The Academic Friends of Israel
Volume 7 No 7 19 May 2008
This digest deals with the forthcoming UCU Congress, UK Government progress on its efforts to curb Antisemitism and the International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom [IAB].
On Wednesday 28 May delegates to the UCU Congress in Manchester will discuss for the fifth time in 7 years an academic boycott of Israel. The motions are the same as those reported in the last digest and can be found at: http://www.ucu.org.uk/circ/html/ucu104.html
A lot has happened in those seven years. The shock value of calling for a boycott is gone and it no longer guarantees media coverage whilst those opposed to a boycott are now much better prepared, for example we know that 60% of our unions have links with Israeli Universities. Also BICOM has just published a report which investigates the depth and breadth of the various academic, cultural and business links that Britain enjoys with Israel.
Because of its continued support for a boycott the UCU has backed itself into a corner as the UK Government, the Universities and many trade union leaders are opposed to these policies and of course no serious academic would ever consider boycotting Israel. Even though the legal advice the union received last year stated that promoting a boycott would be illegal, probably because it is outside the current rules of the union, the general public believe that the UCU is promoting a boycott of Israel.
The boycotters now say that they are they are not calling for a boycott of Israeli academics as such, but empowering the UCU to promote a discussion of the issues relating to the boycotting Israeli Institutions. By making this distinction they believe that not only can one openly boycott an Israeli University and not lose one’s job but neither will the union be breaking equality and discrimination legislation. They also believe that because we have vigorously opposed their calls for a boycott it is our fault that the union has had to spend £400,000 on legal fees. It is akin to blaming the Jews for causing antisemitism.
What will happen next is that the resolutions on Palestine will almost certainly be passed by a majority of the 300 Congress delegates, whilst the majority of the 120,000 UCU members are not interested in discussing the issues or getting involved. In addition the UK Jewish community has stated that it is obtaining a legal opinion on the boycott which it may use to support legal action at some time future against the UCU.
What ever we say or do, which recently has been very little, the boycotters will continue because that’s who they are, but the real threat which I believe we will face on campus in future will be the discrimination and antisemitism that comes from anti- Zionism and anti-Israelism. The ignorance and lack of understanding of antisemitism amongst academics and students is frightening. After all this time the UCU has still not recognised that the boycott motions have brought with them antisemitic rhetoric.
For a feel of what it is like to be a defender of Israel on campus, Harry’s Place has published extracts of postings, all of which are genuine, from the discussion group run by the UCU for its members. David Hirsh of Engage has been recently banned from the group for quoting antisemitic postings in his recent essay on anti-Zionism. Last month myself and colleagues who contribute to the list were subjected to unparalleled bullying and antisemitic comments from boycotters and anti-Zionists whilst the UCU management sat on their hands and did nothing to curb this unacceptable behaviour. They are more concerned with ensuring that the postings remain private than the behaviour from so called academics who one would hope would not tolerate similar behaviour from their students.
All-Party Inquiry into Antisemitism: Government Response - One year on Progress Report
One year after the government's response to the All-Party Inquiry into Antisemitism the government has published a progress report. According to the Guardian the report suggests that the Department for Innovation, Universities and Science has failed to do enough to tackle antisemitism on campus. "Although we can point to significant progress against many of the Inquiry's 35 recommendations there are still areas which remain of concern and require further work, this includes... antisemitism on university campuses" It is up to individual universities to make sure campuses are free from harassment and discrimination, the report states. But the group says it will consider setting up a sub-group on antisemitism in relation to higher education in discussion with higher education sector bodies and Jewish community bodies………..
International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom (IAB)
The International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom [IAB], a group which we have worked very closely with since 2005 to combat boycott attempts and promote Israeli academia and its achievements in the UK has ceased to operate. Ofir Frankel who ran the organisation, worked tirelessly to defend Israeli academia. She was a good friend to me and we will miss her unstinting support. The Academic Friends of Israel has always believed that the only way to counter any threats to Israeli academia is by working together with groups in America and Israel. With the closure of the IAB there is no longer anyone in Israel for us to work with who has the contacts, information and standing to speak on behalf of the Israeli Universities. The result is that the Academic Friends of Israel along with other groups working on behalf of Israel will find it extremely difficult in future to counter the boycott threat without a partner in Israel.
“Extremism” fears over Islam studies
By Ben Leach
The Daily Telegraph April 14, 2008
Extremist ideas are being spread by Islamic study centres linked to British universities and backed by multi-million-pound donations from Saudi Arabia and Muslim organisations, a new report claims. Eight universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, have accepted more than £233.5 million from Saudi and Muslim sources since 1995, with much of the money going to Islamic study centres, according to the report. The total sum, revealed by Anthony Glees, the director of Brunel University's Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, amounts to the largest source of external funding to UK universities. Arab donors have argued that their gifts to academic institutions help to promote understanding between the West and the Islamic world. However, Prof Glees claims in his unpublished report that the propagation of one-sided views of Islam and the Middle East at universities amounts to anti-Western propaganda. ………..
Academic Friends of Israel
Patron: 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
The Academic Friends of Israel Ltd is limited by guarantee and registered in England No 5297417.