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The Academic Friends of Israel

 

 The Academic Friends of Israel

 AFI Digest

12 December 2006

Contents:

1. The contest between Sally Hunt and Roger Kline for post of General Secretary of the University and College Union 

2. Jewish students Gagged at Leeds University, an article from the Jewish Chronicle plus student union motion 

3. Bir Zeit Students and Lecturers Call for Academic Boycott  

4. Israel lobby sets its sights on academe 

Israel Teachers Union issues a statement against the boycott

6. An excellent website ideal to use as a resource for information:       The Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism7. From the American Jewish Congress, video footage showing Hezbollah’s consistent pattern of intentionally placing its fighters and weapons among civilians.

1. The contest between Sally Hunt and Roger Kline for post of General Secretary of the University and College Union  

The membership will not be voting until February 2007 here are the views of the two main candidates, Sally Hunt and Roger Kline on an academic boycott of Israel. The Academic Friends of Israel has asked for a meeting with both candidates and we will report back before the vote.  

Sally Hunt's http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dmzhrnw_10cgjz2v

Roger Kline’s http://www.rogerkline.org.uk/FAQweb.htm  

We have placed both Sally Hunt’s Roger Kline's opinions on an academic boycott of Israel at the end of this digest. Sally Hunt’s view is that an academic boycott with only limited support is damaging to the union and that any decision to launch an academic boycott should only be decided by a full ballot of the full membership. Her view is that the UCU should adopt the AUT policy on international solidarity and not the NATFHE boycott of Israel.  Roger Kline does not support an academic boycott of Israel at present but does not rule it out either. He does not believe that an academic boycott can be shown to be an effective way of furthering the human rights of Palestinians and suggests on his website better ways of doing that. He also wants UCU members to encourage twining with Bir Zeit University.  

Bir Zeit often features in relation to the issue of security measures damaging student access to education. The university and its supporters routinely deny that the students pose any security threat. However, note the following quote from the student hustings in 2003: 


"At a debate, the Hamas candidate asked the Fatah candidate: "Hamas activists in this university killed 135 Zionists. How many did Fatah activists from Bir Zeit kill?" " Bir Zeit is known as a base for Hamas' terror activities and many terrorists were recruited and trained by Hamas' infrastructure at the University. To give one example, a total of 16 people were killed and over 80 wounded in two suicide bombings on 9 September 2003. The two bombers were members of Hamas and both studied together at Bir Zeit University. Both make a big deal of the academic boycott.  Please let me have your views of the two opinions. You may also be interested in an article in the Guardian on Tuesday December 5 by Francis Beckett on the leadership contest:


http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/news/story/0,,1963729,00.html

From The Socialist Party website- UCU: Left victory in sight

http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/2006/466/index.html?id=pp43.htm

The Socialist Party website reports that the founding conference of the UCU left has overwhelmingly endorsed Roger Kline for the forthcoming general secretary elections. Many sections of the Union blame Sally Hunt for unexpectedly settling the pay dispute at a critical stage earlier this year and are determined to ditch her in the current general secretary elections. The consensus of the UCU left was to endorse Roger Kline's candidature.  

2. Jewish students Gagged at Leedsby Nathan Jeffay     

The Jewish Chronicle 8 December 2006  Uproar on campus as union authorities carry motion rejecting J-soccomplaints.


Britain's largest Jewish student community was in a state of shock this week after being constitutionally gagged against a background of intensifying anti-Israel campaigns and propaganda.

The student union at the University of Leeds has recently become the stronghold of a growing pro-Palestine lobby, which regularly runs campaigns declaring Israel to be a racist and apartheid state. Following a campus-wide referendum last Friday, union authorities have been mandated to ignore J-Soc complaints "as long as Judaism as a faith is not offended." This policy was carried by 1,421 votes to 895.

The motion, proposed by members of the Palestinian Solidarity Group, catalogues J-Soc complaints against it. It then claims that the existing practice of "considering every complaint received by the student union as a real complaint" constituted "an arbitrary use of authority."

A further successful motion, worded as a polemic against Israel, resolves to twin the union with the student body at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, where many seats on the student council are held by the Hamas-linked Islamic List. It brings to a climax a disturbing term for Jewish students - in the last month alone, UK J-Socs have fought against some 11 motions, the majority of which they managed to defeat.

Campus leaders, students and academics have voiced concern that the first motion singles out the university's Jewish students - thought to number almost 1,000 - and strips them of basic rights enjoyed by all others. They fear this principle will be introduced in other unions, creating a culture where Israeli's critics have carte blanche to launch tirades regardless of their truth, and where it becomes taboo for any J-Soc to show solidarity with Israel.

They have also reacted with incredulity to the motion's wording, in which its Palestinian Solidarity Group authors claim for themselves - and to the exclusion of Jewish students — authority to define Jewish identity. Now the motion has passed, Jewish identity is now exclusively religious, according to the union’s constitution.

After the votes, the atmosphere at Hillel House was gloomy. "The motion is trying to tell us what we should and should not think about Judaism," said Mark Frazer, 21. "Its proponents are saying that Israel should not be part of our Jewish identity; we think is. It should be for us to decide." Judith Keen, 20, spoke of "feeling let down as the referendum process is meant to help students here, not be used a political tool."

Zach Esdaile, one of the J-Soc's campaign officers, claimed it will "add to fear on campus." He said: "This motion is supposedly about freedom of speech [by preventing complaints], but it delivers anything but that."

However Damola Timeyin, communications and democracy officer for the union, said that the motion was passed by a democratic forum, and as such is binding.

According to Mitch Simmons, campaigns director at UJS, the motion represents the "stepping up" of a "national, systematic and coordinated attempt on campuses" to blacken Israel's reputation and delegitimise Israel’s centrality in Jewish identity.

Insiders in the National Union of Students report a growing rift with Leeds over the motion, even though, publicly, NUS respects the autonomy of member unions. NUS president Gemma Tumelty would not "comment extensively," but confirmed there is a clash.


The motion passed by the students is as follows:

LUU Policy towards PSG and Other Politically Active Societies http://www.luuonline.com/downloads/documents/nov_referendum_motions.pdf 


This Union Notes.

1. That in November 2004 the LUU Palestinian Solidarity Group (PSG) was refused permission to erect a model of the Israeli wall of separation outside the Student Union as part of the group's campaign against the building of the wall in the West Bank of Palestine.

The Student Union sent security guards and phoned the police to remove the wall from campus after receiving a complaint from one Zionist Jewish student claiming he was offended by showing the wall on campus.

2. That in November 2005 PSG was forced by a Union Executive to repaint the wall model, spending £150 of its budget, before allowing them to display it in a planned event. The repainting was requested to remove the words "Racist", "Apartheid" and "Zionist" from the wall, claiming they were inflammatory.

3. That the International Court of Justice has ruled in July 2004 that "the construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated régime, are contrary to international law".

4. That the South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu described the apartheid regime in South Africa "a picnic in comparison with the utter brutality of Israel's occupation of Palestine."

5. That in November 2004 and October 2005, PSG were not allowed to distribute a leaflet about Zionism because of describing Israel as a "racist, Zionist state".

6. That in November 1975, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 3379 which determined that "Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination." Israel made revocation of resolution 3379 a condition of its participation in the Madrid Peace Conference, in progress in the last quarter of 1991. Under pressure from the administration of US President George H.W. Bush in the United States, the UN passed Resolution 4686 in December 1991, revoking Resolution 3379.

7. That in November 2006 PSG was ordered by a Union Executive to hide the word "Jews" in "Zionist Jews" printed on a banner quoting the Balfour Declaration, an official document issued by the British Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1917. The order was made after receiving a complaint from a number of Zionist Jewish students claiming to be offended by mentioning the word "Jews" in the quotation.

The banner was displayed in several outdoor events on campus in the past and has never received such complaints by any Jewish student.

8. That PSG were ordered by the Student Union in several incidents to make changes to their display material or to end their activity because some students were approaching their stalls or displays causing disorder, disturbing the peace and jeopardising the event.

9. That although the LUU Jewish Society (JSoc)is categorised by the Student Union as a religious society, a principal role for JSoc is to promote the state of Israel via its activities and affiliation with the National Union of Jewish Student (UJS), an organisation which openly declares itself as a Zionist i.e. political organisation.

10. That in February 2006 JSoc organised an Israeli Awareness week in the Riley Smith Hall of the Student Union building. Part of the activity was a huge map of Palestine laid on the floor without any border lines identifying the Palestinian territories, implying that the whole map is for Israel. A number of Palestinian students complained to the Societies Executive about the map but the complaint was ignored.

11. That from 1967 to 1988 the UN Security Council passed 88 resolutions directly against Israel and during that span, Israel was condemned 43 times. During the same time, in the UN General Assembly, 429 resolutions against Israel were passed, and Israel was condemned 321 times. Many other resolutions have been passed by both the Security Council and General Assembly since then. Israel has never complied with the vast majority of these resolutions.

12. That in October 2003, the European Commission conducted a survey representing all EU's member nations and included a list of 15 countries with the question: 'tell me if in your opinion it presents or not a threat to peace in the world'. Israel came first and was reportedly picked by 59 per cent of those interviewed.

13. That all UN resolutions related to the Arab-Israeli conflict starting from resolution 242 in 1967 onwards consider the Palestinian territories (including West Bank, Gaza strip and East Jerusalem) as Occupied territories.

This Union Believes

1. The University's Code of practice on freedom of speech ensures that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees and for visiting speakers.

2. Considering every complaint received by the Student Union as a real complaint and taking actions according to it, without having a reasonable and logical basis for that complaint, is an arbitrary use of authority against the other party.

3. Requesting an event to remove or modify any of their display content should be the last resort -not the first- to avoid the breach of peace in the event, as long as the displayed material doesn't contain content that insult the members of a curtain faith or race.

4. It is the responsibility of the University Secretary and the Appointed Officer to ensure that adequate number of stewards, suitable to the Appointed Officer, is available, in addition to any security staff that the Appointed Officer may feel should be present to maintain order.

5. It is inappropriate to blame or take action against the organisers of an event for the disorder caused deliberately by other individuals or groups, especially as it is the duty of the Appointed officer and the security staff to protect the event and the organisers and to ensure they feel safe to speak freely on campus.

6. The Israeli-Arab conflict is, although complicated, not a religious dispute and thus it is open to controversy and debate. Advocates of both sides of the conflict should feel free to raise awareness and educate the university members, students and employees, about the conflict each from their own perspective. The same ruling should apply to all political conflicts and debates.

This Union Resolves:

1. To ensure that all political societies are practicing their freedom of speech without the fear of being silenced for the sake of satisfying other parties with opposing political stances.

2. To request the LUU societies executive to take all necessary security measures mentioned in (This Union believes - Paragraph 4) in all LUU society events to avoid any breach of peace by the organisers, the attendance or other external parties.

3. To formally advise the LUU Jewish Society that promoting and defending Israel in its activities indicate that JSoc is taking and advocating a curtain political stand in behalf of the Jewish students on campus. Therefore JSoc is expected to expect and accept having other parties declaring and promoting opposing stands in the University, as long as Judaism as a faith is not offended.

4. To send a letter to the University secretary with a copy of this motion.
 

3. Bir Zeit Students and Lecturers Call for Academic Boycott

http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/cgi-bin/blogs/voices.php/2006/12/01/birzeit_students_and_lecturers_call_for_

 

1 December 2006

Over 1000 Bir Zeit University students and over 110 staff signed an open letter in support of the international boycott of Israeli academic institutions. The letter thanks the 61 Irish academics who called for a moratorium on EU aid to Israeli universities until Israel abides by international humanitarian and human rights laws. It urges international civil society and the academic community to join their call to boycott Israeli academics who refuse to stand up against the occupation.

4. Israel lobby sets its sights on academe

The Australian, December 02, 2006

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20855151-28737,00.html

Cameron Stewart fears that universities in Australia will produce a generation biased against the Jewish state. He highlights how the aftershocks of Israel's war against Hezbollah in Lebanon last July are being felt in Australian universities with ugly consequences. Jewish Labour MP Michael Danby and pro-Israeli groups say that students of Middle Eastern studies are being fed an increasingly biased and distorted anti-Israel view of the region by 'Arabist' academics. 

5. Israel Teachers Union issues a statement against the boycott 

The text of this statement can be found on

http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=768 

The Union calls on scholars and teacher associations in the UK and elsewhere to join them and reject the initiative to impose a boycott on Israeli academics and Israeli institutions. 

6. The Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism 

www.antisemitism.org.il 

The Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism is a state forum that monitors antisemitic and anti-Jewish activities throughout the world. It coordinates the struggle against this phenomenon with various government bodies and Jewish organisations around the world. It is worth looking at this excellent website.  

7. from the American Jewish Congress 

 

The New York Times has published a just-declassified report from Israel, based on evidence seized in Lebanon and on video footage, showing Hezbollah’s consistent pattern of intentionally placing its fighters and weapons among civilians.  Most shocking of all, video footage of the interrogations of Hezbollah terrorists shows that they were well aware of the civilian casualties that would ensue and that they callously disregarded the consequence to human life and property.  The report is only available on their website. 

 To read  the report (pdf format)
and to see the videos containing the shocking admissions of the Hezbollah terrorists,
click below:

 
 Roger Kline’s views on an Academic Boycott of Israel

The last time the issue was fully debated was in May 2006 at NATFHE’s conference. I was not able to speak on this motion as I was not a conference delegate. I reproduce below two extracts from speeches by Paul Mackney that I endorse as well as helpful statement of principle about the use of academic boycotts from the AUT.

I agree with Paul Mackney that a balanced approach to this issue must demonstrate active support for Palestinians facing injustice, whilst only supporting an academic boycotts, as the AUT statement put it, where there is “a very careful, staged approach to boycotts which ensures that they are applied only in exceptional circumstances, are fully justified by the facts, and can be shown to be an effective way of furthering academic freedom and human rights.”

I abhor anti-Semitism and have suffered from it, but do not believe that opposition to Israeli policy in Palestine can be equated with being anti-Semitic. I am not in favour of gesture politics. I therefore do not agree that it is currently possible to demonstrate that an academic boycott of Israel can be shown to be an effective way of furthering the human rights of Palestinians. I therefore do not support one. We have to find better ways of doing that, hopefully linking up with Israelis who share our views

This could include:

¨       supporting campaigns to prevent the obstruction of Palestinians getting to their educational institutions in west bank and Gaza, 

¨       express opposition to the continuance of EU and others' obstruction of funds for the Palestinian authority (and its education programmes)

¨       continue support for Bir Zeit University – could we start to twin Bir Zeit departments with a UK network of supportive UCU members?

¨       exchanging materials with Israeli academics and so trying to have a dialogue with counterparts and increase their understanding of UCU's concerns with the current status quo

----------------------------------------------------------

The statements on the boycott I refer to are:

1. In May 2006, Paul Mackney the NATFHE General Secretary spoke to Annual Conference opposing a motion for an international academic boycott of Israel. He said, and I agree, the following (extracts):

“I want us to develop a sustainable policy of support for the rights of Palestinians.

Any motion to boycott requires the highest level of legitimacy and collective member support.

You cannot build boycott movements from statements and control from above.  The NEC passed a sort of boycott motion about 3 years ago and we abandoned it a year later because it became a distraction from raising the main issue and no branch acted upon it. We were diverted into defending a policy on which no-one was acting.

In UCU I want policies carried which have resonance with and can involve members in the branches, not empty gestures - a mass rather than an oligarchic approach.

We need a coherent and sustainable policy in UCU……to develop as quickly as possible a coherent policy of concrete assistance to Palestine universities and civil society."

This is our last conference.  In UCU I want policies carried which have resonance with and can involve members in the branches, not empty gestures.”

2. Soon afterwards AUT issued a statement opposed to a boycott which included the following:

“In May 2005 AUT council overwhelmingly rejected an earlier decision to boycott two Israeli universities and reasserted its belief that freedom of expression, open debate and unhampered dialogue are prerequisites of academic freedom.

In addition, the meeting went on to set up a commission to investigate the whole issue of international boycotts.  The report of the commission was agreed at May 2006 AUT council.  It sets out a very careful, staged approach to boycotts which ensures that they are applied only in exceptional circumstances, are fully justified by the facts, and can be shown to be an effective way of furthering academic freedom and human rights.”

3. At the last NATFHE conference Paul Mackney also spoke in support of an emergency motion on Palestine. His speech included the following, which I also endorse:

“I've looked at the consequences of such policies: since 29 September 2000, 892 Israelis have been killed compared with 2,546 Palestinians; around 6,000 Israelis wounded compared with 24,000 Palestinian; unemployment is at 10% in Israel and 66% in Palestine; one Israeli home has been destroyed compared with 2,200 Palestinian homes completely destroyed and 14,400 partially destroyed; over 60 new Israeli settlements have been built on confiscated land between March 2001 and July 2003 compared with no new Palestinian settlements.

And for those of you looking for the connection with education: one Israeli school has been fired upon by Palestinians compared with 185 Palestinian schools shelled or fired upon since 29 September 2000.

Over the past four and a half years, Israeli security forces have killed at least 1,705 Palestinians who did not take part in the fighting, including 551 minors. The number of indictments filed against soldiers for gunfire-related offences stands at only 28, according to the Judge Advocate General's office. Only two soldiers have been convicted of "causing the death" of Palestinians.

Actually it is not possible to be 'even handed' in the face of such injustice. The Palestinian people and Palestinian civil society including the universities need support and solidarity as never before and I will not be bullied into silence.

None of this is a denial of Israel's right to exist, nor is it a rejection of a two state solution. But in such a situation we have to stand with the oppressed and I trust we will continue to do so in UCU.

In fact I hope UCU will adopt the AUT's unanimously agreed document on when and how to apply academic boycotts and when not to.

And criticizing the Israeli Government does not make me anti-Semitic any more than criticizing Bush and Blair makes me anti-Anglo-Saxon. The fact is there will never be peace in the Middle East without justice for the Palestinians."

Sally Hunt’s views on an Academic Boycott of Israel

 International solidarity and academic boycotts  

http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dmzhrnw_10cgjz2v   

Key points

·         A boycott of Israel is likely to be an issue again at first UCU Congress in 2007

·         The issue is highly divisive and overshadows our other international work

·         Any final decision to boycott should be made by full membership ballot not conference alone

·         UCU’s international work should focus on supporting staff and students and defending academic freedom and trade union rights

 ·         UCU should adopt the AUT policy on international solidarity not the NATFHE boycott of Israel

·         UCU should work with Education International and other UK trade unions to promote academic freedom and equality of access to education for all  

Background  In 2005 AUT’s national council voted narrowly for an academic boycott of two Israeli universities because it was claimed that they were participating in the oppression of the Palestinian people by the Israeli state.  A reconvened AUT Council later in the year subsequently overturned the boycott following branch meetings around the country at which it became clear that the majority of members did not support the proposed boycott. It was also agreed to ask a working group to examine AUT’s overall policy with regard to international solidarity, including the use of academic boycotts.  This group reported to the 2006 AUT Council and set out a very careful, staged approach to boycotts which ensures that they are applied only in exceptional circumstances, are fully justified by the facts, and can be shown to be an effective way of furthering academic freedom and human rights. AUT Council supported this position overwhelmingly.  However, in May 2006 at its last conference, NATFHE passed a motion inviting their members to consider boycotting Israeli academics under certain circumstances. It is unclear how much support there was from NATFHE members for this.  The transitional arrangements committee of the UCU has now agreed to adopt the AUT policy rather than NATFHE’s. 

 What does this have to do with the general secretary election?  

Some sections of the union believe that the election of a new general secretary is an opportunity to resurrect the issue of a boycott of Israel. The Socialist Workers Party for example in its recent editorial on the election has said that:  

“The choice of general secretary will shape the future of the new union. It will affect wider political issues such as the academic boycott of Israel and the union’s support for organisations such as the Stop the War Coalition.” (http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/article.php?article_id=9908)

On this basis it seems very likely that, whatever personal position the candidates take, the supporters of a boycott will bring the issue back to the first UCU congress in 2007.

That is why I am making my own position crystal clear.  

What I believe  

I believe that our union has to focus on issues that unite rather than divide us. As AUT general secretary in 2005, I dealt with the claims and counter claims of both lobbies, the threats to sequestrate our union’s assets and saw our members and staff vilified and abused.  Like many members, I have my own strong opinions about the unequal conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis and – from UCU’s point of view - the pressure upon academics and students on both sides of the wall.  However an academic boycott with only limited support is damaging to the union and highly divisive which is why I believe we need to follow the AUT guidelines that were agreed in 2006 and to make sure any contribution we make is constructive, promotes peace and enhances our credibility as an organisation that defends academic freedom.  

Ballot before boycott  

In my opinion the decision to launch an academic boycott of any country, including Israel, is at least on a par with the decision to take strike action – some members believe it is even more serious.  This means, in my view that decisions of this type should be made in the same way as we decide whether to take industrial action or not – by a full ballot of the membership.  This could be done cheaply by electronic means but it does have to be done because I think it is simply untenable given the clear lack of agreement about the issue for a decision of this magnitude to be made by an annual conference without recourse to our full membership.  I hope that all sides of this debate will support the principle of giving the final say to members on this issue which has the potential once again to tear our union apart.  

My track record  

As AUT/UCU general secretary and as the TUC general council’s spokesperson on international issues I have wide experience in this area.  Too often it is lecturers, teachers and other education professionals who find themselves in the front line in conflicts around the world – not least because academic freedom is the first thing that is threatened when democracy is under attack.  Among the many international solidarity initiatives AUT was involved with was the strong support for lecturers and teachers in Columbia who face assassination or torture because of their trade union membership or political affiliation. Most recently the same issue has reared its ugly head in Iraq with academics and teachers facing kidnap and murder.  I have also met with trade union colleagues in both Palestine and Israel and have been inspired by the commitment to peace that many on both sides of the wall have even under intolerable pressure.  Our union must be clear that we abhor attacks on our colleagues – whoever commits them. We also have to make sure that our views about the importance of academic freedom in a democracy and the rights of lecturers and teachers to live and work unharmed are not drowned out.  

What our policy should be  

As general secretary of UCU, I will put forward proposals that:  

1.      UCU’s first congress should adopt the former AUT policy of a staged and cautious approach to international academic boycotts rather than the policy passed at NATFHE’s last conference  

2.      Our international policy should be firmly focused on defending academic freedom and the rights of educators and students to live and work unharmed and unthreatened rather than on a wider political analysis which distracts from our main message 

 3.      Any future proposal for an international academic boycott of any institution or country that is agreed by UCU Congress should go to a full ballot of the members affected before any action is taken  

4.      The union work with Education International to protect educators worldwide against threats to their person, their family or their work  

5.      We consider a fund to support the promotion of academic projects that enhance cooperation and dialogue between communities in areas of conflict  .

 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

Rt Hon Lord Young of Graffham 

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