The Academic Friends of Israel
10 June 2007
The Board of Deputies of British Jews formed the Fairplay group nine months ago to respond to the growing number of boycott of Israel campaigns. It was something that should have been done two years earlier. However hey have now launched a “Stop the Boycott” campaign and are planning to run full page adverts in The Times and the Guardian next week.
Two days ago AFI was asked for our help in identifying high profile academics who would sign these adverts. Their request is a noble one especially when the slogan is “let the true voice of of British academia can be heard”. As one who was a delegate at the UCU Congress Bournemouth last week I would be ecstatic if this happened. It would be a just reward for having endured all the venom and hate towards Jews and Israel that was expressed there. Sadly, my prediction made last year that we would loose if a boycott motion came to Congress because the numbers did not stack up in our favour, was proved correct.
I don’t have a problem with the placing of an advert; I think it’s a great idea, but only with its aim and the intended outcome. You do not insist on a ballot if you have no control over the question being asked and if you are not sure you can win, you don’t ask the question. This campaign also legitimises the boycotters.
In February’s elections for the UCU General Secretary only 14% of the members voted. More people in total voted for the two Left wing candidates in the election than for the eventual winner Sally Hunt. The UCU Left backed by the Socialist Workers Party [SWP] has a substantial powerbase in the former NATFHE branches.
In my mind the same question comes up again and again - how do we get to the members in the 500 UCU branches? They don’t come to meetings plus we don’t know who they are and of course to win we have to make sure they vote. If we proceed with this expensive “Stop the Boycott” campaign we are heading for a direct confrontation with the SWP which I doubt we will win.
Do we really want a resounding “NO” vote, because the consequences of losing are unthinkable? The target for this campaign is wrong; it should be the UCU boycott campaign and the SWP.
We should be working with other groups to marginalise the SWP and their partners in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign [PSC] who are part of the worldwide Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment campaign aimed at the destruction of the state of Israel. They exist purely to deny Israel.
Sally Hunt has been in charge of a union that has voted three times in the last four years on a motion for an academic boycott of Israel. What she has always said is that she does not believe a boycott is supported by the majority her members. She may have sent our leadership reassuring messages but as far as I know, she has never publically said she is against boycotts. Personally I believe she is sympathetic to a boycott of Israel.
If I am wrong and she is really against a boycott, why did she not meet with the Head of the Israeli academic Union when he was here three weeks ago? Why did she not come to our Israeli academia stand at Bournemouth? Why has she never had the time too meet the UK Jewish Community leaders who first asked her for a meeting in February?
The real clincher for me is that the PSC and Jews for Justice for Palestine met with the UCU in April to produce a set of proposals setting out how the UCU can work with Palestinian academic groups. The paper was not presented to congress and now she wants to take a pro-boycott pro-Palestinian road show to the branches. If she believes her membership are not in favour of boycotts, then why won’t she condemn the boycott. All the evidence indicates to me the opposite.
This campaign should be targeting - the UCU boycott campaign and the SWP. And if the UCU don’t play ball then the Jewish Community leadership should to stand up to them. No one wants to fund another expensive campaign like the one which achieved nothing in Bournemouth.
Below you will find the request from the leaders of the UK Jewish Community asking for your assistance.
The Academic Friends of Israel
REQUEST FOR HELP FROM ACADEMICS AND UCU MEMBERS
In light of the UCU conference's decision to support several motions advocating an academic boycott of Israel, we have launched a Stop the Boycott campaign. The campaign is being coordinated by a whole host of organisations under the umbrella of the Fair Play Campaign Group with both Jewish and non-Jewish Trade Union academics and Israel advocacy organisations.
We are planning to run full page adverts in The Times and the Guardian next week and we would like to enlist your help in identifying the largest number of high profile academics possible to sign these adverts. Given the time constraints, although we have hundreds of names including yours, as you will be aware we need people's permission specifically to be able to use their name in an advert. As such we urgently need your help to achieve this goal.
Please can you send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org confirming your agreement to have your name included in the advert as soon as possible? Please include your contact details so that we can engage you in our future campaign.
The wording of the advert is as follows:
'We condemn the recent decision of the University and Colleges Union Congress to promote a boycott of Israeli universities as the actions of a small and unrepresentative minority that flies in the face of academic freedom. We therefore call on the General Secretary to honour her pledge to ballot all of the UCU's 120,000 members so that the true voice of British academia can be heard'
A website will be launched on Friday evening at www.stoptheboycott.org <http://www.stoptheboycott.org/> . In the meantime please see www.bicom.org.uk <http://www.bicom.org.uk/> for more information about the boycott.
Lorna Fitzsimons Jeremy Newmark
Bicom Jewish Leadership Council
The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks
Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld - Chairman of the Board of Fellows, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
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.