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The Academic Friends of Israel

The Academic Friends of Israel

 Vol.9 No 5                                                                                            23 May 2010 

 

The view from Britain:  Unions  to sever links with the Histadrut  

The attempt by the ‘Gaza flotilla’ at the beginning of June 2010 to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza coincided with the annual conferences of Unite, Britain’s largest Trade Union and the University and College Lecturers Union, the UCU. Unite called for complete boycott of Israeli goods and services whilst the UCU approved motions on Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), Ariel University College and cooperation with Palestine. The UCU’s BDS motion also includes a call to sever links with the Israeli trade union movement, the Histadrut (the links for all the UCU motions are below).

 

The UCU have targeted the Histadrut as part of a worldwide BDS campaign to isolate Israel and its organisations. They are not interested in listening to the arguments that the Histadrut is a well established and longstanding member of the international labour movement or that BDS is contrary to solidarity which is the raison d’être of every trade union around the world. All they see is that the Histadrut has been and still is a close ally of the Israeli government, but they do however admit that the good working relationship that exists between the Histadrut and the Palestinian workers union, the PGFTU, does create a problem for their call to sever links with the Histadrut. If the UCU can persuade other unions both in the UK and Europe to take up the call to sever links with the Histadrut they will face opposition from many different trade unions throughout the world who refute the policy of BDS and its counterproductive results.

 

These conferences have been used by the Far Left year after year to promote their own political agenda, whose ultimate aim is the delegitimisation of the State of Israel. The reality, however, is that for the overwhelming majority of union members Israel/Palestine is not and has never been a priority issue for them nor do they support or are even mildly interested in any boycott campaign directed against Israel. They would prefer instead that the defence of their jobs was a priority for their union.

 

The UCU BDS motion has presented Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary, with a conflict of interest as she is also the TUC’s spokesperson on International affairs. Sally Hunt has finally given up the pretence of appearing to oppose boycotts because she addressed the Gaza flotilla protest outside the Israeli Embassy on 5 June, with Palestinian coloured ribbons in her hair, in her capacity as the official representative of the TUC, rather than that of the UCU,.

What was noticeable was that the international trade unions immediate response to the Gaza flotilla tragedy was to call for the ending of the Israeli blockade of Gaza. The Histadrut issued two statements, one on the flotilla and one which backs the lifting of Gaza restrictions. Until last April, when the TUC, announced, with their partners the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, a boycott of goods from Israeli settlements in the West Bank the TUC have always resisted favouring one side over the other. It would be a very big step for the TUC, which favours a two-state solution, to support the UCU aim to sever contact with the Histadrut as the British Labour movement has had links with the Histadrut for the last 90 years.

 

The UCU also approved resolutions to build links with Palestinian academics and unions and to start their process to boycott Ariel University College. Their BDS motion, clearly states that any boycott action taken will be within the constraints of the law. So quite how they propose to implement a boycott and remain within the law is not clear as the legal advice the union received in 2008 clearly stated that any boycott of Israeli academics was discriminatory.

 

 Within days of this UCU Congress decision, the Times Higher education newspaper published an article ‘Academic threatens to sue UCU over proposed Israeli college boycott’ in which Geoffrey Alderman, Professor of politics and contemporary history at the University of Buckingham and a guest professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at Ariel University College, said he would seek to take legal action against the UCU, of which he is a member, if any boycott were imposed - We will watch this development with interest.

 

The buzz that has surrounded previous boycott debates at the UCU Congress was missing this year probably because the delegates from the SWP and the Far Left have a commanding majority when it comes to a vote. As a result very few anti-boycott delegates still attend Congress and those that did had to listen to bucket loads of anti-Zionist rhetoric condemning Israel which several times I felt crossed that fine line between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism. This year’s classic comment came in the debate over the UCU’s invitation to Bongani Masuku, International Secretary of the COSATU to attend the UCU’s BDS conference.  You knew immediately which way the vote would go when the seconder for the motion which criticised the invitation was shouted down with cries of “shame” when he said that the BDS conference cannot be considered a success because they invited an anti-Semite. Even though the South African Human Rights Commission had found that Masuku’s statements were directed at local Jewish community and amounted to hate speech, delegates were told that there was no substance to these charges and Masuku was not an anti-Semite because his remarks were not directed at the South African Jewish community - as if this makes a difference. One of Masuku’s supporters, Mike Cushman implied that Masuku was a good guy because he was clear about the difference between Jews and supporters of Israel - Supporters of Israel, he stated whether Jewish or not, had Masuku’s contempt whereas opponents of Israel or those who criticized Israel whether they were Jewish or not had his support. Unsurprisingly when it came to the vote, the motion was lost.

 

What was noticeable however was that the media no longer seems to be interested in the UCU and its boycott antics as the press section was empty except for one reporter from the Jewish Chronicle.  Maybe the media are trying to tell us something that the world is no longer interested in boycotts, as boycotts have had their 15 minutes of fame. If this is the case then perhaps in future we should refrain from giving publicity to our enemies.

Ronnie Fraser

Director

The Academic Friends of Israel  

For more information:  Histadrut Press Release on the Flotilla http://www.tuliponline.org/?p=1828#more-1828

 Histadrut Statement on Gaza

http://www.tuliponline.org/?p=1870#more-1870 

TUC condemns attack on Gaza aid flotilla

http://www.tuc.org.uk/international/tuc-18003-f0.cfm

 ITUC statement: Israel Killings at Sea an Outrage

http://www.ituc-csi.org/israel-killings-at-sea-an-outrage.html 

Jerusalem Post: ‘Britain’s largest academic union cuts ties with Histadrut’

 http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=177210

Jerusalem Post, Unite UK’s largest union calls for Israel boycott http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=177797 

THES: ‘Academic threatens to sue UCU over proposed Israeli college boycott’ http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=411936&c=1 

Sally Hunt addressing the Gaza flotilla protest outside the Israeli embassy last Saturday; www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCSChG9ki7A 

Other News: 

New threat to Shechita as Euro MPs vote to label meat 

The European Parliament has voted for new regulations which will see meat from animals killed through Shechita labelled as "meat from slaughter without stunning," in a move Jewish bodies believe is "discriminatory".....

To read the full article: http://www.thejc.com/news/world-news/33177/new-threat-shechitah-euro-mps-vote-label-meat 

Boy cautioned for attack on Israeli Deputy Ambassador

Police give 16-year-old a slap on the wrist after April brawl at Manchester University. The Israeli Embassy has criticised the decision to caution a 16-year-old boy who attempted to attack its deputy ambassador at a university campus....... To read the full article:

http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/33178/boy-cautioned-attack-israeli-dep-ambassador 

UCU motions on the Middle East

http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=4647

Motion 30 - Practical support for Palestinian academic trade unionists

Congress condemns the failure of the international community to confront the Israeli government over the humanitarian disaster it is continuing to perpetrate in Gaza and the continued development of illegal settlements in the West Bank.Congress:

CARRIED

Motion 31-Palestine solidarity, BDS, and Histadrut

Congress notes

Congress resolves:

CARRIED

31A.1 - Barnet College (Barnet and Hendon)

Add, at end of 'Congress notes' section:

Replace bullet point 3 in Congress resolves with: LOST

Motion 32 -Ariel and West Bank Colonisation

Congress notes

Congress resolves to commence the investigatory process associated with the imposition of a boycott of Ariel College.

CARRIED


Motion 33 UCU's invitation to Bongani Masuku of South Africa

Congress notes that:

Congress dissociates itself from Masuku's repugnant views.

LOST


L11 Emergency motion

Congress is appalled at the Israeli act of piracy in international waters on 31 May. It condemns the armed attack on the Gaza convoy and the murders of people seeking to bring aid to the people of Gaza suffering from the Israeli and Egyptian blockade.Congress believes this constitutes a prima facie crime against humanity.Congress believes that the senior Israeli government members and senior military and naval officers responsible for commissioning this action should be tried for this crime.Congress demands that the UK government does not change the rules on universal jurisdiction to impede bringing the people responsible for these murders to justice.

CARRIED

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 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

The Academic Friends of Israel Ltd is limited by guarantee and registered in England No 5297417.