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The Academic Friends of Israel

 

The Academic Friends of Israel

 1 October 2006 

Dear Colleagues, 

We have now been back at college for a couple of weeks and most observers agree that the coming academic year will be harder than ever if one for all those who support Israel and everyone expects another boycott attempt at next years UCU [University and College Union] conference. I am asking for your help: 

1. To monitor the activities of the UCU at your college or University with relation to Israel and the Middle East.  

In Britain today there are some 500+ Universities, Colleges and Colleges of Further Education which have UCU representation. The breakdown when we had two unions was that the AUT was strong in about 75 Universities and NATFHE covered the rest the higher education institutions. 

We need AFI members to attend local branch meetings and let us know what is happening.  UCU Officers based in head office regularly send out campaign emails urging members to support the Stop the War Coalition, to which are NATFHE and AUT affiliated. Demonstrators at the last Stop the War march in London chanted “we are Hizbollah”. 

2. Join the Union 

If you are not a member of the UCU, join your local branch and help us defeat future boycott attempts.  I often hear the argument, I don’t agree with their policies on Israel. You can make a difference by joining; as attendance at local meeting is usually very low and your vote will count. When you join make sure don’t pay the political levy.

 Once a member you can put forward a motion committing your branch to academic freedom for both Palestinians and Israelis. By increasing the number of AFI members who are UCU members we can defeat future boycott attempts. 

3. Introduce new members to the Academic Friends of Israel  

If each one of you introduced one new member we would double our numbers and effectiveness as a lobby group which campaigns against the academic boycott of Israel and anti-Semitism in both the UK and International academic and scientific arenas.  AFI has many non-Jewish members, but I do feel we are not tapping into the estimated 25,000 Jews who work in education in the UK, many of whom are in higher education. Also there are many Institutions at which we are not represented at. Can you help? 

3. Report examples of anti- Jewish activity to the University or College authorities.  

The report of the  All- Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism that was issued last month recommended that University authorities should record all reports of behavior, statements , speeches or acts which they consider to be antisemitic.  This means that if you hear or experience directly or from a colleague or a student anything of this nature let the authorities know immediately and report it back to me. An example of this is what I heard a colleague of mine say to a student, when the student told him he would be unable to attend lessons on Rosh Hashanah [the Jewish new year];  he replied,  you can’t miss my lessons so you will have to choose between my lessons and your religion.  

Other Matters 

I have included two stories from outside the UK, the first is from France and is frightening but not unexpected bearing in mind what has recently happened with the Pope. It is about  Robert Redeker, a teacher who is receiving round-the-clock police protection and changing addresses every two days, after publishing an article describing the Koran as a "book of extraordinary violence" and Islam as "a religion which ... exalts violence and hate"…. Read the article below or go to: http://www.expatica.com/actual/article.asp?subchannel_id=25&story_id=33407  

The other story is from California where presentations were made last week to California State University Trustees and the University of California Regents expressing grave concerns about hostility towards Jewish and pro-Israel students.

 Read the article below or go to: http://www.spme.net/cgi-bin/articles.cgi?ID=1171 

Meanwhile last week Goldsmiths College UCU branch held a debate on the academic boycott of Israel between David Hirsch and Stephen Rose. It is worth reading Josh Cohen’s report of the event below, because in less than 1300 words he outlines the arguments both for and against the boycott.

 

I have also included below details of two meetings in London that you may wish to attend; one is with Israel's Education minister, Yuli Tamir and the other with pro- boycotter Ilan Pappe from Haifa University. I see that Barry Camfield, Deputy General Secretary TGWU is speaking at the Pappe meeting; I wonder if he is there in a personal capacity or as an official representative of his Trade Union? Don’t forget sign up a new AFI member and let us know what is going on at your Institution. 

 

Regards, 

Ronnie Fraser 

Academic Friends of Israel  

 

Teacher who Criticized Islam: 'alone and abandoned' 

Agence France PresseSept 29, 2006

http://www.expatica.com/actual/article.asp?subchannel_id=25&story_id=33407


PARIS, Sept 29, 2006 (AFP) - French anti-terrorism authorities Friday opened an inquiry into death threats against a philosophy teacher who has been forced into hiding over a newspaper column attacking Islam, legal officials said.  Robert Redeker, 52, is receiving round-the-clock police protection and changing addresses every two days, after publishing an article describing the Koran as a "book of extraordinary violence" and Islam as "a religion which ... exalts violence and hate".  

 

He told i-TV television he had received several e-mail threats targeting himself and his wife and three children, and that his photograph and address were available on several Islamist Internet sites . "There is a very clear map of how to get to my home, with the words: 'This pig must have his head cut off'," he said. Speaking on RMC radio,

 

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said such threats were "unacceptable". "We are in a democracy, everyone has the right to express his views freely — of course while respecting others. That is the only restriction that is acceptable on this freedom. "This shows to what extent we live in a dangerous world... and how vigilant we must be to ensure people fully respect one another in our society." The Paris state prosecutor's office Friday launched a preliminary inquiry for "criminal conspiracy in relation with a terrorist enterprise", asking the DST intelligence agency to look into the death threats.  But despite the government's assurances of support, Redeker accused the authorities of leaving him "alone and abandoned". 

 

Interviewed over the telephone from a safe house by Europe 1 radio Friday, he said that "the education ministry has not even contacted me, has not deigned to get in touch to see if I need any help."  On Thursday Education Minister Gilles de Robien expressed "solidarity" with the teacher, but also warned that "a state employee must show prudence and moderation in all circumstances." Redeker said that "if Robien is correct, then we would never have had any intellectual life in France.

The function of politics is not tell us what we are allowed to think, but to defend our freedom to think and speak out."  

The issue, as it relates to Islam, is a sensitive one in France, which has Europe's biggest Muslim community, estimated at six million or around 10 percent of the population. Le Figaro, which published Redeker's article on September 19, printed a front-page open letter from the editors Friday expressing solidarity with him and " condemning with the greatest severity the grave attacks on freedom of thought and expression that this affair has provoked." 

 

Redeker wrote the piece in reaction to the fury unleashed in Muslim countries by Pope Benedict XVI's references to Islam in an address in Germany two weeks ago. Under the heading "In the face of Islamist intimidation, what must the free world do?", he denounced the "Islamisation of spirits" in France and claimed that "Islam is trying to make Europe yield to its vision of mankind."  

Likening Islam to Communism, Redeker said that "violence and intimidation are the methods used by an expansionist ideology ... to impose its leaden cloak on the world".  He also compared the Prophet Mohammed unfavourably to Jesus Christ, describing the founder of Christianity as a "master of love" and the founder of Islam as a "master of hate".  "Exaltation of violence, a merciless war-leader, a pillager, a massacrer of Jews and a polygamist — this is the picture of Mohammed that emerges from the Koran," he wrote. Subsequently Redeker was denounced on Al-Jazeera television by the influential Qatari Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and that day's edition of Le Figaro was banned in Egypt and Tunisia. Speaking on Europe 1, he said his detractors had "already won a victory of sorts." "I cannot do my job. I have no freedom of movement. I am in hiding. Already they have succeeded in punishing me ... as if I was guilty of holding the wrong opinions."  To read the text of Redeker's article go to: http://michellemalkin.com/archives/006015.htm   

 

 

 CALIFORNIA SPME MEMBERS PRESENT OPEN LETTER TO UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AND CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY OFFICIALS EXPRESSING GRAVE CONCERNS ABOUT HOSTILITY TOWARDS JEWISH AND PRO-ISRAEL STUDENTS 

By  Leila Beckwith, MD, UCLA, SPME Board of Directors Tammi Benjamin, UCSC and Ilan Benjamin, UCSC September 30, 2006 

 

Presentations of SPME Petition to the California State University Trustees and the University of California Regents
The Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) Open Letter to the Governor of California and the Officials of the California State University and the University of California, was presented to California State University Board of Trustees on September 20, and to the University of California Board of Regents on September 21. 
 

 

The presentations reiterated the statements in the Open Letter that expressed grave concerns about hostility/intimidation towards Jewish students and/or pro-Israel students on California public campuses, and repeated our belief as faculty from California public universities, and as members of SPME, that the hostility is fuelled by anti-Israel/anti-Zionist rhetoric in the classroom and curricula and at campus events. We asked that the Trustees and Regents direct faculty on each campus to review course materials, curricula and invited speakers to ensure that the full range of scholarly views about Israel and Zionism is presented. In addition, each campus was asked to develop courses to educate students about contemporary anti-Semitism.

The presentations also reviewed the supporting materials that we had mailed to the Governor and to each member of the Board of Trustees and Board of Regents one week prior to the meetings.

Each packet contained:

1)  A copy of the SPME Open Letter and a list of the more than 3,000 signatories; 2) Letters in support of the Open Letter from organizations representing a large and diverse constituency: Jewish, Christian, Arab, academic, Republican, and Democrat; 3) evidentiary materials documenting the problem on college campuses in general, and at California public universities in particular, including testimony from a student at San Jose State University and UC Santa Cruz; the findings and recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights regarding campus anti-Semitism (April, 2006); the book The Uncivil University (G. A. Tobin, A.K. Weinberg, & J. Ferer, 2005, SF: Institute for Jewish & Community Research), which is a well-documented examination of the ideology and expression of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism on college campuses; and a DVD documentary Tolerating Intolerance (produced by Stand With Us) highlighting the problem of hate speech against Jews at California public universities.

The Board of Trustees presentation was made by Leila Beckwith from SPME, Rabbi Yonah Bookstein from Hillel at the California State University at Long Beach, and Laura Rheinheimer, a journalism student from San Jose State University. Rabbi Bookstein spoke of the increasing radicalization of the campuses, which creates a hostile environment for many students and interferences with education. Ms. Rheinheimer described her experiences with two faculty members who brought their anti-Israel bias into the classroom and became personally hostile to her because of her pro-Israel stand. One wrote to other faculty that Ms. Rheinheimer was rude and aggressive, and identified Ms. Rheinheimer as Jewish. The other professor sent her an intimidating email taunting Ms. Rheinheimer as to her skills as a journalist. The student’s report aroused the interest of a Board of Trustee member, who asked if she had informed the administration of the professors’ behavior. She said that she had, but to no avail.

Professor Beckwith made a similar presentation at the Board of Regents meeting, which was followed by a brief testimonial by Isaac Traynis, recent graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Mr. Traynis described the anti-Israel bias and open hostility towards those expressing support for Israel, which he said emanated from students, faculty and administration at UCSC, and which he felt in the classroom, at university-sponsored campus events and in his role as organizer of a pro-Israel student group. Mr. Traynis gave as examples:
 

1) An invited speaker who praised Hamas suicide bombers and said that Israel had no right to exist; 

2) A professor in a history class who falsified history and inaccurately stated that in 1948 Israel invaded 5 Arab countries -- rather than the reverse -- and would not allow a factual correction from Mr. Traynis; 

3) Another professor was observed pulling down flyers on campus advertising a pro-Israel event sponsored by Mr. Traynis' student group, and the students' attempts to file formal charges against the professor were foiled twice by the Director of Student Judicial Affairs. As a refugee from the former Soviet Union, Mr. Traynis stated that he felt the overt political bias and the stifling of free speech of anyone holding opposing views were sadly reminiscent of his parents’ experiences at Soviet universities. Following his presentation, a UC Regent approached Mr. Traynis and spoke with him at some length.

We feel that our presentations were an important first step in bringing to the attention of the highest levels of CSU and UC administration that a university-sanctioned anti-Israel bias creates an environment which many members of the campus community find threatening, and which compromises the academic integrity of California’s public universities. We intend to continue our efforts to ensure that the Trustees and Regents will raise this issue on the agenda of future meetings, and will establish committees to investigate independently and address the problem.

Leila Beckwith, professor emeritus in pediatrics, UCLA; lbeckwit@ucla.eduT

ammi Rossman-Benjamin, lecturer in Hebrew, UCSC, tbenjami@ucsc.edu

Ilan Benjamin, professor in chemistry, UCSC, benjamin@chemistry.ucsc.edu

 

Edward Beck, president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, scholarsforpeace@aol.com 

 

Goldsmiths UCU Boycott Debate  

Josh Cohen, Reader in English and Comparative Literature,

 Goldsmiths College  

 

 On Wednesday September 27th, Goldsmiths UCU staged a debate on the academic boycott of Israel between David Hirsh and Stephen Rose. Before offering my account of the debate, which I’ll endeavor to render as accurately and objectively as possible, it’s worth outlining the peculiar process which brought it about.

In anticipation of the inevitable boycott activism at the first UCU conference, Hirsh submitted a motion to Goldsmiths UCU as a branch member, affirming the branch’s solidarity with those on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict struggling for peace, and our commitment to academic freedom for both Palestinians and Israelis. It also affirmed existing branch and national policy on the academic boycott.

Motions submitted to the branch by its members are routinely tabled for branch meetings, where they are debated and voted upon. On the initiative of an exec member and vocal proponent of the boycott, Goldsmiths UCU decided to proceed very differently for this motion. The exec member in question wrote to Hirsh claiming that his motion raised issues too weighty to deal with in the space of a branch meeting, and should be preceded by a separate debate. The exec informed Hirsh that they’d invited Haim Bresheeth of East London University to speak against the motion, and asked him if he’d like to invite an outside speaker in favour of it, or speak himself. In the event, Bresheeth proved unavailable and was replaced by the much higher-profile Rose.

It may be worth asking (as I indeed did) why it was that Exec had chosen to extend debate on this motion beyond the proper bounds of a branch meeting, when the same treatment has never been accorded any other motion. It seemed equally perplexing that Exec, instead of acting as an honest and impartial broker of the debate, had brought in an outside speaker to debate against one of its own members. These objections notwithstanding, David agreed to the debate as an opportunity to put across to the branch once again the case against a boycott.

The debate was chaired with exemplary impartiality and calm by Gareth Stanton, and conducted throughout with an ear to the issues rather than personal animosities. It opened with a 15 minute talk from each speaker, with Hirsh opening and Rose following.

Hirsh’s presentation began with the charge that the proposal of a so-called ‘institutional’ boycott of Israeli universities was de facto a boycott of Israeli Jewish academics. Pointing out that it was inconceivable that any other Israeli academic than a Jewish one could face the political test of opposition to ‘Israeli apartheid policies’, he further observed that an institution couldn’t be boycotted other than through its members.

Hirsh went on to highlight some of the furthest excesses of personal actions carried out in the name of the boycott, including those of Mona Baker, Richard Seaford and Andrew Wilkie, demanding of Rose whether he endorsed these.

He went on to condemn the political test proposed by BRICUP [British Committee for Universities of Palestine] as inimical to the values of both academic freedom and non-coercive democratic exchange. He noted that after exhaustive debate and the setting up of a Special Commission, AUT had formulated a ‘decent and consistent policy’ on this issue. The resurgence of the boycott campaign once again threatened this consistency, singling Israel out for censure and action which many other regimes, often far more serious abusers of human rights, escaped. Countering the boycott campaign's portrayal of Israel's universities as the academic extension of a colonial occupation, he pointed to their high proportion of Arab students and the immensely important political and intellectual space they opened for critics of the occupation.

Hirsh noted that many prominent Palestinians oppose a boycott, and argued for solidarity with those on both sides fighting for peace and justice. Finally, he anticipated the enormous damage a vote for a boycott would inflict on the credibility and health of our new union.

Rose began his response by objecting to the claim that he was proposing a boycott of Israeli Jews, reiterating the intention to close off exchange with Israel’s academic institutions whilst they remained complicit in its racist and colonial policies. The boycott was not intended to single out any minority, but to act against an occupying regime.

He went on to marshal various pieces of evidence to back up his characterization of Israeli universities as complicit with 'Israeli apartheid'. These included the following:
• Government per capita spending on Jewish students outstripped that on Arab students by about 500% (the source of this statistic wasn’t provided).
• Only 1% of Israeli academics are Arabs, and on 1.3% Mizrachi, a serious under-representation of both minorities’ numbers in the broader population of Israel.
• Haifa University had sent out literature to new students warning them against venturing into nearby Arab villages.
• Haifa University had allocated some of its student accommodation on the basis of priority to those who’d served in the IDF.
• Hebrew University had excluded Arabs from its swimming pool.
• Israeli geographer Arnon Sofer had stated in an interview that maintaining the status quo in the occupied territories could be achieved only if we (ie. Israel) ‘kill and kill and kill’. This was pointed to as evidence of a genocidal strain in Israeli thinking.

Rose claimed that the vast majority of Palestinian NGO's and trade unions had called for a boycott. Whilst it was incumbent on us as a union to make its own judgement as to whether to respond to such a call, it seemed inconceivable that we wouldn’t accede to this one, given the acute suffering of our Palestinian colleagues.

Discussion then passed to the floor. Of ten contributors, seven spoke with varying degrees of criticism and doubt against the boycott, three in its favour. One speaker questioned the principle of collective punishment of an academic community, arguing that only explicitly racist academics should be excluded as contravening our union's principles. Another questioned the syllogism outlined by Rose whereby disproportion between a minority's representation amongst the higher education community and the country as a whole and a few incidences of racism implied apartheid, a system of total legal and civil exclusion. There were also familiar criticisms from a number of speakers of the selectivity of the boycott, and the lack of similar opprobrium and action against far worse regimes. Amongst those in favour of the boycott, one pointed to the success of the academic and cultural boycott of South Africa as a basis for pursuing a similar boycott against Israel. Another (the Exec member who'd invited Rose) insisted on the uniqueness both of the barbarity of the occupation and the suffering of the Palestinians as grounds for the special focus on Israel.

In summing up, Rose appealed to our sense of social justice and responsibility, invoking his own status as the child of Holocaust survivors and fighters of Mosleyite fascism to bolster the credibility of his case. It was, he said, intolerable that the grandchildren of the victims of the Holocaust had become oppressors of another people.

Hirsh’s conclusion offered refutations of a number of Rose’s factual claims, pointing to the Israeli Supreme Court decision, omitted in his opponent’s presentation, declaring Haifa University’s accommodation policy illegal. Similarly, Rose had neglected to mention the protest by Arab and Jewish student alike that had immediately followed the exclusion of Arabs at the Hebrew University swimming pool and put an end to it. He appealed once more both to the principled respect proper to academics for the complexity of the situation, and to the union’s sense of sanity and self-preservation.

All participants were given the freedom to speak without interruption, and the conduct of debate couldn't be faulted, regardless of the profound and passionate disagreements. It seems especially odd, then, that we were debating whether to exclude a minority of academics on the basis of their nationality alone.


Academic boycott of Israel and antisemitism on campus meeting 

Engage and UJS invite you to a public meeting with Israel's Education minister, Yuli Tamir MK [Founder member of Peace Now]Panel discussion followed by Q&A  Monday 9 October, 2006St John's Wood United Synagogue,37-41 Grove End Road, London NW8 9NG,Time:  6.30-8pm  Chair: Adrian Cohen, Speakers: John Mann MP 

 

Justice for Palestine / Peace in the Middle-East 

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign presents: Prof Ilan Pappe, University of Haifa and The Rt. Rev Riah Abu El-Assal, Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem Will be speaking at a public meeting On Tuesday 17th October 2006 At Friends Meeting House, Euston Road, London From 7:30pm Other speakers include: Barry Camfield, Deputy General Secretary TGWU (invited) Rev Garth Hewitt, Canon of St Georges Cathedral Jerusalem and Founder of the Amos Trust Betty Hunter, General Secretary PSC                                                                                              

 

 

 

Patron: The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks 

 

Advisory Board:  Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld - Chairman of the Board of Fellows, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

 

Henry Grunwald Q.C. - President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews

 

Amir Lev

 

John D A Levy - Director of the Academic Study Group on Israel and the Middle East

 

Andrew R. Marks, M.D. - Columbia University, USA

 

Dr Robin Stamler

 

Professor Leslie Wagner CBE 

t Hon Lord Young of Graffham 

 

The Academic Friends of Israel Ltd is limited by guarantee and registered in England No 5297417.