The Academic Friends of Israel

 AFI Digest: Vol 8 No 9                                                                5 October 2009  


1.     TUC to votes for Israel boycott

2.   Anti-Israel seminar at the Norwegian University

3.   Spanish Academic Boycott of Israel

4.   The Muslim Association of Britain and the blood libel

5.    Facebook, Holocaust Denial, and Anti-Semitism 2.0

6.   Academics Against Israel and the Jews



1. TUC to votes for Israel boycott 


“British trade unions to boycott Israeli goods” screamed the headline in the Jerusalem Post yet the headline in the Times on the same day read “TUC backs off from Israel consumer boycott.” 

In order to clear up the confusion over what the Trades Union Congress [TUC], the umbrella group for Britain’s trade union movement actually decided, here is our guide to their boycott decision and its implications.  

What did the TUC decide? 

Apart from the usual condemnations of Israel’s Gaza operation and the call for a ban on arms sales to Israel the key points in the TUC statement are:

Does the decision to boycott goods from the settlements matter? 

It will have very little effect at a consumer level, as the unions do not have the power to stop their members buying Israeli goods, especially as most union members will not even be aware of the TUC’s boycott decision. However the TUC’s  decisions matter on a political and campaigning level in the UK  because the TUC now joins other high profile names including some Non- Governmental Organisations [NGO’s], and some sections of the media  who can be named as supporters for a boycott of goods from the settlements in the West Bank. The British Government can also be considered a party to this campaign as they support the labelling of goods from the settlements.  By having decided to support a boycott of goods from the settlements this year, it will be easier for the TUC to support a full boycott of Israel in the future.   

Will the decision affect relations with the Histadrut and other trade unions?  

As the oldest trade union movement in the world, TUC is a well respected organisation and plays a major part in the International trade union movement. Its decision to support a boycott is however at odds with the international movement, the ITUC, which actively supports working with the Histadrut and the Palestinian trade union movement, the PGFTU.  Although the TUC likes to say it works with both sides it has had very little contact with the Histadrut in recent years.  There is a danger however that the international boycott movement now will use the TUC’s name in their campaign to convince other trade unions to support for a boycott of Israeli goods. The Histadrut which was founded in 1920 is one of the largest and oldest trade union movements in the Middle East has a good working relationship with the PGFTU and has recently signed several agreements with them, one of which was brokered by the ITUC. 

The implications of the decision to work with the PSC 

Despite its innocuous sounding name the PSC is responsible for the organisation and strategy of the boycott campaign in Britain including the trade union movement as well as being part of the well coordinated world wide boycott, sanctions and divestment [BDS] campaign against Israel.  The PSC actively promotes a boycott, sanctions and divestment campaign against Israel, the Palestinian right of return and the delegitimisation and demonisation of the State of Israel.  Despite what it might say to the contrary, by encouraging close cooperation and affiliation with the PSC, the TUC puts itself firmly in the PSC camp and all it stands for.  

Anglo Jewry’s involvement with the trade union movement 

The high point of Anglo Jewry’s involvement in the trade union movement was 100 years ago at the time of Jewish immigration to Britain from Russia and Poland. As the community moved away from its working class roots after the Second World War, union membership fell away over the years to where we are today with only a minority of Jews who are union members and even fewer who are activists. The community now looks to the Trade Union Friends of Israel [TUFI] to work with the TUC and the Unions in presenting Israel’s case and Histadrut –PGFTU cooperation.  

Could Anglo Jewry have done more? 

The role of the Board of Deputies in Britain is to defend the rights and customs of the Jewish community and not to lobby on behalf of Israel except where it impinges directly on Anglo Jewry such as the increase in anti- Israel rhetoric as the result of Israel’s Gaza campaign last January. That the British government and leading politicians are aware that a boycott policy would be counter productive is down to the work of the BOD and Jewish Leadership Council, but neither sees their role as lobbying at “street level” on behalf of Israel in Britain, taking on groups such as the PSC and the NGOs.  In 2007 the Jewish community obtained and published a legal opinion which clearly stated that the UCU’s academic boycott motions were antisemitic and infringed discrimination. This had an immediate effect on the unions by putting a brake on their campaign. If they had continued they would have found themselves on the wrong side of the law.  If the Community leadership is serious in wanting to take on the unions and their boycott campaign then here are a few suggestions as to what could be done in future: 

 What are the implications for Anglo Jewry? 

There can only be one outcome of the TUC’s support for a boycott campaign, an increase in anti-Israel rhetoric in Britain which will lead to further increases in antisemitism which are already at record levels.  Rather than heed the call from the Board of Deputies for greater involvement in the unions, the TUC’s decision will more than likely have the opposite effect, because as we saw with the UCU’s academic boycott policy, it will result in many Jewish members and supporters of Israel resigning from the trade unions.

 Ronnie Fraser

The Academic Friends of Israel  

For further information and sources: 

The TUC 

TUC General Council statement on the Middle East 

Introductory speech by TUC General Secretary moving General Council statement on the Middle East 

Read the speeches in the TUC Palestine debate 


The Histadrut 

Histadrut Resolution on Peace and Co-operation 

The Board of Deputies of British Jews 

Joint Statement from Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies of British Jews 

Press reports

The Times – “TUC backs off from Israel consumer boycott” 

Jerusalem Post – “British trade unions to boycott Israeli goods”


 2. Anti-Israel seminar at the Norwegian University

The Government of Norway’s anti-Israel stance is well known and now the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim (NTNU) has decided this autumn to host an anti-Israel seminar and invite prominent anti-Israeli speakers -under the guise of supposed educated discourse and debate- to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian issue. All the lectures are to be given by known anti-Israelis, such as Ilan Pappe, Moshe Zuckerman, the American Stephen Walt as well as local scholars. The aim of the organisers who have all signed have all signed a call for an academic boycott of Israel seems to be to have the NTNU administration declare an official boycott of Israeli academia in the coming months. 

On his blog, the Dean at NTNU Torbjørn Digernes “salutes” the organising committee behind the NTNU seminars on Israel and remains convinced that the seminars-series is a “praiseworthy initiative”. Students, staff and ordinary citizens are less convinced.  

You are invited to write a protest note to the Rector of the NTNU, Prof. Dr. Torbjørn Digernes at the his blog; 

Associated sources and articles about the seminar series: 

Details of the Seminars 

 Seminar 1: 2 September

“Violations of international law, humanitarian rights and the Geneva convention in the wars of the Middle East?” Cecilie Hellestveit, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo

 Seminar 2:  9 October

The Israel lobby and US foreign policy” Professor Stephen Walt, Harvard University 

Seminar 3: 9 November

Anti-Semitism and the state of Israel as a political actor”Professor Moshe Zuckermann, Tel Aviv University 

Seminar 4:  20 November

Ethnic cleansing of Palestine - a premise for the construction of Israel?”Professor Ilan Pappé, University of Exeter 

Seminar 5: 2 November

Norway’s role in the Israeli – Palestinian conflict” Professor Hilde Henriksen Waage, University of Oslo  

Seminar 6: 9 December

“One state, two states or federation – solutions to the conflict in the Middle East?” Nils Butenschøn, Norwegian Center for Human Rights, University of Oslo

 The blog for the Rector of the NTNU,

Prof. Dr. Torbjørn Digernes can be accessed here: 

“All-star team of Israel-haters' at Norway school raises concern”

By Cnaan Liphshiz in Haaretz 

 NTNU: A Norwegian Hate University

by Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld.

Originally published in Hebrew in the Israeli weekly, Makor Rishon, on 18 September 2009 

The website; Norway, Israel and the Jews dedicated to exposing anti-Semitism and the anti-Israel lobby in Norway has published several articles on the NTNU seminars including:NTNU seminars on Middle East – based on research or bias? 

The blog Tundra Tabloids is devoted to keeping tabs on the most outrageous happenings in the Middle East, Islamist extremism and Islamist hegemony in Scandinavia, and on the political correctness that allows them to flourish. Tundra Tabloids commented on the Academic Friends of Israel posting on the NTTU rector’s blog here:

The book Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel, and the Jews is an in-depth study on the positions of the Nordic countries regarding Jews, Zionism and Israel can be downloaded at: 



 3. Spanish Academic Boycott of Israel 

The Spanish Government has decided to disqualify an Israeli team from the European Solar Decathlon - just as the team reaches the final stages. The government took this action to implement a boycott policy promoted by a UK based Palestinian lobby group, the Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP). The students are from Ariel College which is situated in the West Bank. Previous moves to boycott the college in the UK have been considered discriminatory and illegal. 

Read the report by Dr Andre Oboler, CEO of Zionism on the Web and associated sources and articles: ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 4. The Muslim Association of Britain and the blood libel  

Last month, the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet published an article alleging that Israeli soldiers kidnapped Palestinian civilians and stole their organs, before returning their mutilated bodies to their families. This story provoked a storm of protest, as many saw it as a revival of the medieval antisemitic myth of the blood libel. One feature of the blood libel charge during the Middle Ages is that an allegation in one locale would spark similar accusations against Jews elsewhere; and so it has proved with this latest version. On 6 September, some two weeks after the Aftonbladet article, a story appeared in an Arabic newspaper, al-Marada, claiming that “Jewish rings” were kidnapping Algerian children and smuggling them to Morocco, where their organs were extracted for export to America and Israel. This story was quickly translated into English, spliced with some out-of-context quotes from the genuine organ-trading case in New York this summer, and circulated on the internet……. 

To read the full article: 


5. Academics Against Israel and the Jews 

The book Academics Against Israel and the Jews edited by Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld which takes a stand against academic anti-Israeli bias against Israel and Jews is now available as a download at:


6. Facebook, Holocaust Denial, and Anti-Semitism 2.0

By Dr Andre Oboler 


 To read the essay:   


Patron: The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks 

Advisory Board: 

Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld - Chairman of the Board of Fellows, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Vivian Wineman - 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 CBERt

Hon Lord Young of Graffham 

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