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The Academic Friends of Israel

The Academic Friends of Israel

 

Vol 7 No 10                                                                                                 3 June 2008 

 

Anthony Julius, acting on behalf of 'certain groups of UCU members' has written to Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary  

 

As expected last Wednesday at their Manchester Congress the UCU passed what they call a motion of solidarity with Palestinian academics. But everybody including the media is calling it an Israeli boycott motion.  Before the debate Sally Hunt the General secretary made a statement saying that Congress had the right to discuss and vote on the motion, but “the National Executive Committee [NEC] will have to consider the motion, take advice and decide what can be implemented”  

 

Anthony Julius, from the firm of Solicitors, Mishcon de Reya, acting for 'certain groups of UCU members' has written to Sally Hunt, General Secretary of UCU. The letter, which sets out his clients concerns that Motion 25 is both a “boycott motion” and anti-Semitic, has been sent in the hope that these concerns will be addressed when the UCU NEC meets on Friday June 13th.  

To read the letter in full see below or go to http://www.academics-for-israel.org/A%20Julius%20letter%20to%20UCU.pdf 

 

This letter along with the legal opinion obtained by the Stop the Boycott Campaign makes it very clear that the UCU, by implementing this resolution would be breaking the race relations law by discriminating against Jewish members of the Union.  

 

The UCU’s boycott move has been condemned by Government Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell who called on lecturers not to boycott Israeli academics and Professor Rick Trainor, President, Universities UK, who said: "We believe strongly that any move that threatens British academic links with Israel, however carefully the UCU's motion is worded, is at odds with the principles of academic freedom……… We need to strengthen existing academic links between Britain and both Israel and the Palestinian Territories, not undermine them.” 

 

The UCU has once again let down it membership because it has failed to realise that this resolution feeds into and fuels the anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli atmosphere on campus which makes for an uncomfortable environment for Jewish students and academics. This situation is not helped on campus by the lack of action by the University authorities themselves who have said in the past that they are concerned about the levels of anti-Semitism.

 

As long ago as February 2003,  the then President of Universities UK, Professor Floud, wrote to the Vice Chancellors of British Universities, urged them to be vigilant against the rise in anti-Semitism on British campuses, saying “It is vital that our universities remain safe places in which all students can go about their studies undisturbed and without fear.”  This was followed in September 2006 by the report of the All-Party Parliamentary inquiry into antisemitsm which recommended that Vice chancellors set up a working party to make British universities free of any expression of racism and take robust action against antisemitsm on campus.  So far as I am aware nothing has yet happened. 

 

 Only a small number of our Vice-Chancellors were willing to make public statements condemning boycotts last year, the majority said nothing or in a few cases said “we support the statement of the Russell group on Universities.” Vice Chancellors have a positive duty under the law to deal with this sort of behaviour and should have policies and systems in place which promote good race relations which allow them to take pre-emptive or immediate action whenever the occasion arises. If Jewish academics cannot depend on their Union to defend them, which they clearly can’t, then they have to demand action from their Vice-Chancellors in order that they can work and teach in an environment that is free from intimidation. 

 Ronnie Fraser 

Director  

Academic Friends of Israel   

Documents and articles relating to the UCU motion 25 passed by Congress 

The joint legal Opinion on UCU motion 25 published by Stop the Boycott http://www.stoptheboycott.org/files/ucu%20opinion_%20Final.PDF 

Stop the Boycott has published an addendum to the joint legal Opinion on UCU motion 25. This takes into account new text in the final UCU conference order paper that did not appear in the initial motions document.

http://www.stoptheboycott.org/news/news/addendum-to-legal-advice 

Anthony Julius  letter to Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary

http://www.academics-for-israel.org/A%20Julius%20letter%20to%20UCU.pdf 

Universities UK statement on Israeli boycott debate

 http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/mediareleases/show.asp?MR=611

Government higher education minister Bill Rammell has called on lecturers not to boycott Israeli academics

http://ukpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5jYw_10AmXikO0Fy9h6EXz9Irvw9w 

UCU:  delegates vote for international solidarity

http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=3320 

Eight Actions That SPME Is Doing And Encouraging It Faculty Network To Do To Counter The British UCU Boycott Actions Against Israeli Academicshttp://www.spme.net/cgi-bin/articles.cgi?ID=4103 

Jerusalem Post : UK union encourages Israeli academia boycott

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1211872839819&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull 

Jewish Chronicle; Academics’ motion seen as a boycott by the back door
http://www.thejc.com/home.aspx?ParentId=m11s18&SecId=18&AId=60367&ATypeId=1 

U.K. academic union mulls boycott of Israeli academia http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/988162.html 

 

The following letter was sent to Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the UCU by Anthony Julius representing various members of the UCU  

 

Sally Hunt
General Secretary UCU
Egmont House
25-31 Tavistock Place
London
WC1H 9UT
United Kingdom
3 June 2008  

BY EMAIL AND POST: SHUNT@UCU.ORG.UK  Dear Ms Hunt

Motion 25

I act for certain groups of UCU members adversely affected in one or more ways by the passing of Motion 25, in respect of which they reserve their legal rights.

The purpose of this letter, however, is not to threaten legal proceedings. Such a letter, couched in more formal terms than the present one, may follow in due course. My clients’ object here is to set out their concerns, in the hope that these concerns will be addressed when the NEC next meets.

Preliminary

On Wednesday 28 May 2008. UCU Congress passed Motion 25. Following a skewed and partial account of one aspect of the Israel — Palestinian conflict, and an affirmation that “criticism of Israel or Israeli policy are [sic] not, as such, antisemitic,” it resolved upon a course of boycott initiatives.

Prior to the vote, you announced, “the union will defend their right to debate this and other issues Implementation of the motion within the law will now fall to the national executive committee.” I understand that the NEC is meeting shortly for this purpose. My clients consider Motion 25 to be both a “boycott motion” and anti-Semitic.

Motion 25 is a boycott motion

That the motion cowers in the shadow of an (unpublished) legal opinion regarding the illegality of last year’s boycott motions does not mean it is not itself a boycott motion. It is merely a craven version of a boycott motion.

The invitation to “colleagues ... to consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions,” the commitment to distribute material intended to promote “discussion by colleagues of the appropriateness of continued educational links with Israeli academic institutions,” and the resolution to “investigate [Ariel College] under the formal Greylisting Procedure,” comprise the opening stages of a campaign of boycott. it would be dishonest to suggest otherwise.

Motion 25 is anti-Semitic

Motion 25 is anti-semitic because it is, in combination:
(i) Irrational, that is: (a) It does not flow from any general principle, given general application. On the contrary. It is no different in character to a motion that resolved to boycott all Jewish-owned businesses considered delinquent, but no other businesses, though similarly or more delinquent. Its promoters could not give a non-anti-Semitic answer to the question: why just those businesses?

(b) It is contrary to the equality principles that the UCU itself embraces, and which it constitutionally binds itself to promote.

(c) It is incoherent on its face. The merely “apparent complicity of most of the Israeli academy” cannot furnish the justification for any sanction by the union. What is “apparent” may not be real. in addition, the “complicity” identified by the Motion is not related to any specified vice, It is enough, it would seem, for the promoters and supporters of the Motion that Israeli academics are “apparently” complicit in some or all of the things that the Motion lists in its opening section. This should not, however, he enough for any rational or fair minded person.
(ii) Continuous with episodes in anti—Semitism's history, that is, in (a) Its completely false claim that attempts were made “to prevent UCU debating boycott of Israeli academic institutions,” which rehearses the anti-Semitic trope that Jews endeavour to stifle free expression in pursuit of their own nefarious interests.

(b) Its stipulation that Jews (“Israeli colleagues”) submit to questioning on their views as a precondition to continued collaboration with UCU members, which revives the anti-Semitic programme that what others may enjoy as of right, Jews must work for.

(c) Its conceptualising of the Israel / Palestine conflict as a melodrama (pure villain confronting pure victim), which reproduces the anti-Semitic scenario of wicked Jews preying upon defenceless and innocent gentiles.

(d) Its proposed boycott of Jews. which has been a staple of anti-Semitic programmes for at least 800 years. Indeed, the history of anti—Semitism is in substantial part the history of boycotts of Jews.
(iii) Frivolous (both intellectually and morally), that is, it is (a) Indifferent to the pain it will cause Jewish members.

(b) Indifferent to anti-Semitism, by implication treating the charge of anti- Semitism as made in bad faith.

(c) Indifferent to the anti-Semitism it will foster.

(d) Dismissive of the possibility that some “criticism” of Israel may indeed be anti-Semitic, and fails to consider whether its own proposals fall within that category.

(e) Ignorant of/indifferent to the impact of a boycott campaign on Israeli society, and/or Palestinian society and/or research projects currently being undertaken by UCU members.
Causes of action

Of course, in the event that Motion 25 is not rescinded or otherwise treated as defunct y the NEC, litigation may well follow. The possible causes of action against the UCU and its trustees have been set out in detail in the unchallenged legal opinion obtained by Stop the Boycott (STB). and there is no need to repeat its contents here.

It is, however, worth elaborating the ambit of the likely claim against the UCU for harassment under s. 3A(l) of the Race Relations Act, that is, the creating of an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and / or offensive environment for Jewish members of the union and/or violating their dignity. Such a claim would rely upon, among other matters:
(a) The conduct of the boycott debate, which (contrary to Standing Orders) was not balanced.

(b) The moderating of the on-line forum for UCU members, known as the “Activists’ List,” which sanctions the open and incontinent expression of anti-Semitic opinion.

(c) The penalising of anti-boycott activists, by exclusion from the Activists’ List or by causing manifestly unfounded allegations of racism against them to proceed to formal inquiry.

(d) The failure to engage adequately or at all with concern regarding the union’s institutional anti-Semitism expressed by Jewish union members and by representative bodies of the Anglo-Jewish community.

(e) The failure to respond adequately to the Report of the Parliamentary Committee against Anti-Semitism.

(f) The rebuffing of Gert Weisskirchen, the OSCE’s special representative on anti-Semitism.

(g) The failure to respond adequately to the steady stream of resignations by Jewish union members from the union.
Motion 25 is just the latest discreditable manifestation of the UCU’s culpable indifference towards Jewish union members, and indeed, to the many Jewish and non-Jewish members who believe that unless an academic union is committed to academic freedom and the equal treatment of academics, it is nothing.

Yours sincerely
Anthony Julius
  

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.