The Academic Friends of Israel

 Vol 8 No 4                                                             17 February 2009  

Student occupations –Blogs - UCU elections  

The outlook in the UK is gloomy and I’m not talking about the credit crunch. Not only have we suffered the highest number antisemitic incidents ever recorded in one month, but we have also had to contend with student occupations on campus as well as reports which have been published on bias in the media and an analysis of UK involvement in the West Bank settlements.

The Community Security Trust has said that January 2009 was the worst month ever for antisemitic incidents in Britain. The upsurge of over 250 incidents linked to Israel’s Gaza incursion is almost half the total number of antisemitic incidents in 2008. Israel’s invasion of Gaza has led to 21 student occupations so far at our universities.*

The students’ demands have all been fairly similar: a University statement condemning Israel’s invasion, the creation of a scholarship programme for Palestinian students, twinning with the Islamic University of Gaza, the showing the Gaza appeal, the one the BBC refused to broadcast and the suspension of links with defence companies especially those involved in supplying arms to Israel. 

Other demands are based on the Durban conference boycott, divestments and sanctions programme requiring the universities to divest from companies that are involved in supporting the Israeli “occupation” such as Caterpillar and a ban on the sale of Israeli food and drink products on campus.  

Our university authorities have dealt with the occupations in different ways ranging from reaching a settlement within 24 hours to the forcible eviction of the students, the majority of them issuing statements which meet their students’ demands. Strathclyde University in Scotland went one step further and cancelled its contract with its main water cooler supplier, the Israeli owned company, Eden Springs.  

The students’ grass roots action which is by no means over has lessons for everyone. It has been organised by use of blogs, texts and social networking sites. The National Union of Students [NUS] has been completely sidelined and has had no input or control of the actions. 

In recent years the leaders of Anglo-Jewry have had to contend with many threats to our community including an academic boycott of Israel and they have been talking to both the Government and the Universities during the last month. The Union of Jewish students has also been working hard but like NUS they have only been able to monitor rather than influence events.  The rise in antisemitism is because British Jews are being held responsible for the actions of the state of Israel and the rhetoric used often fails to distinguish between Jews and Israelis.  

Anglo Jewry’s failure to learn from their inaction in the 1970’s, the era of “Zionism is racism” has come home to roost both on campus and with the trade unions. The Vice-Chancellors of our universities have shown in the last month that they have the power to deal with student activism if they want to. How they react depends on their personal experience which often includes their opposition to apartheid in South Africa. However their knowledge and understanding of Israel or what is antisemitism is often limited and inaccurate. I have written many times in the past calling for educational programmes for both senior academics and students which include visits to Israel - yet all to no avail.  

My worry is that the current generation of students is being brought up on a diet of “Israel is a racist and apartheid state” and these experiences will be with them for the rest of their life. How will they react in 25 years time when they are in positions of power and influence towards the actions of the state of Israel? 

What Israel’s Gaza operation and the student occupations have shown is that we need not only a presence on TV and in the media but also in the unregulated world of the internet throughout the world.  A Google search for blogs which mention, for example “boycott Israel” brought up 30,000 postings in the last month, the overwhelming majority promoting the Palestinian narrative. By comparison there were only 3000 postings about massacre of thousands of Tamils in Sri Lanka. 

Unlike reports in newspapers once information or opinions are out there on the internet, it is there for ever no matter if it is inaccurate or out of date- the “Jenin massacre” is a perfect example of this.  It is now more urgent than ever that as many of us as possible make the time to answer these blogs. If you need information or help to start doing this, email me.  

Ronnie Fraser 


Academic Friends of Israel   

* The universities occupied have been SOAS, LSE, Essex, King’s College, Birmingham, Sussex, Warwick, Manchester Met, Oxford, Leeds, Cambridge, Sheffield Hallam, Bradford, Nottingham, Queen Mary’s, Manchester, Strathclyde, University of East Anglia, Glasgow, Goldsmiths and  Bradford

 Digest Contents 

1. Just Journalism 'Gaza Conflict, Dec 2008-Jan 2009:A Media Analysis'

2. UK economic links with Israeli settlements in the West Bank

3. UCU elections for members of the UCU National Executive

4. UCU President, Vice President and UCU Left NEC Members in “Solidarity” With Student Occupations

5. The jihad against Britain's Jews

6. Zionism and the global antisemitic frenzy

7. Anti-Zionism and the Abuse of Academic Freedom: A Case     Study at the University of California, Santa Cruz

8. Double Standard Watch: Stop contributing to Hampshire College USA 


1. Just Journalism 'Gaza Conflict, Dec 2008-Jan 2009: A Media Analysis'

The report analyses coverage from the UK broadsheets and selected BBC output. Key findings include:
The BBC failed to make a crucial distinction between comment and fact, particularly in its website
The UK media significantly under-represented the nature of Hamas and its policies towards Israel, particularly its use of violence and rejection of Israel’s right to exist. In the first week of the conflict, only 5% of broadsheet news articles, 6% of monitored radio reports and 10% of monitored TV reports mentioned any aspects of Hamas' stance towards Israel
75% of the Financial Times' editorials and 71% of The Guardian's editorials were less favourable than favourable towards Israel's operation. Neither paper published a favourable editorial. The Times published the greatest proportion of neutral editorials - 50% of their editorials on the conflict
More generally, the broadsheets demonstrated an even balance of perspectives in their editorials throughout the conflict. Of all editorials, 34% were classified as neutral about Israel's operation in Gaza, 32% took a less favourable stance and 34% were more favourable
 Two crucial aspects of the recent conflict between

Israel and Hamas were widely under-reported:

that Hamas had been attacking areas of southern Israel since 2001 - mentioned in no monitored BBC TV reports and in only 10% of all broadsheet news articles - and that Israel unilaterally disengaged from Gaza in 2005 - not mentioned in any BBC TV reports and just 8% of all broadsheet news articles 

The BBC did not sufficiently differentiate between civilian and Hamas casualties. Only 11% of monitored radio broadcasts and 10% of monitored TV broadcasts made this distinction. However, 40% of broadsheet press articles made the distinction. 

To download the report, go to  

For Just Journalism’s analysis of coverage of the Israeli elections go to  

2. UK economic links with Israeli settlements in the West Bank

This campaigning document investigates UK economic links with Israeli settlements in the West Bank has been produced under the guise of a “research paper” by the Sir Joseph Hotung Programme for Law, Human Rights and Peace Building in the Middle East, at SOAS.  It is published shortly after the UK Government’s recent request to fellow EU member states to label goods as coming from the settlements and at a time when there are moves on campus to divest from Israeli companies and ban Israeli goods. 

To read the document:

3. UCU elections for members of the UCU National Executive 

All UCU members will have now received elections for the next year’s national executive. The academic boycott of Israel is an issue that everybody knows is there but nobody has mentioned it in their election address. 

You will find a spread sheet here with the names of all the candidates and as much information as we have been able to find about their views on boycotts.  

The UCU Left is a national organisation of University and College Union activists who are opposed to imperialist wars and imperialism. The UCU Left candidates are endorsed by the Socialist Workers Party [SWP] which supports the Palestinian right of return which would destroy the basis of Israel as a Jewish state with a single secular and democratic Palestinian state.  

We do not recommend voting for any of the UCU Left candidates   

Voting will be by single transferable vote which means members can if they wish number their ballot papers in the order of their preferred candidates. We advise limiting your choices to your favoured candidates and no others.  

The Academic Friends of Israel has joined with Engage an on the spread sheet is attached spreadsheet list is our list of recommended candidates. 

If you have any questions or comments feel free to email me on the above address. 

4. UCU President, Vice President and UCU Left NEC Members in “Solidarity” With Student Occupations 

Here is a letter that is being circulated by the Socialist Workers’ Party aligned bloc of the NEC of the UCU: 

Statement of support for student occupations over Gaza from members of the UCU union NEC 

As members of the University and College Union National Executive Committee, we would like to send solidarity greetings to the students in the 17 universities who have occupied their universities in protest over the Gaza crisis. This is the largest wave of occupations for over a quarter of a century. Too often, the media seek to portray this generation of students as ones who do not share the aspirations of the 1968 generation - and deride you as, “Generation Apathy”.

Your actions have decisively dispelled this myth. Your demands to secure disinvestment by universities from companies involved in selling arms to Israel and free scholarships for students from Gaza show your humanity. You speak for the millions of young people throughout the world who are sick and tired of war and injustice, who simply desire a world in which the young grow up not knowing what it is like to kill and maim……. 

To read the full letter and list of signatories: 

5. The jihad against Britain's Jews

Melanie Phillips

I am hearing ever more alarming accounts of the deepening attrition against British Jews in the wake of the incitement against Israel provoked by the war in Gaza. In addition to the record number of attacks upon Jewish individuals and institutions and murderous incitement displayed on the anti-Israel demonstrations and riots as reported by the Community Security Trust, Jewish parents report that their children – some as young as eight – are now running a gauntlet of attack from their Muslim classmates at school who accuse them of ‘killing Palestinian children’.  

Comments by adults about ‘Jews controlling all the money/the media/the BBC’ (yes, really! All because it allowed Israel’s spokesman to put the case for Israel from time to time) are now commonplace in both private and public discourse. Today’s Jewish Chronicle reports that a 12 year-old Birmingham schoolgirl was terrorised by a mob of 20 youths chanting ‘Kill all Jews’ and ‘Death to Jews’ on her way home from school last week……….. 

To read the article:  

6. Zionism and the global anti-Semitic frenzy

Isi Leibler

The Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism is meeting today in London in the wake of the Gaza campaign, which ignited an exponential eruption of global anti-Semitic frenzy unprecedented since the Nazi era. The intensity of the anti-Jewish rage, frequently accompanied by acts of violence, has engendered fear and anxiety among Diaspora Jews and obliged many to seriously ponder their long-term future.

On every continent and in virtually every city, enraged demonstrators have railed against Israel and indulged in anti-Semitic calls to “boycott Jews,” “gas” them and “dismantle the Nazi Israeli state.” The anti-Jewish offensives, usually initiated by Arabs, have been supported by wide spectrums of indigenous citizens.Jew-baiting is especially intense in the UK. Prominent Jews encounter death threats. Students at Oxford University have gleefully proclaimed that in five years, their campus “would be a Jew-free zone.” A high-ranking British diplomat was arrested after publicly launching a foul-mouthed anti-Semitic tirade……. 

To read the full article:  

7. Anti-Zionism and the Abuse of Academic Freedom: A Case Study at the University of California, Santa Cruz

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin  

       To read the full essay:


 8. Double Standard Watch: Stop contributing to Hampshire College USA

Alan Dershowitz  

Several months ago, a rabidly anti-Israel group on the Hampshire College campus began a campaign to try to get the college to divest from six companies that they claim helped "the Israeli occupation of Palestine." Those who came up with this formulation regard all of Israel, including Tel Aviv, Haifa and Ben Gurion Airport, as "occupied Palestine." In other words, their goal is to end the existence of Israel.  This divestment effort is part of an international campaign against Israel.

 Until now, every American university administration has categorically rejected this attempt to single out Israel in a world filled with massive human rights abusers. But Hampshire caved in to student and faculty pressure and as Board of Directors agreed to divest from these six companies along with a series of others that did not meet the standards of Hampshire College………  

To read the full article: 


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 EastAndrew R. Marks, M.D. - Columbia University, USA

Dr Robin Stamler

Professor Leslie Wagner CBE

Rt Hon Lord Young of Graffham 

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