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The Academic Friends of Israel
  The Academic Friends of Israel                                                                                           18 December 2007

 

Dear Colleagues,

 

This is the first digest to be published since the UCU decided at the end of September that an academic boycott of Israel was unlawful and discriminatory. Our policy has always been to send out a digest only when there was something worth saying rather than issue a monthly digest full of news items usually available elsewhere. Since September we have been in a period of apparent inactivity, a lull before the storm whilst our enemies reorganise themselves after their defeat.

 

It seems that the boycotters will continue to call for a boycott against Israel, and a debate will probably be on agenda at next year’s UCU Congress which could include calling for action to be taken against Ariel College on the West Bank. The UCU National executive decided last month to promote a UK lecture tour next year by Palestinian academic trade unionists to which Israeli academics may also be invited to take part.  A small UCU delegation along with members of other UK Trade Unions will be going to Palestine in early January 2008. They will not be going to Israeli Universities as this visit is being organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign [PSC]. As next year is the 60Th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel, the PSC wants their campaign to focus on Israel is an apartheid and racist state”. This is confirmed by two items in this digest “Taking back the campus” and the report of the first Palestinian Conference for the Boycott of Israel. With the boycott off the agenda, the current campaign this autumn has been focussing on a one state solution in Palestine which would result in the elimination of the State of Israel.  

What lessons can be learnt from 5 years of opposing an academic boycott of Israel. 

 The first call for a boycott came in 2002, since then boycott motions have been debated at UCU and its founding unions AUT and NATFHE in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007.  The Academic Friends of Israel has been involved in campaigning against the boycott from the very beginning so we would like to offer our take on what lessons can be learnt for any future anti-Israel campaigns. 

1. The strategy that has been used since 2002 by those opposed to a boycott has been to publicise every new development. This was a very successful shock tactic at the beginning but by 2007 our enemies has learned to use the publicity for their own ends.   The result of our robust defence tactics has meant that an academic boycott of Israel as an issue is still now very much in the public domain. We need in future to be more selective and not directly respond to every letter or campaign or boycott call that is published but to monitor the situation and choose carefully our battles. Realistically it is knowing when and how to respond, and experience should tell us what to do but we are not always right. What we must not do is to legitimise any future calls in the eyes of the general public.  

2. The current priority for pro-Israel activists has to be to start educating the UK general public including academics about Israel, Israeli academia, its achievements and joint Israeli/UK/Palestinian projects.  However Israel should consider what message or image it wants to present to the UK, because it may not coincide with the message the UK Jewish community will want to project. The UK has in the past reacted to events in Britain and how it affects UK Jews by thinking about it in those terms, forgetting that in case of the academic boycott it is actually about Israel, not the UK. So that the image that Israeli academia will want to project may not be the same as the UK campaign slogan “building bridges” and promoting only messages that relate to peace efforts.  Israel may instead want to talk about its achievements and that its academics are “premier league” and if people want to work with the best, they have to work with Israeli academics.   

3. The UK communities 2007 “Stop the Boycott” campaign polled key business, cultural and political leaders as well as academics. Their results showed that 15-20% were in favour of boycotts against Israel and will presumably support any similar action proposed in the future against Israel, these are figures that we ignore at our peril in any future campaigning.  

4. It is disappointing that only a handful of leading British Universities felt strongly enough to issue statements condemning the academic boycotts. The majority of our Universities ignored the issue altogether or referred to the statement issued by the Russell group of leading Universities. A priority for any future Israel advocacy campaigns has to be directed at University Vice-Chancellors and their senior members of staff.  

5. All future campaigns against Israel will however be driven by the internet which is unregulated and ungovernable. As a result it is a dangerous place and not everyone is like the UCU and obeys the law. We therefore have to think carefully about how we will react to anti-Israel campaigns in future.  

6. There is a need for a proactive strategy on part of the UK Jewish community to build positive relationships with the leadership of Institutions, Trade Unions and Professional bodies and organisations, something which has been lacking in recent years in the UK.  One of the few exceptions has been the Trade Union Friends of Israel which has worked very hard to build a positive relationship with the British Trade Unions.  If the report of the first Palestinian Conference for the Boycott of Israel is to be believed building these types of relationships as outlined here, will be one of their first priorities. Relationships are not built overnight and it is too late once the call has been made.  

Other matters

This digest also includes details of a book published by the Jerusalem Centre for Policy affairs titled Academics against Israel and the Jews which brings together for the first time in one volume a series of essays the problems posed by anti-Israel activism on campuses throughout the world. It includes an update of my 2005 essay The Academic Boycott of Israel: Why Britain”?  One final thought, the British Trade Union movement and the UCU in particular has been used since 2003 by a very small minority of its members to pursue their own agenda demonising and calling for the destruction of the State of Israel.  It is my understanding that this has cost the UCU and its members in excess of £250,000 and if you add in other costs the overall total cost could be as high as £500,000.  The UCU is not a rich union and this came at a time when UK Universities are cutting back on staff and expenditure. The UCU should have been campaigning these against these decisions rather than spending valuable time and resources attempting to boycott Israel.

Regards

Ronnie Fraser

Director

Academic Friends of Israel 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------Digest contents:

1. The UK Government invites the university sector to lead a debate on how we maintain academic freedom in the 21st century  

2. Taking back the campus by Barbara Kay academic boycott strategies pro-Israel students in Canada are adopting to deal with the problem.  

3. Durban II The coming “anti-racist” spectacle by Anne Bayefsky 

4. Details of The first Palestinian Conference for the Boycott of Israel which says that Palestinian employment in Jewish settlements and Israel is to be excluded from the boycott, because they need the money!

5. Students protest against LSE decision against Israel  

6.  Academics against Israel and the Jews edited By Manfred Gerstenfeld

7.       Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: Cosmopolitan Reflections by David Hirsh 

8.   This Green and Pleasant Land: Britain and the Jews by Shalom Lappin 

1. The last shadow of liberty? Academic freedom in the 21st centuryHigher Education Minister Bill Rammell in a speech to the Fabian Society lecture on 27th November titled The last shadow of liberty? Academic freedom in the 21st century invited the university sector to lead a debate on how we maintain academic freedom whilst ensuring that extremists can never stifle debate or impose their views. His speech can be read in full at: http://www.dius.gov.uk/speeches/rammell_fabiansociety_271107.htm

The UCU's reaction to Bill Rammel's speech on academic freedom can be found at http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=2985  and http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=3003The union has issued circular UCU60 (.html) which asks for responses from members in further as well as higher education by Initial comments should be sent to Rob Copeland by14 January 2008.

Universities UK response to Bill Rammell's Fabian Society speech can be found at: http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/mediareleases/show.asp?MR=570

 

You may also want to read Academic Freedom and Professional Responsibility after 9/11, a handbook for Scholars and Teachers published by the Taskforce on Middle East Anthropology. The book provides an overview of the range and nature of recent challenges to academic freedom. It provides concrete suggestions on how to respond to such attacks and to avoid them in the first place. Utilising research on institutions and interviews with academics, it considers the potentials and limitations of internal university structures, professional organisations, legal recourse, and media outlets.  It can be found at: http://www.meanthro.org/handbook.htm

 

2. Taking back the campus by Barbara Kay, National Post November 28, 2007 

Last week, I wrote about the "new anti-Semitism" disguised as anti-Zionism, and identified the university campus as ground zero for the dissemination of Israel-hatred into the general culture. To-day's column focuses on strategies pro-Israel students are adopting to deal with the problem. The coming milestone of Israel's 60th anniversary next spring is ratcheting up anti-Zionist organizations' zeal for greater impact during the 2007-08 academic year. Like most such initiatives -- Israeli Apartheid Week is an American import -- their new projects will soon make their way to Canadian campuses………..Read the complete article at: http://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/columnists/story.html?id=127845

3. Durban II The coming “anti-racist” spectacle by Anne Bayefsky 

Rudy Giuliani apparently remembers John Kerry’s October, 2004 blunder of calling for a “global test” of approval to choose the planks of American foreign policy. In the September/October 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs, Guiliani challenges all would-be presidents to “look realistically at America’s relationship with the United Nations.” And it’s not a pretty sight.

Last Friday in Geneva, the U.N. launched a two-year plan which will culminate in a full-throated anti-American and anti-Israel world conference on racism in 2009. Modeled on the notorious 2001 Durban
“anti-racism” conference, Durban II similarly promises to attract terrorist sympathizers and anti-Semites from around the globe………. Read the complete article at: http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=Y2RjNzJjYmEyNTllNDVlYzRkMzE2Zjc1YWNmMDhmOGM= 

4. The first Palestinian Conference for the Boycott of Israel  

The first Palestinian Conference for the Boycott of Israel (BDS) was held on 22 November 2007 in Ramallah. The conference issued a series of Recommendations for a local Palestinian BDS Campaign, a Campaign in the Arab World and an International/Global Campaign.Their International campaign will emphasise that the BDS campaign does not only target Israel's economy, but challenges Israel's legitimacy, being a colonial and apartheid state, as part of the international community. They will attempt to promote wide consumer boycotts, but also boycotts in the fields of academia, culture and sports; Their Nakba-60 campaign in 2008 is a campaign for the boycott of Israel, including calling for a boycott of the “Israel at 60” celebrations. However Palestinian employment in Jewish settlements and Israel is to be excluded from the boycott, because it is a source of necessary income that has no current substitute.

Read the complete article at:  http://www.alternativenews.org/news/english/first-palestinian-conference-for-the-boycott-of-israel-bds-20071128.html

 5. Students protest against LSE decision against Israel academic boycott

Over 20 London School of Economics (LSE) students occupied an evening meeting of LSE’s governing body for over half an hour on October 30, in protest over what they said was LSE Director Howard Davies’ implicit support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Holding Academic Freedom for All and Equal Rights for Palestinians banners, the students entered an LSE Council meeting, the monthly meeting of LSE
’s 25 directors, and reissued a request for a meeting with Davies to discuss the issue, as well as that a statement be displayed on the LSE website recognising the right to education for Palestinians. After lengthy deliberation and threats of forcible removal of the students, Davies and Council Chair, Lord Grabiner, reluctantly agreed to attend a meeting and let a statement be issued that acknowledged Palestinians’ right to education………..Read the complete article at:  http://www.muslimnews.co.uk/paper/index.php?article=3251 

6. Academics against Israel and the Jews

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, has just published a book; Academics against Israel and the Jews edited by Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld [ISBN 978-965-218-057-5, 276 pp.]The new century has seen many attempts to discriminate against Israel, its academic institutions, and its scholars in several Western countries. This includes boycotting Israeli universities and academics as well as calling for divestment from Israeli securities. The campaigns frequently use anti-Semitic motifs and sometimes also involve violent anti-Semitic acts.  These actions should be seen in the context of the much broader, multiple, ongoing attacks against Israel and the Jewish people. These initiatives are part of a postmodern global war and often are directly related to anti-Semitism. This global war is multisourced, fragmented, and often diffuse and discontinuous.  The modern anti-Semitism of the 1930s could be compared to many large, centrally managed factories of a toxin-producing corporation. Its chief executive was Hitler and from its tall chimneys anti-Semitic poison spread in large quantities over a wide area. Postmodern anti-Semitism can be compared to the pollution produced by the millions of cars everywhere. These run on fuel that causes poisonous elements to escape in limited quantities through a large number of exhausts all over the world. Today such poison is spread on many campuses. The discriminatory actions against Israel prove that in many universities, academic freedom is abused as a subtle device to promote extremist ideologies and protect misbehavior. This is one among many reasons why what happens on campus should be subject to much greater external scrutiny. That would likely lead to a long-lasting general reassessment of issues concerning academia such as free speech, academic freedom, uncontrolled campus extremism including incitement to violence, university autonomy, the politicization of science, and the discrepancy in norm between academia and society at large.  Eighteen essays from four continents discuss a variety of cases of discrimination and how Israel and Jews can defend themselves against such initiatives. 

 Contents

Nathan Sharansky: Foreword
Manfred Gerstenfeld: Academics against Israel and the Jews
Rebecca Leibowitz: Defeating Anti-Israeli and Anti-Semitic Activity on Campus -A Case Study: Rutgers University
Noah Liben: The Columbia University Report on Its Middle Eastern Department's Problems: A Paradigm for Obscuring Structural Flaws
Martin Kramer: Columbia University: The Future of Middle Eastern Studies at Stake
Jonathan Jaffit Fighting Sheikh Zayed's Funding of Islamic Studies at Harvard Divinity School
Leila Beckwith: Anti-Zionism/Anti-Semitism at the University of California- Irvine
Leila Beckwith, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, Ilan Benjamin: Faculty Efforts to Combat Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israeli Bias at the University of California, Santa Cruz
Edward S. Beck: Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME): Fighting Anti-Israelism and Anti-Semitism on the University Campuses Worldwide
Roz Rothstein: StandWithUs: A Grassroots Advocacy Organization also on Campus
Alain Goldschläger: The Canadian Campus Scene
Corinne Berzon: Anti-Israel Activity at Concordia University
Aryeh Green European Universities and the New Anti-Semitism: Issues, Examples, Prescriptions
Ruth Contreras: On the Situation in Austrian Universities
Ronnie Fraser: The Academic Boycott of Israel: Why Britain?
Manfred Gerstenfeld: The UCU May 2007 Boycott Resolution and Its Aftermath
Gavin Gross: Anti-Israeli Activity at the School of Oriental and African Studies: How Jewish Students Started to Fight Back  
Manfred Gerstenfeld: Utrecht University: The Myth of Jewish Cannibalism, Censorship and Fear of Muslim Intimidation
Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook: Anti-Semitism among Palestinian Authority Academics
Ted Lapkin: Academic Anti-Zionism in Australia

The Jerusalem Post has published an interview With Manfred Gerstenfeld to mark the launch of the book and can be found at:    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?apage=2&cid=1196847323863&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFullThe book can be purchased from the following places:
In Israel: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, odelia@jcpa.org
In USA: Center for Jewish Community Studies, cjcs@cjcs.net  
Via the Internet: Scholars for Peace in the Middle East or Amazon
 

7. Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: Cosmopolitan Reflections by David Hirsh,

Published by the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism This paper aims to disentangle the difficult relationship between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. On one side, antisemitism appears as a pressing contemporary problem, intimately connected to an intensification of hostility to Israel. Opposing accounts downplay the fact of antisemitism and tend to treat the charge as an instrumental attempt to de-legitimize criticism of Israel. I address the central relationship both conceptually and through a number of empirical case studies which lie in the disputed territory between criticism and demonisation. The paper focuses on current debates in the British public sphere and in particular on the campaign to boycott Israeli academia. Sociologically the paper seeks to develop a cosmopolitan framework to confront the methodological nationalism of both Zionism and anti-Zionism. It does not assume that exaggerated hostility to Israel is caused by underlying antisemitism but it explores the possibility that antisemitism may be an effect even of some antiracist forms of anti-Zionism………Read the complete paper at: http://www.yale.edu/yiisa/workingpaper/hirsh/David%20Hirsh%20YIISA%20Working%20Paper1.pdf

8. This Green and Pleasant Land: Britain and the Jews by Shalom Lappin 

In 2006 the UK celebrated the 350th anniversary of Cromwell’s readmission of Jews to England. This concluded a four hundred year absence of organized Jewish life in the country following the expulsion in 1290 under Edward I. According to a widely accepted view, held by many British Jews and non-Jews alike, Britain has provided generous sanctuary to waves of Jewish refugees fleeing European anti-Semitism. It has given them a tolerant, accepting environment in which they have progressed steadily from poverty and exclusion to full integration into British society. Britain is also frequently credited with leading the fight to save European Jews from the onslaught of Nazism and assisting the survivors to rebuild their lives after the Second World War. …… In fact, there are good grounds for regarding this view of Britain’s traditional relations with Jews as largely inaccurate. Recent events have seen the emergence of a distinctly uncomfortable environment for Anglo-Jewry. It might be suggested that this is a relatively new phenomenon conditioned entirely by current demographic and political factors. However, when one consults the historical record it becomes clear that much of what is now taking place bears a clear connection to a well established pattern of wide spread hostility to Jews as members of a cultural and ethnic collectivity that has existed in Britain over many centuries………… Read the complete paper at: http://www.yale.edu/yiisa/lappin_yiisa071.pdf   

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.