The Academic Friends of Israel

 Vol 8 No 6                                                                          4 May 2009  

Britain’s Trade Unions vote to boycott goods from the territories  


                 The recent decisions of the UK Government to support the labelling of goods from the territories, as well as a promise to review arms sales to Israel in the light of Israel’s Gaza campaign has given the trade union activists in Britain the momentum they need for a sustained boycott, divestment and sanctions[BDS] campaign this summer directed at Israel.

               The first two unions to vote for a boycott are the National Union of Teachers [NUT] and the Scottish Trades Union Congress [STUC].In addition the general workers union Unite provided the STUC in April 2009 with an Executive Council statement which  encourages its members to boycott goods, especially agricultural produce from the settlements as well as agreeing to investigate the union’s holdings in companies engaged in building the separation wall and divest from them.

Ronnie Fraser


Academic Friends of Israel  


Digest Contents

The View from Britain

1. National Union of Teachers

2. Scottish Trades Union Congress

3. The University and College Lecturers Union [UCU]

4. TULIP - Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine  


5. Statement by AFT President Randi Weingarten on a Proposed     Academic Boycott of Israel

6. University of California faculty initiate petition to rescind study abroad programme in Israel

7. Israel attacks ‘hide antisemitism’

8. Rise in antisemitic attacks worldwide

9. How Durban II Undermined Human Rights - Anne Bayefsky

10. Why did we come?" – Political NGOs Marginalized at theDurban Review Conference 


1. National Union of Teachers  

         “The recent escalation of violence in Israel/Gaza has caused much distress and anger.  In the UK increasing level of racism against Muslim and the Jewish communities in particular are a consequence of events in the Middle East, the life of a school is strongly influenced by such outside factors and challenges the work of teachers” – These are not my words they come from advice for teachers issued by the National Union of Teachers [NUT] on how to deal with issues such as discrimination and racism arising from the Gaza conflict.

                The advice also states that teachers have a duty when discussing the conflict in the Middle East to seek to promote dialogue and analyse sources for bias and balance.    All these good intentions have been thrown out of the window by the decision of the NUT annual conference in early April to pass a resolution calling on the British Government to ban all imports from Israeli settlements as well as to encourage its members to boycott goods, especially agricultural produce from the settlements.  

              Christine Blower, the NUT Acting General Secretary, wrote to MP’s and others in advance of the conference saying that The NUT is not anti-Israeli  and teachers are bound by law not to promote partisan political views.  She also said that the NUT’s international work in areas of conflict is based on the promotion of peace and understanding.  When will the NUT realise that motions of this nature encourage discrimination and are divisive and upsetting for both Jewish pupils and staff and do nothing to bring peace and harmony to Britain let alone the Middle East?  

                     It is unclear how the NUT executive will react to this resolution as the NUT has been working with the Israeli Teachers union [ITU] for the last two years on a programme which develops materials for teachers on antisemitism and Islamophobia.   The NUT is being disingenuous if it goes ahead and instructs its members to promote partisan political views in the classroom at the same time as asking them to support a boycott of Israeli goods outside school and wanting to continue its work with the ITU. 

The NUT’s advice for teachers on the Gaza conflict: 

The NUT conference 2009 resolution “stop the spread of war”



 2. Scottish Trades Union Congress 

             Last month the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), the umbrella organization of all trade unions in Scotland passed a resolution to boycott Israeli goods as well as to "review" its relationship with the Histadrut. The STUC wants to retain its links with Histadrut, not least so it can explain its position on BDS to the Israeli trade union movement.   

                  The vote came after the STUC General Council had presented a report calling for a boycott, disinvestments and sanctions against Israel "until it complies with international laws and agreed principles of human rights." The call was supported by a plea to all Scottish trade unions to support the boycott, divest in Israeli companies and call for sanctions.  

                  They envisage “a targeted consumer led boycott, where trade union members should not put their own jobs at risk by refusing to deal with Israeli products, or work with organisations that are involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestine” as well as ensuring that the STUC’s  decision does not impact detrimentally upon communities in Scotland.

               The STUC also “recognises the place of Israeli goods, such as kosher products, in Jewish religious observance, and wishes to ensure that a consumer boycott is targeted so that it does not affect, as far as practicable, religious observance.” This report appears to be a carefully crafted paper which they hope will not attract any legal challenges. However, Ephraim Borowski, Director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities in Scotland,  said “It is a principle of the Race Relations Act that actions have to be judged by their effects, not what people self-servingly declare to be their intent, and we have no doubt whatever that this action is in breach of the Act.” 

                Like the NUT the STUC wants to face both ways at the same time and one wonders if these people live in the real world. 

 For more information read: Top Scottish trade union body supports Israel boycott - Jerusalem Post 

Scottish union boycott ‘will breach Race Act’ – The Jewish Chronicle  

The STUC's Delegation report on Palestine: 

 STUC General Council document outlining their reasons for supporting Boycotts, Divestment and sanctions against Israel: 

To read about Trade Union and Other Boycotts of Israel in Great Britain by Ronnie Fraser 


 3. The University and College Lecturers Union [UCU]  

             The good news is that the motions for the UCU annual conference at the end of May have been published and do not call for an academic boycott of Israel but like the NUT and STUC they call for a ban on imports of all goods from Israeli settlements in West Bank. They also demand that the British government expels the Israeli ambassador.  The UCU continues to be the most anti-Israel union in Britain with five motions condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza.

              It is regrettable that the UCU continues to place Israel at the top of their list of international issues without balancing it with a condemnation of those in the Arab world who are not willing to recognise the existence of the State of Israel. It is not 100% certain that an academic boycott will not be discussed as UCU branches can send in amendments and these will not be published until later this month.

            As the issue is still “live” with the union one cannot believe that the boycotters will not try to insert wording that could be interpreted as a call for a boycott. In the recent national executive elections  Sue Blackwell one of the original boycotters lost her seat on the NEC, otherwise nothing has changed as the Far Left still has control, so their ”Israel bashing” will continue. 

                 The UCU conference will also debate a motion instructing the union to campaign against Antisemitism. The UCU’s motives for a campaign against antisemitism now are unclear as one asks how can the UCU which has previously said that it does not accept the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee against Antisemitism Report into antisemitism or the EUMC definition of antisemitism, now want to campaign against the rise of antisemitism. It first has to clearly understand and publicly acknowledge that antisemitsm exists on both the left and the right and is a threat to Anglo Jewry” 

To read the UCU motions:


4. TULIP - Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine 

               Trade union leaders from three continents have announced the launch of a new global movement “to challenge the apologists for Hamas and Hizbollah in the labour movement” and to fight for a two-state solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The movement is called TULIP - Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine.

               The leaders are Paul Howes, national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (USA), and Michael J. Leahy, OBE, General Secretary of Community (United Kingdom).

                They have issued a founding statement which states: …..At the moment, the opponents of a two-state solution are on the offensive, working hard to promote their destructive agenda of boycotts and sanctions targetting Israel.It’s time for trade unionists in all countries to go on the offensive ourselves, to challenge the apologists for Hamas and Hizbollah in the labour movement.

          We have no illusions that this will be anything other than a long and difficult process.  But we also know that we have no choice.  We cannot abandon the field to those whose goal is the destruction of any chance for a real Israeli-Palestinian peace.......

To read the full statement:

New group to fight anti-Israel boycotts - Jerusalem Post 


5. Statement by AFT President Randi Weingarten on a Proposed     Academic Boycott of Israel  

              The American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has issued a statement condemning the campaign to boycott Israeli academics, supporting academic freedom and supporting open and informed debate about the Israeli Palestinian conflict 

To read the full statement 


6.University of California faculty initiate petition to rescind study abroad program in Israel – Tammi Benjamin 

                   If you want to understand the extent of the anti-Israel animus of some faculty at the University of California, consider the following:  The Education Abroad Program (EAP) to Israel, after 7 years of having been suspended because of security concerns, is scheduled to reopen in fall 2009.  This is a tremendous boon for many UC students, who have sorely missed the unique educational opportunities that a semester or year of study in Israel can afford them.  However, a number of UC faculty have initiated a petition (forwarded below) demanding that the decision to reopen the EAP program in Israel be rescinded because of Israel's alleged human rights violations. 

             It's important to point out that the University of California has EAP programs in 34 countries, several with human rights records considerably worse than Israel (eg. Egypt, China, Russia).  Yet as far as I know, there has been no UC faculty-initiated campaign to close down the EAP programs to any other country.  The UC faculty who have signed this petition have unfairly targeted Israel for opprobrium, but even worse, they have unfairly targeted the UC students who have waited 7 long years to avail themselves of this important educational opportunity. 

                 Please consider sending an email to Michael Cowan, the Acting Executive Director of the UC EAP Program, and/or UC President Mark Yudof, expressing your support for EAP in Israel and your gratitude to the UC administration for having reinstated it: 

Michael Cowan - and Mark Yudof -    

March 31, 2009 

Michael Cowan,

Acting Executive Director

University of California Education Abroad ProgramUniversitywide

Office of EAP

6950 Hollister Avenue,

Suite 200Goleta,

CA 93117-5823 

Dear Dr. Cowan: 

We, the undersigned, are faculty of the University of California and supporters of the Education Abroad Program (EAP). We write to express serious concerns about the plan to restart the UC EAP in Israel at a time when Palestinian education in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem has been disrupted or made impossible as a result of Israeli policies. If the reopening goes forward, the likelihood that some UC students will face discriminatory treatment if they seek to partake in this program raises additional and separate concerns…….. T

o read the full letter and list of signatories 


7. Israel attacks ‘hide antisemitism’ The Jewish Chronicle 

         The majority of people believe criticism of Israel is often used as a cover for antisemitism, a survey looking at attitudes towards the Holocaust has revealed.Commissioned by the Holocaust Centre in Nottingham to coincide with Yom Ha’Shoah , the questionnaire investigated how Shoah education influences public perceptions of Jews compared to the effect of media coverage of Israel. It found that 54 per cent of British residents think that although criticising Israeli government actions is sometimes legitimate, such criticisms are often based in antisemitic beliefs. One-third of those questioned said criticism of Israel is always legitimate…….. 

To read the full article: 



8. Rise in antisemitic attacks worldwide The Jewish chronicle 


                Holocaust images are increasingly used in antisemitic attacks worldwide, according to a new survey. The survey, carried out by Tel Aviv University and the European Jewish Congress, shows the number of incidents increasing gradually from 1989 to 2007, peaking in 2007 and dropping slightly in 2008. The start of 2009 saw sharp increases, triggered by the economic crisis and war in Gaza.  According to the report, “Antisemitic expressions during the last months of 2008 and beginning of 2009 were not classic stereotyping of the Jews but abuse of the Holocaust… as a political tool against Israel.”  

                  The report survey blames widespread ignorance combined with a European weariness towards the Holocaust. “Its burdensome, lingering memory generates fatigue of the Jewish people because of what seems to be their constant harping on their image at the ultimate victim, without regret for the many other tragedies that have happened since in the world.” 


To read the survey: 


 8. How Durban II Undermined Human Rights - Anne Bayefsky

The U.N. conference degrades the very causes it says it fights for.

                 Durban II, the U.N. conference in Geneva that ended on Friday, will forever be remembered for handing a global megaphone to genocidal hatemonger Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the name of combating racism. By the end of the week-long jamboree, even the South African ambassador insisted that participants stop referring to the meeting as Durban II because "it is maligning my country."

              But the facts aren't stopping the U.N. apparatus from already attempting to rewrite history. Navanethem Pillay, U.N. high commissioner for human rights and secretary-general of Durban II, called a news conference on Friday hours before the adoption of the final declaration to claim Durban II was "a celebration of tolerance and dignity for all." Well, not quite all……….

To read the full article: 


10. “Why did we come?" – Political NGOs Marginalized at the Durban Review Conference – NGO monitor


              NGO representatives expressed disappointment and alienation regarding NGO participation in the Durban Review Conference. Speakers complained that their attendance at the conference was irrelevant and futile. The Outcome Document was adopted before the NGOs had the opportunity to address the plenary. These groups were only permitted to participate in the general debate on the last agenda item. UN staff explained that NGO influence was important for implementation and follow-up. The interaction between the UN and NGOs highlights the latter’s ambiguous status in the UN framework and the questions about whom they represent……. 






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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