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The Academic Friends of Israel

 The Academic Friends of Israel

 Vol 8 No 3                                                                     3 February 2009  

American academics use Israel’s Gaza operation as the excuse to launch their own boycott campaign.  

Israel’s Gaza operation has provided those opposed to the State of Israel with the excuse they have been waiting for; to hold Israel to higher standards than other countries and expand their boycott call to include not only an academic boycott but also a general and cultural boycott of Israel.  

The recent launch of the US Campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel [see below] along with copycat campaigns in Canada and Australia seems to be too much of a coincidence. In addition trade unionists in South Africa and Norway have also jumped on the bandwagon.  

Will the American campaign for an academic boycott of Israel have any more success than the failed British one? - Almost certainly not especially when one considers the support American academics gave us during the various UCU boycott campaigns.  A prime example of their support was in 2007 when 400 U.S. College Presidents declared that "boycott Israeli universities? Boycott ours, too!" 

The main battleground will be the internet which can at times give a misleading view of how successful the campaign is - just look at how many more pro-boycott blogs there are than anti-boycott blogs.  Equally on some US campuses in the coming months there will no doubt be much pro-boycott activity and debates over academic freedom which will give the impression of a successful campaign.

To achieve their goal American academics will have to be convinced that they should not work with Israeli academia who are world class in certain fields. Their ability has been proved by the immense Israeli contribution to the European Union scientific framework programme and the CERN project. These are projects of such great value to both EU governments and universities as neither can afford to have them cancelled.  Success however depends on how one defines success, as the achievement of the boycott campaign has not been due to the number of boycott actions but to the fact that the issue is in the public domain, resulting in everyone believing a boycott is in operation.  

On the other hand one can say the boycotters have failed because there have been only a handful of known cases of Israeli academics being boycotted; the most notable being when in 2003 UK Professor Andrew Wilkie refused to employ an Israeli student in his laboratory. The side effects of the boycott campaign in Britain and elsewhere have  been firstly to make life more difficult for Jewish and Israeli academics and students on campus who are being continually called on to justify Israel’s actions. Secondly there is the “silent boycott”  when one can never be sure if  refusals to invite Israels or attend conferences that involve Israeli Universities or peer review papers from Israeli academics are connected with the boycott campaign. 

The lesson we have learnt after six years of campaigning against an academic boycott in the UK is that it was a political move from the start which had very little chance of success as 60 percent of UK universities have joint programs and links with Israeli universities. I suspect the figure in the USA will be similar if not higher. Israel's enemies, however, have used the boycott call as a smokescreen, not to help the Palestinians but in order to further their own campaign for Israel's delegitimisation and destruction.  

 Ronnie Fraser

Academic Friends of Israel  

Digest Contents 

1.      The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott

2.    The CUPE Canadian Academic Boycott of Israel

3.    SPME Statement on Discrimination against Israeli Academics and Institutions

4. Israeli Apartheid Week 2009 may be coming to a campus near you

5. European Reactions to Israel's Gaza Operation6. The Post-war Legal Battle 

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1. The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott

In quotes...

"We have no a priori policy with regard to the membership or affiliation of supporters of the boycott so long as they are in accord with the main aims stated in the press release." - David Lloyd, group spokesperson, when asked if the group would accept the endorsement of Hamas supporters. Source
 
"The U.S. has much stronger political culture and laws about freedom of speech than the UK. In America, there is stronger sense that one should be able to think and say whatever one wants." - Jonathan Rynhold, Israeli academic. Source

"What they're trying to do is blurring the distinction between criticism of Israeli policies and criticism of Israel's existence." - Dr Jonathan Rynhold, Israeli academic. Source

"Self-boycott is a difficult concept to realize. But speaking for myself, I would have supported and honored such a boycott had it been proposed by my colleagues overseas." - David Lloyd, group spokesperson, when asked if he would support a boycott of US academics over Iraq. Source

To find out more about the US Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel go to the Zionism on the web resource centre at:
http://www.zionismontheweb.org/academic_boycott/us_academic_boycott_of_israel_american_academics_against_israel/

  

2. The CUPE Canadian Academic Boycott of Israel 

On 5 January 2009 Sid Ryan the President of the Ontario section of the Canadian Union of Public Employees [CUPE] called for a boycott of Israel Academics. After the CUPE National President spoke out against the original motion, calling it "wrong" and saying it would "violate the anti-discrimination standards set out in the CUPE Constitution", a new version of the proposal appeared. This version attacks institutions rather than individuals which is the line now taken by the British UCU boycotters. 

Both of Ryan’s proposals claim to be based on policy passed by the union in 2006. The boycott call has caused outrage in Canada, including from some local branches of the Ontario section of CUPE. 

To find out more about the Canadian anti-Israel academic boycott go to Zionism on the Web’s resource centre about the CUPE Canadian Academic Boycott of Israel at:  http://www.zionismontheweb.org/academic_boycott/canadian_academic_boycott_of_israel/  3.

SPME Statement on Discrimination against Israeli Academics and Institutions 

Our American colleagues, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East have issued a statement on discrimination against Israeli Academics and Institutions as a reaction to events in the University of California system, University of Toronto, McGill University and with the withdrawal of study in Israel programs at the Universities of Pennsylvania, Rutgers and Duke.  

Please support their petition which can be found here:

http://www.spme.net/cgi-bin/display_petitions.cgi?ID=16

We the undersigned members of the academic community are no longer able to tolerate the lies being told by various academic groups to justify their proposals to boycott Israeli academics and academic institutions and to divest from Israel and/or companies doing business in Israel.

Israel has been falsely accused of deliberately targeting civilians, schools, hospitals, and administrative buildings. The reality is that Israel has always made heroic efforts to avoid harming civilians. In the recent Cast Lead campaign, Israel did target the Islamic University, which Fatah and the New York Times had previously identified as a Hamas bomb factory. However, Israel avoided targeting other schools and universities, even when Hamas fighters used them as hideouts and launching pads. Hamas fighters have repeatedly targeted Israeli civilians, schools, and children, and in the past 8 years have murdered more than 1000. In the past few years, Hamas had targeted Sapir College in Sderot and Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, and had deliberately timed Qassam and Katyusha rocket attacks to occur at times of day when Israeli children would be on their way to and from school. Despite the use of the Islamic University for both rocket and mortar attacks as well as for the manufacture of weapons, we are not calling for a boycott of Palestinian academics.

Israel has no interest in undermining education or health care in Gaza. On the contrary, a healthy and well educated population in a prospering Palestinian state is Israel's best hope for peace in the years to come. The people of Gaza know perfectly well that Israel is not trying to massacre them. Whenever possible, they come to Israel for health care and education because they have confidence in Israeli facilities and in the people who work there. And Israeli institutions serve them both out of simple humanity and in order to build bridges to peace.

Most important, singling out Israeli academics and institutions for boycott is discriminatory. No other nation's academics or institutions are being subjected to such action, whether or not their governments are in a state of war. Excusing Israeli academics from the boycott only if they denounce the policies of their government does not mitigate the offense but combines it with an assault on freedom of speech.

We urge rejection of all such discriminatory and oppressive initiatives.  

4. Israeli Apartheid Week 2009 may be coming to a campus near you

Tori Cheifetz

Jerusalem Post

Israeli Apartheid Week will take place on March 1-8 on college campuses in 27 cities internationally, in what has become a growing phenomenon since the annual event was started in 2005.Although the schedule for this year's version has not yet been released, a message on its Web site makes clear what the focus will be: "This year, IAW occurs in the wake of Israel's barbaric assault against the people of Gaza. Lectures, films and actions will make the point that these latest massacres further confirm the true nature of Israeli Apartheid." The event aims "to continue to build and strengthen the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement at a global level," ………

This article can be read at: 

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1233050211942&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull  

5. European Reactions to Israel's Gaza Operation 

Tamas Berzi

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs 

         

This article can be read at:

http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DRIT=1&DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=442&PID=0&IID=2847&TTL=European_Reactions_to_Israel’s_Gaza_Operation 

6. The Post-war Legal Battle

Leslie Susser

The Jerusalem Report

A week after the war, the government instructed Justice Minister Daniel Friedman to prepare Israel's legal argument in the event of any it its nationals being brought to court. The fundamental question, though, goes beyond the legal. Basically, it is a case of competing narratives: Israel which sees itself fighting for its survival against powerful regional enemies, and critics who see it as a nation corrupted by the arrogance of power. The question the fighting in Gaza raises, not so much for the courts, but for the judgment of history is who, ultimately, is responsible for the slaughter of the innocents - Israel or Hamas. ……

This article can be read at: 

http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1233304648549&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull

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.