The Academic Friends of Israel
17 April 2007
The holiday period is now behind us and in 6 weeks time at the end of the May we have the first University College Union [UCU] Congress. Four motions have been submitted relating to boycotts, one of which [IN3] is a boycott motion in all but name.
We need your help to defeat this motion and below have suggested ways in which UCU members, non-union members and international colleagues can help.
With very few exceptions, those leading the boycott call are not the leaders of British academia, but, rather, political extremists seeking to use the boycott as part of their broader campaign to delegitimise the State of Israel. These boycott proponents seek to hijack the union and use it as a weapon for propagating their marginal political agenda.
I will be at Congress as a delegate for Barnet College and my branch has submitted my motion on the rise of antisemitism which I have put below. This is very similar to the one I submitted and was adopted at the 2005 NATFHE conference.
Academic Friends of Israel
The Motions relating to boycotts
The full motions are below or can be found at: http://www.ucu.org.uk/circ/html/ucu14.html
- Motion IN1 comes from the UCU Transitional Arrangements Committee, and moves to adopt the AUT Guidelines on Greylisting and boycotts. If adopted, it would impose strict test criteria on imposing boycotts.
If this motion is passed then the Chair will have to rule on the legality of the boycott motion IN3
- IN2 would force UCU to hold a full membership ballot before imposing a boycott on international colleges in the future.
- IN3 is the boycott motion from Brighton and London Metropolitan Universities.
It attempts to get round Guidelines on Greylisting and boycotts. It is a refined version of the 2005 AUT and 2006 NATFHE boycott motions.
It should be noted that this motion supports the Palestinian boycott call and is based on the claim that the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions [PGFTU] is supporting this demand.
However the Trade Union Friends of Israel have confirmed that PGFTU General Secretary, Shaher Sae'd has not signed the call for a boycott. This is confirmed by the Histadrut, who are currently hosting some PGFTU representatives in Israel as part of a wider international meeting.
- IN4 is a motion calling for the end of the aid boycott of the Palestinian Government. It has come from Birmingham University (Sue Blackwell’s branch).
These are not the final motions that will be debated at Congress since they are subject to amendment from branches.
2. If you are a UCU member:
- Find out who your Congress delegate is :
Please can you find out who the UCU delegate from your University or College is? Make contact with them, ask how they are planning to vote and forward us their names. This would be very helpful in our attempts to defeat the motions.
- Mandate your delegates
One way you can fight the boycott at a local level is by bringing a motion to your branch or LA that mandates your delegates to opposing the boycott at Congress. Get in contact if you want any advice on how to do this.
- Amendments to motions
You can try to amend the boycott motion at your local branch. Amended motions should ideally be even-handed over Israel and Palestine, and actively oppose any attempted boycott.
3. If you are a not a UCU member or an International member of AFI:
- Write to or contact your UK colleagues. We have prepared a draft of a letter you might want to send to British colleagues who you believe would like to help defeat this campaign, it appears at the end of this digest, after the full list of motions.
- Ask your UK Colleagues if they know delegates; to find out who the UCU delegate from their university is, and to contact them, ask how they are planning to vote, and present arguments such as those in the letter to persuade them to vote against any kind of boycott resolution. Ask them to suggest similar action to their colleagues.
Forward us the names of UCU delegates you know about to Ronnie Fraser at The Academic Friends of Israel: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Motions relating to boycotts
In1 Policy on international greylisting and boycott (Transitional arrangements committee)
Congress endorses the policy on international greylisting and boycott in UCU/16.
The policy can be found at: http://www.ucu.org.uk/circ/html/ucu16.html
In2 Academic Freedom (Canterbury Christ Church University)
Recognising the unique importance of Academic Freedom to colleges and universities, Congress determines that:
1) any motion passed at this, or a future congress, that restricts academic freedom in any way, that motion will be put to a ballot of all members with a brief statement of arguments for and against before becoming, if supported, UCU policy;
2) any motion passed at this, or a future congress , that calls for an academic boycott of one or more colleges or universities outside of the UK, when such a boycott has not been requested by properly constituted and quorate branches of academic unions at those colleges or universities, that motion will be put to a ballot of all members with a brief statement of arguments for and against before becoming, if supported, UCU policy.
In3 Composite: Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions (University of Brighton, Grand Parade; University of East London, Docklands)
Congress notes that Israel's 40-year occupation has seriously damaged the fabric of Palestinian society through annexation, illegal settlement, collective punishment and restriction of movement.
Congress deplores the denial of educational rights for Palestinians by invasions, closures, checkpoints, curfews, and shootings and arrests of teachers, lecturers and students.
Congress condemns the complicity of Israeli academia in the occupation, which has provoked a call from Palestinian trade unions for a comprehensive and consistent international boycott of all Israeli academic institutions.
Congress believes that in these circumstances passivity or neutrality is unacceptable and criticism of Israel cannot be construed as anti-semitic.
Congress instructs the NEC to
· circulate the full text of the Palestinian boycott call to all branches/LAs for information and discussion;
· encourage members to consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions;
· organise a UK-wide campus tour for Palestinian academic/educational trade unionists;
· issue guidance to members on appropriate forms of action.
In4 European Union and Israel (University of Birmingham)
1. That since the Palestinian elections in January 2006 the Israeli government has suspended revenue payments to the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the EU and US have suspended aid, leaving public-sector salaries unpaid and earning the condemnation of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions;
2. That Israel is seeking to upgrade its relations with the EU to the same level as Norway and Switzerland, permitting free passage of goods, people and capital, while denying these freedoms to Palestinians.
Congress resolves to campaign for:
1. The restoration of all international aid to the PA and all revenues rightfully belonging to it;
2. No upgrade of Israel's EU status until it ends the occupation of Palestinian land and fully complies with EU Human Rights law.
Proposed Letter to send to UK Colleagues:
It is now certain that a resolution to boycott all Israeli academic institutions will be proposed at the new University and College Union's (UCU) first Congress this coming May. I hope I can impose upon your patience to read the following explanation of why this boycott call must be opposed. I hope also that you will see fit to take an active role in opposing this attempt to politicize the academic environment.
Unfortunately, there is reason to be concerned. Two previous boycott motions were passed, one by AUT and one by NATFHE. The former was reversed, and the latter lapsed when the unions merged. We expect the boycott proponents to try again at the May UCU meeting, and would like to help raise awareness of the issue among our colleagues so that the attempt will be defeated.
An academic boycott is counter to the universal principle of Academic Freedom. Academic life is about building bridges, not destroying them; opening minds, not closing them; hearing both sides of an argument, not one alone. Boycotts are a betrayal of these values. This principle has been formally recognized by UNESCO, the International Council for Science, the Middle East Studies Association, the journals Nature and Science, the American Association of University Professors, and other learned societies around the world. Only in an atmosphere of academic freedom, unfettered by partisan political manipulations, can scientific advances of benefit to all mankind be made.
Not only would a boycott of Israeli academia violate the principle of academic freedom, it would do so in a discriminatory matter. Any institution representing academics, including trade unions, must adhere to universal, objective criteria for determining its policy towards academic boycotts. This has not been the case. Only Israel has been singled out for such treatment. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Israeli government actions, Israel is very far from being the worst abuser of Human Rights in the world, yet no other country has been targeted for boycotts.
Prof. Sari Nusseibeh, President of Al-Quds University, bravely opposes the boycott and issued the following statement:
“An international academic boycott of Israel, on pro-Palestinian grounds, is self-defeating: It would only succeed in weakening that strategically important bridge through which the state of war between Israelis and Palestinians could be ended and Palestinian rights could therefore be restored. Instead of burning that bridge, the international academy should do everything within its power to strengthen it.”
And indeed, there are a number of joint projects between researchers at Al-Quds University and Israeli universities, a choice that is far more likely to contribute to peace than would the blacklisting of researchers of one nationality.
If a boycott resolution is passed, it would provide a dangerous precedent, opening the door to the spread of political boycotts to other organizations and other countries, and to other political issues as well. Clearly, a trend of this kind would destroy the system of peer review which assesses academic research on merit, not nationality or political opinion.
With very few exceptions, those leading the boycott call are not the leaders of British academia, but, rather, political extremists seeking to use the boycott as part of their broader campaign to delegitimise the State of Israel. These boycott proponents seek to hijack the union and use it as a weapon for propagating their marginal political agenda. Whether you are a member or not, the UCU claims to speak in your name. If they do not, I hope you will be able to find a way to make your opposition heard, so that the labour union will not become a tool for corrupting academic intercourse.
UCU motion on the rise of antisemitism
Eq5 Antisemitism in the UK and Europe (Barnet College/Hendon)
This Union notes:
• The 31% Increase in antisemitic incidents in the UK in 2006 over those in 2005.
• The OSCE Berlin and Cordoba Declarations on the rise of antisemitism
• The Working Definition on Antisemitism of the European Union Monitor Centre
• The Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism in the UK
• Antisemitism is becoming acceptable in the UK including on University campuses.
• Universities must ensure that staff and students work in an atmosphere free from any racial discrimination and intimidation.
• Produce guidelines on antisemitism as part of its anti- racism campaigning.
• Develop programmes with the CRE and The Board of Deputies of British Jews to educate academics and students about the dangers of antisemitism.
• Implement all the recommendations of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism especially those relating to campus antisemitism.
The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks
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
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.