The Academic Friends of Israel
11 October 2006
Professor Yuli Tamir, the Israeli Education Minister, met yesterday with British journalists during a visit to London. Her main theme was opposition to a British academic boycott of Israeli universities. Prof. Tamir earned her PhD in Political Philosophy at Oxford under Sir Isaiah Berlin and was one of the founders of Peace Now. Her comments were reported in the Guardian, The Financial times and the Daily Mail. You will find the links and the Daily Mail article below.
What we need in future are regular high profile visits from the Presidents and Vice-Presidents of Israeli Universities to publicise and build on the many links they have with British Universities. At present over 30% of British Universities have links or joint projects with Israeli universities and we need to capitalise on this fact in our campaign against future boycott attempts. Ben Gurion University has already recognised that it needs to do more and now asks its staff if they are on sabbatical leave in the UK to become involved in promoting Israel academia and campaigning against the boycott.
The Guardian, "Academic boycott 'wrong political tool', says Israeli minister" - http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/worldwide/story/0,,1891303,00.html
Financial Times, "Boycott of Israel will fail, lecturers warned" - http://www.ft.com/cms/s/11deeb30-57fb-11db-be9f-0000779e2340.html
Daily Mail, "Israeli minister warns of anti-Semitism spreading through UK universities" - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=409435&in_page_id=1770
1. Academic boycott is to be relaunched at Manchester Metropolitan University
I received information that the academic boycott is to be relaunched at Manchester Metropolitan University. There are posters up publicising a meeting of the Union with speakers Mona Baker and Stephen Rose to relaunch the Academic Boycott on Oct 16th. This was expected because if you go to the Bricup website you can read the following: "Over the coming months, it will be BRICUP's task to expand and develop the boycott, organising meetings in universities and colleges across the country, encouraging our fellow academics to resist the bullyboy tactics of the Israel lobby and stand up in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues and their students."
If you know more about this or similar events at your College or University, please let us know.
2. Goldsmiths College UCU branch fail to adopt motion opposing the boycott.
As a follow up to the debate at Goldsmiths College between David Hirsh and Stephen Rose, Goldsmiths UCU branch failed to adopt David’s motion opposing the boycott. Goldsmiths branch, which last year declared its opposition to the boycott, voted overwhelmingly against a motion affirming that opposition. The vote was: For the motion, 8, against 25, with 2 Abstentions.
David Hirsh also failed to be elected as one of the two Goldsmiths UCU conference delegates.
For a full report go to: http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=682
3. Khatami to receive honorary degree
His Excellency Seyed Mohammad Khatami, former President of Iran, will visit the UK next month to receive an Honorary Degree and deliver a lecture at the University of St Andrews. Mr Khatami has accepted an invitation from University Principal Dr Brian Lang to give a lecture to an invited audience of 300 at Younger Hall, St Andrews, on October 31st 2006. Scotland’s oldest University will confer the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws on him during the visit in recognition of his efforts to encourage interfaith dialogue. Mr Khatami will also open the West Wing of a new University Arts Building in St Andrews which will include a new Institute of Iranian Studies. The President of Iran from 1997 to 2005, Khatami is currently President of the International Foundation for Dialogue among Civilisations. Dialogue among nations, faiths and cultures is expected to be a key theme of his Younger Hall lecture. The following day, Wednesday November 1st 2006, Mr Khatami will visit Chatham House, London, to deliver a speech and take questions from the audience. The article below is from the Sunday times of Scotland or can be found at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2090-2394209.html
4. Beyond the veil by Mohammed A.R. Galadari
Finally I urge you to read this article from the over the remarks made by former British foreign secretary Jack Straw on the chador or veil worn by Muslim women. It was refreshing and unexpected and I doubt if we would ever see such an article in our British newspapers.
You can find the article below or at: http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticleNew.asp?section=comment&xfile=data/comment/2006/october/comment_october9.xml
Academic Friends of Israel
Israeli minister warns of anti-Semitism spreading through UK universities
9th October 2006
Students protest over rising racism at universities
Lecturers have been accused of fuelling campus anti-semitism by their threat to boycott Israeli universities.
Senior Israeli politicians warned that a wave of anti-Jewish racism was spreading through British universities.
Jewish undergraduates were increasingly falling victim to anti-semitic attacks and abuse while Israeli university dons feared being boycotted by British academics.
Israeli education minister Yuli Tamir voiced concerns that some sections of British academia harboured "strong anti-semitic feelings".
Lecturers' unions have passed motions agreeing to boycott Israeli universities by refusing to cooperate with them on research projects and conferences.
The stance was intended to exert pressure on the Israeli government but Ms Tamir said some language used to justify the boycott crossed into anti-semitism.
She also accused supporters of academic boycotts of undermining peace negotiations by stifling debate in Israel as lecturers "closed ranks" to defend themselves.
Ms Tamir today called on Education Secretary Alan Johnson to do more to avert a boycott of Israeli academics in an unprecedented face-to-face meeting on the issue.
She also called on Mr Johnson and universities to crack down on anti-semitic incidents directed at Jewish students on campus such as swastika graffiti and verbal abuse.
A Parliamentary inquiry on anti-semitism found last month that attacks included a brick thrown through the window of a Jewish student residence with a poster saying "slaughter the Jews" pasted on its front door.
A knife was stuck in the door of another student residence.
Some student unions had proposed motions calling for a boycott of Israeli goods even though it would restrict the availability of kosher food on campus.
The MPs' inquiry concluded Jewish students "feel disproportionately threatened" in British universities. The conflict in southern Lebanon had heightened tensions, it found.'Something that should worry all of us'
Speaking at the Israeli Embassy, Ms Tamir said: "More and more Jewish students in university feel intimidated and feel they have been exposed to one degree or another of anti-semitism.
"This is something that should worry all of us."
Meanwhile one lecturers' union, the Association of University Teachers, last year passed a motion boycotting two Israeli universities, Haifa and Bar Ilan.
Another, NATFHE, voted in May for widespread boycotts of Israeli universities and academics. It condemned "apartheid" policies against the Palestinians.
Soon after the vote the two unions merged and the policies are not binding on either.
However the new union, the University and College Union, is expected to debate a new boycott motion in 2007.
Ms Tamir said: "There is never one motivation for a boycott but there's a deep sense of anti-semitism that emerges when you hear the way people criticise Israeli policies.
"It's not only a matter of anti-semitism, but anti-semitism is obviously there.
"Some of the language used to defend the boycott seems to be over and beyond reasonable political criticism."
She said that British academies were far more vocal than counterparts in other countries in calling for a boycott.
"The good explanation is that British academe sees itself as more influential than academe in other parts of Europe" she said.
"The not-so-favourable explanation is there is very strong anti-semitic feeling among some members of the academic world here."
She added: "In a way what a boycott does is it weakens the possibility that there will be a real debate in Israel and there will be ways to change or support the way the government behaves.
"It is dysfunctional and it is using the wrong political tool and it creates within the academic community quite a lot of restricted dialogue and an attempt to silence down the differences."
Fury as St Andrews honours Hezbollah backer
The Sunday Times - Scotland 8 October 2006
STUDENT leaders are organising a mass protest over St Andrews University’s decision to award an honorary degree to a former Iranian president who praised Hezbollah.
Muhammad Khatami is to be made an honorary doctor of laws by Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat leader who is also the university’s chancellor.
Khatami will open the university’s Institute for Iranian Studies, which will house 12,000 books donated by Sadegh Kharazi, Iran’s former ambassador to France. The collection of Iranian texts, the largest of its kind in Europe, is estimated to be worth more than £100,000.
The decision to confer the honour on Khatami has provoked criticism from human rights groups who claim thousands of Iranian citizens were jailed and tortured for their political beliefs during his eight-year term that ended last year with the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The National Union of Students wants his invitation withdrawn unless Ahmad Batebi, a student jailed in 1999 during a pro-democracy protest, is freed. “There will definitely be a protest,” said Sofie Buckland of the students’ national executive. “We have a duty of solidarity with the democratic opposition in Iran.” Stephen Brown, the union’s national secretary, said: “We are appalled that Batebi continues to suffer imprisonment for his role in the student movement. We hope that academics and students at that institution will urge Khatami to use his influence to have Batebi released.” The Board of Deputies of British Jews and Lord Janner, its past president, have criticised Campbell for agreeing to meet Khatami, who likened Hezbollah, the Lebanese terror group, to a “shining sun which warms up all oppressed Muslims”.
Although Khatami has a reputation as a reformer, observers say he maintains close links with Ahmadinejad’s hardline regime. “It’s clear Khatami is being used as a tool of diplomacy which is designed to capitalise on his reputation as a reformist president,” said Mark Thomas of the Royal United Services Institute. Iranian exiles are drawing up a petition demanding St Andrews withdraw the invitation. “Thousands of people are seething about this,” said Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi, a New York-based Iranian organising the petition. “How can a man who imprisoned and oppressed thousands of students in Iran be given a degree by an academic institution?” Ali Ansari, director of the Institute for Iranian Studies, insisted last week that the decision to honour Khatami was in recognition of his efforts to encourage closer relations between Christians, Jews and Muslims. “I have no problem with him coming. He was toying with the idea of coming to the UK so we invited him because we wanted to tie his visit in with the opening of our institute,” he said. St Andrews said: “The honour was conferred only after the widest consultation with experts in modern Iran, both in academia and beyond.” Campbell was unavailable to comment.
Beyond the veil
By Mohammed A.R. Galadari
9 October 2006
IT IS so sad to see the newspapers in the UK make fun of the Muslim British citizens over this new controversy about veil or hijab. But it is not the media's fault. They are in no way responsible for this state of affairs. Unfortunately, many British Muslims do not understand that when they choose to become citizens of a country and make it their home, they also embrace its culture, customs, habits and social behaviour. This is a reality that is as clear as daylight. All Muslims have to do is accept it. Unfortunately, most Muslims who came to Britain decades ago do not understand this fundamental reality. Dear readers, in this respect, there are lessons for British Muslims in the example of British Jewish community.
Many Jews, who came to live in Britain, changed their names to fit the new social milieu. Some married people outside their close-knit community. So much so that today British Jews — strikingly different from orthodox Jews — are difficult to differentiate from the indigenous English people. Why did the Jews do all this? Because they wanted to integrate with the host society and its social values and norms. That is how they managed to achieve eminent position in power and society as well as earn respect. Britain even had a Jewish Prime Minister in Benjamin Disraeli. Disraeli was the British PM for two tenures. This of course became possible thanks to the liberal and generous nature of the British people.
The British are essentially good-natured and most welcoming to new arrivals in their midst, helping new-comers easily integrate. They do not discriminate and distinguish between people. I know it. I have lived long years in Britain. Unfortunately, some British Muslims at times behave in irrational ways. The other day, a blind woman called for a cab when she had her dog with her. A Muslim taxi driver apparently refused to take the dog in although she needed the dog as a guide and escort. As a result, she took the taxi driver to court and won the case.
Coming back to this row over the remarks made by former British foreign secretary Jack Straw on the chador or veil worn by Muslim women; as far as I know, Islamic law calls for covering one's hair, not face. Now Jack Straw is considered as one of the most sympathetic leaders when it comes to Muslims. There is a huge number of Muslims in Straw's parliamentary constituency of Blackburn. But they voted against him in last election on issues that concern Muslims.
Now Straw has come up with this advice to Muslim women saying their veil may be holding them back from integrating with British society. Dear readers, reasons like these antagonise people who are generally sympathetic to Muslims. And these are the kind of things that antagonise British people too. We must look at how Jews integrated with the British society but never changed their religious beliefs. They continued to pray in their synagogues and held on to their faith. I believe this is what the Muslims living in Britain and other countries in the West need to do. As long as the Muslims do not truly integrate with their host societies, they will continue to face hostility.
Readers’ response may be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks
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
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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