The Academic Friends of Israel

 Vol 8 No5                                                                      29 March 2009 

The View from Britain -The Israel boycott is with us now 

Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown this week will give the pro-boycotters in our unions what they have been waiting for, a “green light” to go ahead and call for a boycott of Israeli goods produced in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.  

This has come about because the Cabinet Office will be hosting a meeting on the 31st March to give supermarkets guidelines about labelling goods from Israeli settlements. Although the guidelines will not be binding are likely to recommend that settlement goods be explicitly labelled. NGO’s OXFAM and Christian Aid who have been highly critical of Israel’s actions towards the Palestinians in recent years have also been invited to attend the meeting [See the Jewish Chronicle article below Back-door boycott fears over labelling”]. 

The knock on effect of this week’s meeting will probably be that the majority of trade union conferences this summer will be discussing motions calling for a boycott of Israeli goods produced in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.  Because they will have the Governments support, the union activists will demand that conferences pass these boycott motions despite of the effect that their actions will have on the 22,500 Palestinians (+their families) who work in the settlements, or that many of the Palestinian and Israelis who work under collective agreements are fellow trade unionists. 

If the resolutions are adopted the TUC and the union leaderships will then have to decide whether they can support these boycott calls  because they know that the Histadrut and the Palestinian Trade union organisation, the PGFTU are cooperating  and talking to each other at present.  However no union can force its members to stop buying Israeli goods.  

For the last 60 years the British Government’s priority when it comes to Israel and the Middle East has been to put its own interests first.  For the last six months the Foreign Office have been promoting a policy aimed at ”curbing settlement building” and recently decided not to move into a new embassy building in Tel Aviv because the building is owned by an Israeli company which has been involved in settlement construction. They have also issued advice to potential purchasers of property in Israeli settlements on land considered to be occupied under international law that they may be affected by any future peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, or between Israel and Syria. 

Although Gordon Brown may personally be very pro-Israel unlike his predecessor Tony Blair, he cannot afford to ignore the opinions of those on the Left of the party or the unions who see Israel as an obstacle to peace. Even though Britain has recently made promises about curbing the rise in antisemitism at the London Parliamentary conference on antisemitism they are still unwilling to tell us when the EUMC definition of antisemitsm will become law.  

This week’s Jewish Chronicle editorial The Israel boycott is with us now” [see below] is correct in its assessment of the current situation when it says:It does not take a genius to work out what will come next after a government sponsored boycott of Israeli goods and a de facto boycott of Israeli people: a wider boycott of Israel. The government talks a reasonable game. But it acts like a street thug. These are worrying times for our community”. 

Ronnie Fraser


Academic Friends of Israel  


The View from Britain

1. Back-door boycott fears over labelling

2. Ministers’ ‘U-turn on war-crime law’

3. The Israel boycott is with us now

4. London embassy questions Guardian's agenda

5. UK Media Analysis: The Gaza Conflict Dec 2008 - Jan 2009


6. The Gaza War and the New Outburst of Anti-Semitism

7. On Campus: The Pro-Palestinians' Real Agenda 

----------------------------------------------------------------------1. Back-door boycott fears over labelling

The Jewish Chronicle

Leon Symons March 26, 2009 

Jewish groups fear a government-backed meeting about the labelling of products from the West Bank may lead to a new “back-door” boycott of Israeli exports to Britain.The meeting is scheduled to be held in the Cabinet Office on Tuesday and invitations have gone out to major retailers, consumer groups and a small number of NGOs. Oxfam is the only group believed to have confirmed that it will attend.  

Just days before the government meeting, a briefing note from the UK Palestinian Solidarity Committee to its supporters says that it is concentrating its boycott actions on Waitrose and Tesco supermarkets this weekend. “On Monday, make sure everyone you know calls Waitrose and Tesco to complain about their sale of Israeli products and illegal Israeli settlement products.The government wants retailers to label produce from the West Bank so that it is clear whether or not it originates from settlements — but it is asking them to label the produce voluntarily……….

To read the full article:   

2. Ministers’ ‘U-turn on war-crime law’

Jewish Chronicle

Anshel Pfeffer and Marcus Dysch  26 Mar 2009

Senior Israeli officials have attacked the British government for reneging on its promise to change a law that allows private citizens to bring war crimes charges against Israeli officers.The failure to alter the legislation effectively bars Israeli top brass from entering Britain for fear they would be arrested on arrival.

“Both the Blair and Brown governments promised us that they would bring the necessary legislation to Parliament,” said a senior Israeli diplomat. “But it is clear now that they never really meant to fulfill that promise.” In a recent unofficial message to Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the British Foreign Office explained that, due to the public mood in Britain following the Gaza operation, the government would not be changing the legislation during the current session of Parliament, as it would be difficult to ensure a majority.

But the JC understands that the Foreign Office had already indicated before the conflict began in December that it would not be able to make the change, and is only now raising Gaza as the reason………….

To read the full article:

3. The Israel boycott is with us now

The Jewish Chronicle Editorial March 26, 2009 

Two separate stories one over arching message. As we report today the government is effectively sticking two fingers up to Israel – and indeed, to Jews. The admission that it now refuses to pass legislation which will stop private prosecutions of war crimes without government assent –legislation which it has, for years, promised that it was on the pint of introducing –is a shocking piece of duplicity, double dealing and hypocrisy.

When, in 2005 IGF General Doron Almog was forced to remain on his plane at Heathrow to avoid arrest, it presaged what now seems to be the certain prospect that any senior Israeli official will face arrest, instigated by hardcore anti –Israel campaigners, if he or she sets foot on British soil. The consequences of this are immense and deeply worrying.  The government claims that it is now powerless to act because; as such it could not get the legislation through Parliament. Leave aside the sheer mendacity of such a claim; this is an active decision by the government, not a passive reaction to events.

Worse is the bare faced hypocrisy of a government which one day tries to cosy up to Jewish voters with fine words about its commitment to fighting antisemitism and the next tell Israeli officials that they are no longer welcome in the UK. Make no mistake: that is what the refusal to stop such private prosecutions really means. Couple that with a willingness to allow the likes of Ibrahim Moussawi[who would, were it not for Hazel Blears and a last minute change of mind by the Home Secretary , be here now] and the latest such Hizbollah official, Dyab Abou Jahjah, into the UK, and the message from Whitehall is pretty clear: Israelis are criminals and we don’t want them here.

Do they really not see the link between such a message and the climate of opinion which engenders antisemitism? But as if that were not bad enough, now comes the revelation that Gordon Brown has convened a meeting to discus the implementation of a scheme designed to facilitate the boycott of goods produced on the west bank – a meeting at which, conveniently and reprehensibly, there will not be a single Israeli or Jewish community representative present . 

It does not take a genius to work out what will come next after a government sponsored boycott of Israeli goods and a de facto boycott of Israeli people: a wider boycott of Israel. The government talks a reasonable game. But it acts like a street thug. These are worrying times for our community.   

4. London Embassy questions Guardian's agenda

By Jonny Paul  Jerusalem Post Mar 25, 2009

The Israeli Embassy in London has questioned the methodology and agenda of The Guardian newspaper after it carried three stories and an editorial over two days attacking Israel and accusing it of committing " war crimes."On Monday, the paper accused Israel of deliberately firing on Palestinian medical staff and indiscriminately killing Palestinian civilians with unmanned aerial vehicles. Then, on Tuesday, it devoted an editorial and another article to accusations the IDF had used civilians as human shields…….. 

To read the full article: 

See also 'Guardian' slammed for 'Hamas propaganda' /servlet/Satellite?cid=1237727530973&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull 

5. UK Media Analysis: The Gaza Conflict Dec 2008 - Jan2009

Just Journalism 

The BBC failed to make a crucial distinction between opinion and fact in their coverage of the conflict • The BBC’s Middle East Editor’s Gaza diary on the BBC website contained highly partial and often emotional commentary but was not identified as opinion 

The Middle East Editor demonstrated a preoccupation with humanizing Palestinian perspectives, impacting negatively on the impartiality of his coverage. Not one of his TV reports contained the personal story of an Israeli 

• 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 

• The Guardian and The Independent published five times as many opinion pieces critical of Israel’s occupation than supportive 

• 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 

• 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 200 – not mentioned in any BBC TV reports and just 8% of all broadsheet news articles 

• Considerable attention was placed on Israel’s restriction on media access to Gaza. However, there was a widespread failure to acknowledge Hamas’ influence on the media environment inside Gaza and its impact on sources and statistics from the territory…………… 

To read the full analysis:  6. The Gaza War and the New Outburst of Anti-Semitism Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs Manfred Gerstenfeld and Tamas Berzi 


 To read the full article: 

 7. On Campus: The Pro-Palestinians' Real Agenda

Khaled Abu Toameh March 24, 2009 

 Khaled Abu Toameh, the Palestinian Jerusalem Post journalist who writes about Israel and the Palestinians, has been visiting American campuses and he found more sympathy there for Hamas than in Ramallah.  It came not from Arab or Muslim students but the so-called pro-Palestinian “junta” on the campuses that have nothing to offer other than hatred and the de-legitimisation of Israel.   Sadly he could have been writing about British campuses, because it is no different here in Britain.

He writes:   During a recent visit to several university campuses in the U.S., I discovered that there is more sympathy for Hamas there than there is in Ramallah.  Listening to some students and professors on these campuses, for a moment I thought I was sitting opposite a Hamas spokesman or a would-be-suicide bomber. 

I was told, for instance, that Israel has no right to exist, that Israel’s “apartheid system” is worse than the one that existed in South Africa and that Operation Cast Lead was launched only because Hamas was beginning to show signs that it was interested in making peace and not because of the rockets that the Islamic movement was launching at Israeli communities……. 

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 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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