24 July 2007
Israeli Minister of Education Yuli Tamir was recently in London where she met the New Minister of Education Ed Balls who assured her that he is against the boycott. This was the first anti-boycott stand from the new UK government. She also met with the Russell group of Universities and Universities UK (UUK) who assured her that they are against the boycott. They also decided to expand scientific cooperation between the UK and Israel which is to start with a visit of the Russell group to Israel.
Around the same time the EU and Israel signed the Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7), which runs from 2007 to 2013. Israel was the first non-European country to be associated with the European Community’s Framework Programme for Research and Technical Development. Israel's special status is the result of its very high level of scientific competence of both its academics and Universities. They are premier league and everyone wants to work with the best, which is why 60% of British Universities already have contacts and joint programmes with Israeli Universities.
Israel's financial contribution to the Framework programmes is calculated on the basis of its GNP compared to the total GNP of all the contributing EU countries. In return Israel benefits from the same participation rights as any EU Member State. Israel has contributed to the latest programme 191 Million Euros and has participated in around 750 projects within the latest framework programme; of which at least 200 included British partners and the rest involve partners throughout the EU and other countries associated with the programme.
You may remember that the UCU passed a motion at its recent Congress committing to the Union to campaign for a moratorium of EU funding for programmes such as this. The only loser in all of this if the boycotters succeed will be British academia.
The Stop the Boycott campaign has published a poll of 500 UCU members at 200 institutions which found that 75% of the UCU members questioned who have an opinion on the issue oppose a boycott; 81% of the members believed that a ballot of all UCU members is the best way to make a decision on a boycott and 87% of members would support such a membership ballot if Sally Hunt called one.
What the figures don’t say is how many of the UCU members were former AUT or NATFHE members which would have a bearing on the results. The worrying figure is that 25% of members are in favour of a boycott which although it is higher than previous polls it is still a worry and something we need to work on.
According to this week’s Jewish Chronicle, the leaders of Anglo Jewry want to spend over the next year an additional one million pounds in fighting the Israel boycott campaign. This has to be good news as any extra money that is spent on hasbara has to be welcomed. However bearing in mind that the academic boycott of Israel campaign is now in its sixth year and still shows no sign of going away, a lot more money than that will be needed if hearts and minds are to be changed which certainly won’t happen overnight or in a campaign which lasts only one year.
The British Medical Journal of the British Medical Association, which has issued a statement against the boycott, is conducting an anonymous online poll on boycotting Israel aimed primarily at physicians, academics and researchers, but is accepting votes from the general public.
Please take a moment to go to the poll to vote NO at http://www.surveymk.com//s.aspx?sm=zrDgLYed7wn_2fe_2bcR2lC4Pw_3d_3d
Earlier this year a small group of 135 UK doctors (out of 140,000) called on the BMA to promote a boycott of the Israel Medical Association which was also not supported by the BMA.
A reminder if you haven’t already done so, please sign the SPME statement in solidarity with Israeli academics and the Stop the Academic Boycott of Israel Petition to UCU, details of which are below.
Finally, I was given last week a copy of the Israeli-Palestinian public health magazine "Bridges". This magazine is sponsored by the World Heath Organisation [WHO] and is written and produced jointly by Israeli and Palestinian academics and health professionals publicising joint projects and public heath programmes between the two communities. Projects like this have to be the way forward to beat the boycotters so try and get a copy of the magazine and see for yourself what can be done.
Academic Friends of Israel
Stop the Academic Boycott of Israel Petition to UCU – 26,073 Total Signatures
part of its university administrations and faculty. Clearly, complexities and ambiguities surround empirical arguments of this kind, as recent discussion in the Senate of Simon Fraser University has indicated. However, whatever one's position on other issues in that county or region, I do not believe that such criticisms can be made of the state of Israel, and Israeli universities share our commitment to the fundamental value of academic freedom. I call for all who subscribe to this value to oppose the proposed boycott of Israeli universities.
Press Release, Trade Union Friends of Palestine, 6 July 2007
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) -- representing trade unions and trades councils from the whole island of Ireland -- have today passed two motions on Palestine that are extremely critical of the actions of the Israeli government in its oppression of the Palestinian people. The two motions condemn Israel for its human rights abuses, its policy of ethnic cleansing and its war crimes. The motions have been proposed by Belfast Trades Council and by Derry Trades Council. Both motions go into considerable detail about the suffering endured by the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation. Conference also criticizes the British and Irish governments and the European Union for the failed policy of "constructive engagement." It characterizes EU policy as one of as "appeasement," and in particular criticises the EU for failing to end the preferential trading status granted to Israel under the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement -- as it is formally obligated to do under the human rights clause in Article 2 of that agreement.
In voting for the motions Conference has not only brought to the attention of the world the massive and enduring injustices being carried out by the Israeli state and by those who collude with it -- companies such as Caterpillar and Irish Cement Road holdings -- but it has also authorized the leadership of the Irish trade union movement to undertake a wide range of measures to oppose such oppressive actions and to register its solidarity. These include a commitment to "actively and vigorously" promote a policy of boycott and of divestment, to make direct representations to government and to the EU, and to mobilize EU-wide trade union solidarity action. Conference also called upon ICTU to send a senior delegation to the Palestinian territories to establish solidarity links. It also welcomed the establishment by ICTU of Trade Union Friends of Palestine.
The ICTU is the largest mass organization of the Irish working class. It represents all sections of labor -- from low-paid to senior management -- and all sectors of industry and employment. At its last Biennial Delegate Conference in 2005 the ICTU commited itself to "campaign in solidarity with the Palestinian people." In its actions today conference has put meat on the bones of that policy. It is highly significant and it should be noted that there was no opposition at all to any of the motions, despite the fact that they represent what must be one of the strongest positions adopted by any trade union congress in the world. Today's conference has thereby demonstrated that all sections of the Irish working class and of Irish civil society continue to be appalled at the inhumanity of Israeli state policy. It demonstrates that the people of Ireland -- north and south -- are steadfast in their commitment to stand in solidarity alongside their long-suffering and heroic Palestinian brothers and sisters. http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article7103.shtmlhttp://www.eutopic.lautre.net/coordination/spip.php?article2307
These motions contained :Severe condemnation of Israel, ; A commitment to boycott and divestment and; Support for Trade Union Friends of Palestine and the Enough campaign against Israeli Occupation.
NIPSA has been at the forefront of the campaign within the trade union movement in Northern Ireland to raise awareness of the Palestinian cause. The motions were proposed by the union's own leadership as well as by three other union branches. All five motions were passed unanimously without a single opposing speaker. The lack of opposition, amendments or even statements of qualification shows that a major shift of consciousness has taken place and that public sympathy in Northern Ireland is now overwhelmingly on the side of the Palestinian people.
Motions included praise of NIPSA's position of supporting the establishment of Trade Union Friends of Palestine (TUFP), an organization that has been formed by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to promote the ICTU policy of "campaigning in solidarity with the Palestinian people."
Conference called upon all NIPSA branches to work closely with TUFP. Conference also pledged active NIPSA support for the establishment in Northern Ireland of a broad-based Enough solidarity campaign involving a coalition of all those opposed to Israeli injustice, including trade unions, churches, political parties, human rights organizations and other NGOs.
The NIPSA conference condemned the collective punishment and blackmail of the Palestinian people by both the USA and the European Union in cutting off financial aid to the Palestinian Authority following the election victory of Hamas. It also condemned Israel for illegally withholding Palestinian tax revenues and for their "horrendous military assaults."
Conference agreed that it was "outrageous that the Palestinian people should be forced to recognize as legitimate" an Israeli state that had defied numerous UN resolutions. This detailed resolution went on to claim that the policies of the Israeli government were akin to those of Apartheid South Africa. It therefore called for the same type of response from the trade union movement -- a boycott of Israeli goods. The motion finally called for an investigation of union investments to ensure that they did not contribute to the oppression of the Palestinian people.
Motion no.64 expressed outrage at the human rights abuses and atrocities carried out by the Israeli state, including:· Continued occupation and destruction of Palestinian lands · Continuing mass arrests, torture and extra-judicial killings · The horrific assaults on the population of Gaza · The illegal destruction of civilian infrastructure · The building of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem
Conference agreed to instruct its governing body, NIPSA General Council, to support divestment from Israeli companies and a boycott of Israeli goods and services. It instructed General Council to lobby the British and Irish governments to challenge the activities of the Israeli government towards the Palestinian people. It furthermore instructed the General Council to continue to support TUFP and the ICTU policy of Palestinian solidarity.
Speaking after the conference, Eamonn Mc Mahon, Trade Union Friends of Palestine referring to the broad based representative nature of NIPSA highlighted the significance of the motions passed
'Given that it is such a broad-based trade union, representative of all sections of the working population, the passing of these five motions is of great significance and indicates the strength of public opinion here in support of the rights of the people of Palestine.'
NIPSA is a public sector union representing workers from low-paid to senior management grades throughout all public services in Northern Ireland, i.e., health services, social services, the civil service, education and housing. It represents workers from all sections of the community, in terms of religion, gender and politics.