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The Academic Friends of Israel
 The Academic Friends of Israel

  

Volume 7 No 5                                                                                      24 March 2008

 

This issue of the digest concerns itself with the National Union of Teachers conference motion to distribute a Palestinian Solidarity Campaign educational pack and the results of the UCU National Executive elections. 
 
 
Starting in this Digest is an events section advertising forthcoming UK events involving Israeli academics. This is part of our policy to further Israeli-UK academic cooperation and understanding.

Ronnie Fraser
Director
Academic Friends of Israel
 
Contents  

1.       National Union of Teachers Conference

2. UCU National Executive elections

3. Contemporary global antisemitism: Report Provided to the United States Congress

4.  Online Antisemitism 2.0 "Social Antisemitism" on the "Social Web"

5.     One in four Israeli academics now works in the United States 

6.     Free Expression and the Rule of Law - lecture by Sir Ken Macdonald QC, The Director of Public Prosecutions

NEW: 7. Forthcoming Events  

To read Ronnie Fraser’s essay: The Academic Boycott of Israel: A Review of the Five-Year UK Campaign to Defeat It, click here

 1. National Union of Teachers Conference 
 
Britain’s largest teaching union, the National Union of Teachers [NUT] is holding its annual conference in Manchester over Easter. There is only one motion down to be discussed in their International debate on Tuesday 25 March. Its main thrust is about war, the role of UK/USA forces in Iraq and the “exploitation of schools for recruitment by the armed forces.”   Almost as an afterthought it instructs the NUT to distribute the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign [PSC] educational pack. The motion, which is expected to be adopted, also marks the 60th anniversary of the "unresolved injustice" of the "banishment of 750,000 Palestinians from their homelands", says that the campaign material "promotes an understanding of the history of this most protracted dispute in the Middle East."

This motion is not about what the Guardian newspaper wants us to believe with its headline on 13 March that “teachers' union looks set to reignite the row over the boycott of Israel.” The NUT has made it clear that the material would be distributed to NUT members not students or schoolchildren but regardless of the content of the PSC education pack, I am fairly certain that this and similar literature would be used by teachers as teaching resources. There are several amendments to the motion down for discussion which one of which supports a two state solution and condemns Hamas and Islamic Jihad for calling for the destruction of the state of Israel. The NUT executive, in its own amendment has made it clear that the union should work with a range of organisations to produce materials dealing with the Middle East., which hopefully would include The Trade Union Friends of Israel and others. 

The NUT and their General Secretary, Steve Sinnott can be counted as friends of Israel and in recent years the union has worked closely with the Israel and Palestinian teaching unions and Education International. They have had a much more balanced approach to the conflict in recent years than has had the UCU and their General Secretary, Sally Hunt. 

We deplore the distribution of any material which concentrates on one side of the debate such as the PSC literature that has been distributed by Britain’s largest trade union  Unison; the NUT must be encouraged to distribute literature that reflects both sides of the debate. It is clear that any decision to distribute only PSC literature to schools will not have the support of the Education Minster or the UK government. Neither does it reflect the NUT / Israeli Teacher’s Union relationship or the reality that has come about with the defeat of the boycott. Many people are fed up with the discussions of boycotts which was foisted on them by a minority of activists and are now keen to learn instead about the positives of Israeli/Palestinian cooperation.

Two things work against us; firstly, the NUT is affiliated to the PSC  as are many of the UK unions and secondly there is very little Jewish input into the NUT which is surprising as 15% of all Jews of working age, work in education, many as teachers in our schools. This means that very few Jewish teachers attend conference and those that do generally support the Palestinian rather than the Israeli point of view.

What this motion does highlight is a lack of preparedness on the part of the Jewish community in the Britain; to my knowledge we still do not have any materials available that are suitable for distribution to schools or Trade Unions that put forward Israel’s case, a situation that needs to be remedied as soon as possible. It is easy to blame the Board of Deputies but in this case it is not wholly their fault as their priority lies in protecting and defending the UK Jewish community  and not to educate non-Jews about Israel.  This episode is only the tip of the iceberg regarding the distribution of materials and resources on the Israel/Palestine conflict to schools. In 2004 the Academic Friends of Israel persuaded a schools news and information website Learnnewsdesk for 10-14 year olds, owned by the Guardian Newspaper to provide a much more balanced view of the conflict. With the amount of information now available to schools and teachers via the internet there is an urgent need to monitor what is being provided and sent to schools.
NUT motion 48 and amendments can be found at: 
2. UCU National Executive elections 
 The UCU Left won 16 of the 33 seats in this month’s election for the 2008-9 UCU National Executive Committee. However only 10% of membership voted, which was even less than for last years election for General Secretary.

Nothing has changed as the Left will continue to hold nearly half the seats on the UCU executive. In addition the UCU President for the coming year is a member of the UCU Left.  Last year the Left whose power base is the ex-NATFHE Further Education Colleges had a substantial majority at Congress when it came to the critical boycott vote. If they decided to increase their delegate numbers at this year’s Congress which it could easily do, then the Left could push through a Left wing agenda which because of their majority and their tight control over their delegates that the executive will be powerless to control. Therefore unless something surprising happens at Congress at the end of May, the pro-Palestinian work International department will continue as before.

We may have an idea of what the UCU Left has planned for UCU Congress conference as they are holding a conference on 29th March in London at SOAS. They may call for action to be taken against Ariel College on the West Bank or support one similar to the NUT motion and that discussed by the students recently at University College in London ; Stop the War, MOD education  in schools [at UCL it was about the armed forces coming into college] and Israel/Palestine.
3. Contemporary global antisemitism: a report provided to the United States Congress 
Contemporary anti-Semitism manifests itself in overt and subtle ways, both in places where sizeable Jewish communities are located and where few Jews live. Anti-Semitic crimes range from acts of violence, including terrorist attacks against Jews, to the desecration and destruction of Jewish property such as synagogues and cemeteries. Anti-Semitic rhetoric, conspiracy theories, and other propaganda circulate widely and rapidly by satellite television, radio, and the Internet.

Anti-Semitism has proven to be an adaptive phenomenon. New forms of anti-Semitism have evolved. They often incorporate elements of traditional anti-Semitism. However, the distinguishing feature of the new anti-Semitism is criticism of Zionism or Israeli policy that—whether intentionally or unintentionally—has the effect of promoting prejudice against all Jews by demonizing Israel and Israelis and attributing Israel’s perceived faults to its Jewish character.

Today, more than 60 years after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is not just a fact of history, it is a current event. Around the globe, responsible governments, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental groups, religious leaders, other respected figures, and ordinary men and women are working to reverse the disturbing trends documented in this report. Much more remains to be done in key areas of education, tolerance promotion, legislation, and law enforcement before anti-Semitism, in all its ugly forms, finally is consigned to the past………….

To read the full report:
http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/102301.pdf 
4. Online Antisemitism 2.0 "Social Antisemitism" on the "Social Web" by Dr Andre Oboler 
Around 2004, changes in technology created Web 2.0.[1] As technology adapted, so did online antisemitism. With the new "social web" came a new "social antisemitism." This Antisemitism 2.0 is the use of online social networking and content collaboration to share demonisation, conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial, and classical antisemitic motifs with a view to creating social acceptability for such content.  This phenomenon is spreading antisemitism and acceptability of antisemitism in new and increasingly effective ways. Social pressures are key to understanding Antisemitism 2.0, which is a combination of the technology and the emerging social environment.
The main threat posed by Web 2.0 to the Jewish people and their supporters is the creation of a culture where antisemitism has social acceptability, particularly among young people, resulting in the lowering of resistance and the establishment of hate networks……….

 
 5. One in four Israeli academics now works in the United States   
This statistic is unprecedented, far greater than that of any other country, and it represents a significant threat to Israeli higher education. The exodus is particularly high in fields such as computer science and economics, but it extends across a broad range of disciplines, the report found.  Among the reasons for the "brain drain" are limited numbers of positions and inadequate salaries at Israeli universities, insufficient research funds, and possibly the isolation of being a nation among enemies. A new report prepared by Professor Dan Ben-David of Tel Aviv University is prompting discussion in Israel.  

6. Free Expression and the Rule of Law

Sir Ken Macdonald QC, Director of Public Prosecutions gave a lecture at   Birmingham Law School on 5 March 2008 titled “Free Expression and the Rule of Law” 
Free speech is a fundamental part of our national life. It is impossible to imagine ourselves as functioning and fulfilled beings without enjoying the grace of this defining human characteristic. Those who have it taken from them seem tragically to forfeit a part of their genetic material. This is deeply ingrained in all of us. And yet for such a cherished freedom, its exercise is often redolent with controversy and violence. It can leave in its wake suffering and even death on a very grand scale. 
The shifting line between freedom and security For prosecutors this is, more prosaically perhaps, epitomised by public debate around decisions to prosecute or not, for example, the Danish cartoon protesters, leaders of the British National Party and people like Abu Hamza. Yet these debates also extend far beyond the criminal law. The attempted boycott of Israeli universities by some British academics and the recent uproar about the knighthood conferred on Salman Rushdie are examples. So is it right that there are boundaries? If so, where do they lie? What's their purpose? What is the line between free speech and crime speech and what is it there for?........... 
7. NEW:  Forthcoming Events  
As part of our policy to further Israeli-UK academic cooperation and understanding AFI will be publishing details of forthcoming UK events involving Israeli academics. 
April 1-6
Visit to the by Prof. David Menashri, Chair for Modern Iranian Studies and Senior Research Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies of Tel Aviv University
For more information call Elinor on: 07817837897 or e-mail: elinor.honigstein@gmx.net 
April 3-4
Visit to the UK by Prof. Trajtenberg at the Eitan Berglas School of Economics at Tel Aviv University and Head of the Israeli Prime Minister's National Economic Council and Chief Economic Advisor to PM Ehud Olmert
For more information call Elinor on: 07817837897 or e-mail: elinor.honigstein@gmx.net
May 27- 28th Talk with Professor Tzvi Mazeh/ Wise Observatory- Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at Tel Aviv University
Details: He can discuss any of the following:
1. A journey in space: the search for extra solar planets
2. The life cycle of our Sun: from birth to death as a white dwarf
3.  Searching for the invisible: how to find stellar black hole in space
4.  The Big bang: modern Astronomy versus Genesis chapter 1.
For more information call Elinor on: 07817837897 or e-mail: elinor.honigstein@gmx.net 
June 2-6
Film Evenings sponsored by Investec and under the banner of ‘Israel at 60’ celebrations.
Details: Annual film screening of award-winning films directed by TAU students
2nd Leeds (in cooperation with the Makor and UJIA)
3-4th The Everyman Cinema, London
5th Ilford/ Sinclair House (in cooperation with Jewish Care)
5-6th Private screening at the London Jewish Community CentreFor more information call Elinor on: 07817837897 or e-mail: elinor.honigstein@gmx.net 
June 12-13
Weizmann UK and University College London Centre for Mathematics and Physics in the Life Sciences and Experimental Biology   ’Biological Complexity: from molecules to systems’
Topics: multimolecular complexes, functional genomics, transcriptional networks, DNA based computing.The event will be co-chaired by Prof Benny Chain from UCL and Prof Tony Futerman from the Weizmann. 9 scientists from the Weizmann Institute are coming to London for this event and each will be bringing a graduate student with them 
For more information call Michelle Jacobs, Weizmann UK, +44 (0)20 7424 6860, or email post@weizmann.org.uk 
August 27 – 30
Visit to the UK by Professor Eytan Ruppin, MD, PhD, School of Computer Sciences & School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University
For more information call Elinor on: 07817837897 or e-mail: elinor.honigstein@gmx.net 
For Further information about UK-Israel academic links go to:  
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.