The Academic Friends of Israel

Vol.9 No 4                                                                         22 April 2010


The view from Britain:  Unions launch campaign “Would you buy stolen goods?” and discuss severing links with the Histadrut   

I often get asked about the fight against the academic boycott of Israel and there is an assumption there is actually one in place. In fact there isn’t one and never has been one. Discrimination against Israeli academics is no worse than before – we know it exists, but since most academics want to work with the best and Israeli academics are some of the best in the world there will never be a successful academic boycott campaign. I mention this because if one reads the blogs and the internet one can easily be deceived into believing there is in place a successful a ‘boycotts, divestments and sanctions’ (BDS) campaign directed against Israel. This is not to deny that one exists but so far it has had a minimal impact in Britain, nor the successes that the organisers would like you to believe.


Like the academic boycott, the global BDS campaign, which was first called nearly ten years ago can be considered a failure because rather than putting a brake on Israel’s economy, Israel’s GDP has nearly doubled over the last ten years along  with a significant increase in Israeli exports.  Nor has the campaign for divestment been any more successful, the European venture capital markets currently invest more in Israel than they do in any single European country.  If you read the book Start-Up Nation – the Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle you will understand the reasons for Israel’s continued economic success and why BDS is unlikely to succeed.


In an attempt to breathe new life into their fading BDS campaign last September, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) managed to bring the TUC, the umbrella body for the British Trade Union movement on board. The TUC has now launched a joint campaign with the PSC “Would you buy stolen goods?” The campaign leads with the accusation that produce from Israeli settlements, which are built on stolen Palestinian land, are illegal under international law. The TUC has emphasied that ‘This is not a call for a general boycott of Israeli goods and services, which would hit ordinary Palestinian and Israeli workers. Nor should workers in Britain put their own jobs at risk by refusing to deal with goods from the settlements’.  Instead the TUC are calling for what they describe as ‘targeted, consumer-led sanctions to send a clear message against the settlements’  – are they so naive to believe that consumers always will differentiate between Israeli, Israeli settlement and Palestinian produce, or that British jobs are not at risk if you call for a boycott - of course they will be.   There is also the worry is that consumers will conflate the words Israeli goods and boycott in a similar fashion to Israel and Jew, which we know has resulted in an increase in Antisemitism. 


The ultimate aim of the PSC is a for a full blown boycott of Israel along with the delegitimisation of the State of Israel, a view which directly contradicts the long held policies of the TUC and the unions who are now supporting  a boycott of settlement goods and a two state solution. Unless the TUC wise up soon they could find themselves ostracised by the international trade union movement who are committed to building and maintaining links between both the Histadrut and the Palestinian trade union organisation the PGFTU.


Forget the all boycott rhetoric from the TUC for one moment and consider this. Because the unions have proved powerless to stop job losses and improve members’ wages and conditions during this time of economic upheaval, they have looked elsewhere for issues where they could make a difference. The two issues where they have focused their energies are globalisation and the Middle East conflict. In addition the TUC does not possess the power to impose its resolutions or campaigns on its member unions and neither do the unions themselves have any power to enforce a consumer boycott especially as such a measure would be divisive amongst their membership. Then there is the problem of how to enforce a boycott and convince consumers and the general population not to buy Israeli settlement goods. The TUC’s  past record on boycotts does not bode well either, as neither their boycott call in the 1930s against the rise of the Nazis in Germany nor the South African boycott in the 1980s, really succeeded in gaining mainstream consumer support.

Will this new campaign be any more successful? I somehow doubt it.  

Ronnie Fraser


The Academic Friends of Israel 

For additional information on the TUC campaign see

Calls for settlement boycott in UK’ by Jonny Paul, Jerusalem Post, 12 April 2010, 

For additional information on the Histadrut / PGFTU cooperation see the Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI) website at

The bookStart-Up Nation – the Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle’, by Dan Senor and Saul Singer was published by the Hachette Book Group, New York, in November 2009.  


1. The University and College lecturers union (UCU) is to discuss severing links with the Histadrut.

2. UK regulators to look at War on Want

3. The Irish unions hold an ‘anti-Israel’ conference

4. Sheriff throws out concert protest case

5. Scottish parliament to go ahead with Israel exhibition

6. UK bans Kotel from Israeli tourism advert

7. Sweden: Co-ops reject call for Israel boycott


8. Scotland's Jews: Community and Political Challenges

9. The 1975 "Zionism Is Racism" Resolution: The Rise, Fall, and Resurgence of a Libel   


1.The University and College lecturers union (UCU) is to discuss severing links with the Histadrut.

The University and College lecturers union (UCU) has published the motions which will be discussed at their annual conference next month.  The three motions directed against Israel are ‘Palestine solidarity, BDS, and Histadrut’, ‘Ariel and West Bank Colonisation’ and Practical support for Palestinian academic trade unionists’.                   


Having failed with an academic boycott campaign the UCU has now set its sights on a BDS campaign against produce from Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The UCU will have no more success in their efforts to sever links with the Histadrut than they have with an academic boycott campaign.  At a stroke they are not only ignoring the 90 years of international cooperation, support and respect that the international trade union movement has given to the Histadrut, but also the achievements of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in bringing about cooperation between the Histadrut and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) which has improved working conditions for Palestinian workers. The truth is that their efforts will not bring peace and reconciliation to the region as it is part of a BDS campaign which is a one-sided anti-Israel narrative and propaganda exercise whose aim is to erode public support for Israel which they hope will eventually lead to the delegitimisation of the State of Israel. 

Other motions to be discussed include one from the University of Oxford which criticises the UCU’s decision to invite South African anti-Semite Bonogani Masuku to their BDS meeting held last December.

The motions can be found at: 

2.UK regulators to look at War on Want

Britain’s Charity Commission is assessing whether War on Want breached regulations when it staged a disruptive protest in a supermarket objecting to it stocking Israeli produce.

War on Want, which had been warned by the commission about its politicized campaign against Israel, led the protest at branch of the Waitrose supermarket chain in the Barbican area of central London on March 30.

Video of the proceedings on YouTube shows protesters wearing T-shirts saying “Boycott Israeli goods” and filling trolleys with produce, which they leave to block the checkout tills. Others staged a sit-in to block shopping aisles, and War on Want executive director John Hilary is seen harassing the supermarket manager....
To read more:

‘UK regulators to look at War on Want’ by Jonny Paul, Jerusalem Post, 14 April 2010 

3.The Irish unions hold an ‘anti-Israel’ conference

The Irish unions recently held an ‘anti-Israel’ conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with a majority of speakers either firm advocates or not opposed to a complete boycott of Israel.

To read more go to:‘Irish unions host ‘anti-Israel’ parley’ by Jonny Paul, Jerusalem Post, 16 April 2010, 

4.Sheriff throws out concert protest case

A Scottish Sheriff has thrown out a case against five Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign protesters who disrupted a concert by an Israeli classical ensemble. Five people, Michael (Mick) Napier, Neil Forbes, Sophia McLeod, Kevin Conner and Vanessa Fuertes, were arrested after disrupting a performance by the Jerusalem Quartet at the Edinburgh Festival in August, 2008. They shouted: "These are Israeli army musicians- Genocide in Gaza-End the siege of Gaza.".......

To read more:‘Sheriff throws out concert protest case’ by Stephanie Brickman, Jewish Chronicle, 15 April 2010 

5.Scottish parliament to go ahead with Israel exhibition

The Scottish Parliament has refused to heed calls to cancel an exhibition it is hosting later this month that looks at Israel’s contribution to medicine, science and technology. Organized by the Scottish Friends of Israel, and sponsored by Labor MSP Ken MacIntosh, the exhibition is non-political and will run in the Scottish Parliament from April 27-29.

“The exhibition comprises a series of pictures and narratives which presents a view of Israel beyond the conflict and focuses on what could be achieved, with peace, for Israel and her immediate neighbors, something that gets little or no acknowledgement in the UK media in general and Scottish media in particular,” said Stanley Grossman from Scottish Friends of Israel......

To read more:
‘Scottish parliament to go ahead with Israel exhibition’ by Jonny Paul, Jerusalem Post, 8 April 2010

 6.UK bans Kotel from Israeli tourism advert

Officials deem image misleading, as it is in "occupied territories." Images of the Western Wall are no longer allowed in Israeli tourism ads in the UK, after regulators deemed it misleading, as it is in the “occupied territories of the West Bank.”

The Advertising Standard Agency ruled on Wednesday following a complaint that a tourism ad containing a picture of the Western Wall with the Dome of the Rock in the background misleadingly implied that east Jerusalem was part of the State of Israel, resulting in false advertising.

To read more:
‘UK bans Kotel from Israeli tourism advert Jerusalem Post, 15 April 2010 

‘UK’s Zionist Federation urges review of banned Kotel ad’ by Jonny Paul, Jerusalem Post, 19 April 2010

7. Sweden: Co-ops reject call for Israel boycott


The three million member Swedish Cooperative Union (Kooperativa förbundet – KF) has rejected calls for a boycott of Israeli products.  The union, founded in 1899, is “historically closely tied to the Swedish Trade Union Confederation, LO, and to the Swedish Social Democratic Party,” according to one online source. The federation was rejecting a proposal made by the Consumer Cooperative Society for Western Sweden.......

To read the article in full: 


8. Scotland's Jews: Community and Political ChallengesBy Kenneth Collins and Ephraim Borowski

The Jewish community in Scotland numbered eighteen thousand in the 1950s but has now shrunk to around ten thousand, largely through emigration. The community is overwhelmingly concentrated in the Greater Glasgow area with around a thousand Jews in Edinburgh and smaller numbers scattered around the country.  When the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999, with responsibility for almost all home affairs, the Jewish community set up the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC) as a democratic representative body to speak on its behalf.

SCoJeC monitors legislation and informs Parliament and civic and religious bodies on Jewish issues and attitudes. SCoJeC has been very successful in influencing Scottish government policy in areas such as family law, looted Holocaust art, the census, and health and safety issues. It also has responsibility for outreach work to scattered Jews in outlying areas, ensuring their access to Jewish facilities in the larger centers as well as arranging activities in remote centers in the Highlands. There has been historically little Antisemitism in Scotland, and in particular good relations with the churches. Recently there has been a significant increase, much of it associated with events in the Middle East. Specifically, the Scottish trade union movement has pursued a policy of boycotting Israel despite a dialogue with the Jewish community aimed at understanding both sides of the conflict..... 

To read the article in full: 

 9. The 1975 "Zionism Is Racism" Resolution: The Rise, Fall, and Resurgence of a LibelBy Yohanan Manor

The singling out of Zionism as a supposed form of racism was a device invented by the Soviet Union to justify its refusal to condemn anti-Semitism during the negotiation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in the mid-1960s. The failure of the Soviet-Arab strategy to expel Israel from the United Nations and replace it with Palestine led to the adoption in 1975 of UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 (XXX), which determined that "Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination."  

For almost a decade, Israel and the Jewish people remained passive and did not attempt to challenge Resolution 3379. They greatly underestimated its impact and the damage it caused all over the world, expecting unrealistically that it would fade away by dint of its sheer inanity.  The resolution's revocation in 1991 was not an inevitable outcome of the end of the Cold War but was achieved mainly by convincing the United States to take the lead on the issue; the ostensible UN "automatic majority" was a manifestation of lack of leadership. Today, the efforts to undermine Israel's legitimacy come mainly from an NGO network inspired and supported by Israel's enemies, calling for a new counterstrategy...... 

To read the article in full: 

 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

Professor Leslie Wagner CBE

Rt Hon Lord Young of Graffham 

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