various "concerned" activists and the passive, silent majority): "... when they love Great Britain and its value to the Western World more than they want to reach agreement with radical Islamists, [then] we will have peace".
If one looks further afield, one can see the impact the Israel boycott movement has had and is having in other countries, so it looks very much like a new wave of interational hate campaigning against Israel is on the rise. A different case in point is the recent one-sided and extremely biased parliamentary motion against Israel by the ANC, in South Africa [see #21below].
E. Further developments included discussion of latent Antisemitism as more than the "fellow travellers" to the various boycott proposals, as well as the underlying "witch-hunt" against Israel, to quote Chief Rabbi Sacks. We bring blog discussions below [#26], and a statement by Anglican Friends of Israel .
F. For broader background and references to these phenomena, please read the link below, entitled:
"Addressing Antisemitism in a Liberal World" [#3] and further reports [#23, 24, 25] below.
4. What can be done?
A. Read up the background linked below and get informed. Read about the new face of Antisemitism, too.
B. Focus on the main points on the UCU Congress vote: insist on democracy in the Union with a membership of 120,000 and other unions; protest the bar on academic freedom, and the unprecedented and discriminatory bias against one country (Israel). These facts have been checked in our related references below: stick to the reputable authorities for your facts.
C. Maximize the impact of what each of us can do, individually and collectively:
* We recommend avoiding a solo campaign – use the carefully worded materials recommended below – and work in with others: when you email them, get organized together to do something and get coordinated with other initiatives. Don't use email to spam people, chain mail, or hit distribution lists - and stick to the facts and implications.
* Online petitions speak to the 'converted' and help avoid spam. But don't just sign online petitions: call, fax and post the signed petition directly to the UCU, your Trade Union, Student Union, MP, EMP, Congress Member, and the media [i.e. not via email].
If you would like to see a Student Union resolution against the Israel boycott, please see this page
there is also a letter demanding a democratic membership vote at the UCU, on the AJC website.
* Don't copy copyrighted web files, articles, images - via email or onto websites – always use links.
* Reserve efforts for the main focus, rather than defiant gestures. Abstentions and absence have a negative impact - it could be highly significant to give that lecture, or attend a conference in the UK, provided the hosting organization ensures that the lecturer won't be intimidated (whereas reverse boycotts have little or no impact).
D. In addition to the issues of academic freedom and cooperation, and Israel's contribution to academic and scientific Research and progress, debunk the process.
Expose the spurious origins, motives and insalubrious outcomes of this resolution. Insist that this also represents part of their deliberate campaign to villifiy in order to delegitimize Israel and deny its right to existence - and that people shouldn't play into those hands.
Getting Involved – Essential References
1. Dr Jonathan Rynhold's paper on Countering the Campaign to Boycott Israeli Universities. [International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom (IAB)]
2. Academic boycott in 2002: Anatomy of a Boycott
 The Tip of the Volcano? by Sara Bedein and Gila Ansell Brauner (August 18, 2002) http://www.jafi.org.il/education/hasbara/headlines/nb16.html
 Bubbling Under: From Economics to International Cooperation by Sara Bedein
(August 18, 2002)
3. FAQ: Addressing Antisemitism in a Liberal World 2007 [several sections]
4. Robert S Wistrich's historical and contemporary paper on Antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment in the UK: Cruel Britannia
5. The UCU Press Release on the boycott resolution
6. Superb blog analysis of the UCU resolution and its undemocratic process
7. International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom (IAB) Statement/Response http://irenelancaster.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/05/iab_statement_r.html
8. Sari Nusseibah statement opposing academic boycott (IAB website)
French version: http://www.lapaixmaintenant.org/article1068
9. EU Directorate opposes academic boycott (IAB website)
Hebrew version http://www.biu.ac.il/Spokesman/Pressrel/academicboycot.doc
10. Professor Michael Yudkin's article on countering the boycott
11 Israel's achievements cited in: Boycotting Israel?
12. חרם על הכובשים - של אירלנד, ד"ר בריימן כהן
13. Response by Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
14. Zionism on the Web: Lancaster Student Union motion; background;helpful material from responses
15. Response to the UCU vote and related issues, by Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail (UK)http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/columnists/columnists.html?in_article_id=459662&in_page_id=1772&in_author_id=256
16. What if Israelis had abducted BBC man? by Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph/Opinion
'From the hellish to the ridiculous'... 'All this is, of course, moral madness.'
17. סקירה מקיפה,כתבה נתמכת בקבצי רקע וקישורים
המרצים הבריטים: לשקול חרם אקדמי על ישראל, חגית קלימן
18. רקע לנושא של השנים האחרונות [נובמבר 2006]
האקדמיה מזהירה: "הבריטים מפעילים חרם שקט", מורן זליקוביץ
19. שרת החוץ ציפי לבני נפגשה עם שגריר בריטניה; תגובת שרת הוץ בהקשר; תגובת שרת החינוך יולי תמירhttp://news.walla.co.il/?w=//1115858
לבני: רואה בחומרה כוונת המרצים הבריטים, ברק רביד, הארץ
20. Benjamin Netanyahu calls the academic boycott proposal a black day for Britain;
says Israel acts in self-defense, as Britain did in the Blitz; that nothing good comes from
collaboration with evil and appeasement to terrorists; appeals to honest people to stand
up for the truth. http://netanyahu.org.il/?cat=54&article=2628291 [Video clip/You Tube]
21. S. African Zionist Federation's response to the ANC motion in the S. African parliament.
[pdf download] SAZF Response to ANC Motion
22. Anti-Defamation League's Fight the Boycott Media Campaign in print and online journals, exposing the UCU boycott proposal as unbalanced criticism in proportion to major atrocities worldwide, and fundamentally antisemitic. http://www.adl.org/boycott/boycott_ads.asp
23. Baroness Deech leads Academic Antisemitism Debate in the House of Lords.
Or pdf download: Baroness Deech Academic Antisemitism Speech
24. Guardian: Boycott Plan Puts our Reputation at Risk: Condemnation by the Royal Society, the Academy of Medical Sciences, and Universities UK, representing all universities' vice-chancellors; opposition by the International Council for Science.
25. Times: Boycott is Anti-Semitic, Professors Anthony Julius and Alan Dershowitz: "The PACBI boycotters and their UCU fellow travellers would deny to Jews the rights that they uphold for other, comparable peoples... They affirm international law, except in Israel’s case..."
26. Irene Lancaster's blog: Is the Boycott actually (hush, hush...) antisemitic?: "As Melanie Phillips pointed out a while ago, in England it is a greater crime (or is it sin?) to accuse a person of being antisemitic than to actually be an anti-semite".
Boycott is 'witch hunt', says Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, Sir Jonathan Sacks: "Union activists have begun a coordinated offensive against Israel and our liberal democracy..."
27. Tim Hames, The Catholic Tablet, says it's crazy to boycott, a home goal, and gives excellent reasons why.
28. SPME: Leading academics and Nobel Prize Laureates condemn Israel boycott proposals http://www.spme.net/cgi-bin/articles.cgi?ID=2404
29. The Anti-Israel Academic Boycott Resource Centre http://www.zionismontheweb.org/academic_boycott/
30. Anglican Friends of Israel: condemnation of the academic boycott proposal in terms of connection to the Holy land, its antisemitic nature, and questions to Christians on human rights
AFI: Letter to Theological Colleges [download in Word].
31. Mona Baker's publishing boycotts continue at Manchester University, under the new title of St Jerome's Press. http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1336
32. National Postgraduates' Committee fights the boycott [Press Release] http://www.npc.org.uk/features/NPCfightsboycott
The Jewish Agency for Israel,
The Department for Jewish Zionist Education ©
By: Gila Ansell Brauner
Research: Igal Lapidus, Esther Carciente, Tami Levi-Nahum
With grateful acknowledgement to the following for their professional input:
Dr Irene Lancaster FRSA;
Karen Kaufman, The Political Section: Press and Public Affairs Officer at The British Embassy, Tel Aviv, Israel;
The IAB website resources;
Leah Katz, Oslo, Norway;
Dr Andre Oboler, Zionism on the Web.