The Academic Friends of Israel
Vol 7 No 11 8 July 2008
This edition concentrates on the British Trade Union movement and its links with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign [PSC]. There is also a UCU update and news of a new venture, the Middle East Strategic Information (MESI) project.
Academic Friends of Israel
Ever since the UCU adopted last month its boycott motion 25 there has been a steady stream of resignations from members who no longer want to belong to a racist and discriminatory union. Even though the legal opinion obtained by the Jewish community branded the resolution as antisemitic and in breach of the race relations legislation, the UCU and its officers have not said or done anything to reassure Jewish members that they should continue with their membership. That they have allowed a large number of members to resign or not renew their membership over the boycott issue says all you need to know about the union. They appear not to care about or to have any interest in their Jewish members or why they are resigning.
This attitude is confirmed by what happened at the National Executive Committee [NEC] meeting of the UCU in June where, we were told they would discuss implementation of Resolution 25. What actually happened was that the UCU senior management team decided prior to the NEC meeting that motion 25 would be forwarded to the Strategy and Finance committee [SFC]. The SFC was presented with further legal advice at its meeting last week and decided to form an international working group which would give a recommendation on how to implement the resolution. It is therefore unlikely that any decision will be taken by the union until the autumn.
Motion 25 instructs the union to start the procedure to “greylist “Ariel College on the West Bank. The union has consistently denied that “greylisting” is a boycott, yet Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary, clarified its meaning when she wrote last month in an email to UCU members saying that “grey listing” is a voluntary boycott.
We now appear to be entering a new phase in the campaign because up until now those opposed to a boycott have never been able to directly challenge the UCU or the boycotters. By publishing their legal opinion the leaders of UK Jewish community have set the agenda with the UCU and have put themselves in a position where they are able to confront antisemitism on campus. We must hope that they will see this as the opportune moment to confront antisemitism in Britain and not wait to long as this would be seen by our enemies as their opportunity to press ahead with their antisemitic anti-Israel agenda.
The UCU has given its members especially its Jewish ones many reasons for resigning but the only reason one should stay is to fight the UCU over its antisemitism. Unless we challenge it conditions for Jewish members can only get worse. The Union can be considered a snapshot of British society because antisemitic discourse has now entered everyday discussion and often passes without challenge. The Anglo-Jewish community’s long term future in Britain depends on its ability to confront antisemitsm and the UCU is the front line.
The British Trade Union movement
AFI is often asked “Do the trade unions matter anymore?” or “Are we placing too much emphasis on the trade union movement by reporting every boycott move they make?”
The Unions still matter because they represent 6.5 million workers in the UK especially in public services sector which includes education as well as being involved internationally in bodies such as Education International or the International Trade Union confederation. This is the real battle ground because these bodies can be used by the Israels enemies to pass policies that are similar to those propagated by the UCU. Groups like the Trade union Friends of Israel are important because they publicise the work of the Israeli trade union movement and joint Palestinian/Israeli union cooperation which often involves UK Unions. In addition it is likely the UK Trade Union movement in the near future will regain some of its power and influence within the Labour party because the Labour party is currently in the midst of a funding crisis.
We are now well into the Trade Union conference season which will culminate at the TUC in the first week in September. The UCU has given the British trade union movement a bad name and image so that many of union leaders have decided that even if they support the Palestinians they do not want the problems that the UCU has and steer clear of a boycott policy.
The Rail and Maritime Transport Union [RMT] at its 2008 Annual General Meeting abandoned its ‘boycott’ policy and voted by a more than two-thirds majority for a two states, pro-solidarity, anti-boycott, anti-Hamas position on Israel/Palestine, overturning existing pro-boycott policy.
Unison the largest trade union in the UK has passed a motion which doesn’t directly call for a boycott but instructs their leadership to give the PSC maximum publicity and support [see below] and raise the issue of Palestine with unions abroad and especially the global and European trade union federations to which Unison is affiliated.
To read the full motion: http://cms.unison.co.uk/MotionText.asp?DocumentID=999068
The general workers union, the GMB also held its conference last month. It has a policy of working with unions on both sides and does not have a policy on boycotts, having neither voted for or against such as policy.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign [PSC]
All the major UK Trade Unions including the UCU are affiliated to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign [PSC] and several of them actively promote PSC policies and literature. The PSC actively supports the PACBI call for a cultural and sporting boycott of Israel along with a campaign for a general boycott of Israeli goods. Future PSC plans discussed at a recent workshop in London include:
1. Consumer Action - Relaunching the boycotting of Israeli goods campaign which they hope will persuade the general public to support a general boycott.
2. Intensive campaigns directed at companies such as Agrexco (agricultural exports), Veolia (Jerusalem tramway), Eden Springs (water from the Golan) and Leviev Diamonds which will involve lobbying of the company HQ and customers including shops, local councils and educational institutions.
3. Protests against the trading and academic links that the European Union has with Israel.
4. Academic Boycott - academic members and encourage academics and students to become BRICUP supporters and undertake silent (personal) boycotting, and collect information on universities' research and other links with Israel.
5. Campaigning for a Cultural and Sporting boycott based on the Palestinian cultural and sporting boycott call. They will campaign against sporting links with Israel and write to artists travelling to Israel, details of which will be entered on a 'hall of shame and fame' website.
6. Divestment - The PSC will work with Trade Union officers and members and pension fund managers to get information on the make-up of Pension and investment funds to call for divestment.
7. Faith Group Action –They are planning to work through Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities to support the consumer action, cultural, and divestment campaigns.8. Trade Union Action There will be continuing contact and joint actions with Trade Unions in Palestine, encouragement of twinning, and a discussion of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions work in the Trade Union movement.
We have a situation in Britain where many trade unions do not want to end up in a mess like the UCU and have not passed boycott motions as such but are affiliated to the PSC and promote PSC policies which include boycott and divestment. This is effectively a back-door endorsement of a boycott and I am sure that many senior union officials are aware of this arrangement which allows them to work with the Histadrut whilst same time supporting an organisation that campaigns for a boycott of Israel.
If only a fraction of the PSC plans come to fruition there will be further discrimination against the Jewish community which is a threat that they ignore at their peril. As with the UCU which still fails to recognise that their boycott motions have brought with them antisemitic rhetoric other campaigns such as these which call for boycotts of Israel will do likewise.
Middle East Strategic Information (MESI)
The Middle East Strategic Information (MESI) project provides a unique in-depth analysis of the Middle East and its strategic issues as they relate to the UK, the West and the outside world. The MESI informs beyond the headlines and presents news and evaluations that provide important relevant data to the understanding of the Middle East. The project is directed by former Ambassador to the UK and Ireland, Yehuda Avner, who was also an advisor to five Israeli prime-ministers. Many people in the West believe that the terrorism they suffer from is different to the terrorist threats that Israel faces. There is a major disconnect in thinking that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is only about land and occupation, when the same ideology drives people to commit these terrible acts whether in New York, London or Tel Aviv.
There is also the myth that if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict went away or was resolved, the Middle East would be a harmonious place. Also, that the Arab World and Islam would have no other issues of conflict with the West. The site takes much of its information from Arabic websites to gain a greater insight into the differing events and voices in the Middle East. What makes us unique is as part of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a leading think-tank in the Middle East; the MESI has access to senior politicians, diplomats, high-ranking security officials, academics, legal experts and strategists from Israel and around the Middle East. These provide MESI with an important infrastructure to disseminate a professional and credible analysis of events from the region. We also have our own experts who write exclusively for the MESI project, most of whom are familiar with Arabic and Persian which enables them to have access to news and events not available to the English-speaking world.
Please visit the website www.mesi.org.uk , send the link to others and subscribe to the MESI analysis by entering your email in the left-hand column.
The editor, Ashley Perry can be contacted by email firstname.lastname@example.org
His recent article “The ethnic cleansing of Arabic Jews” can be found at:
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
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