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UK Academic Boycott Called Anti-Semitic

By Gar Swaffar     May 29, 2008 in Politics
A group of United Kingdom academics have called for a boycott on cooperation with Israeli academics, while some in the UK are calling the move anti-semitic.
A motion by the largest trade union for academics and academic-related staff in higher education in the UK, the University and College Union (UCU) has passed without debate, asking members:
"to consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions, and to discuss the occupation with individuals and institutions concerned, including Israeli colleagues with whom they are collaborating."
There is not total agreement on the issue though, some within the union rank and file are bitterly opposed to any such vetting of an Israeli academics politics prior to collaborating on any projects.
"If Jewish and Israeli academics support the UCU's view of the conflict, they will be protected from further action; if they are against it or noncommittal, then they may be considered unsuitable for continued association," said Ronnie Fraser, UCU member and director of Academic Friends of Israel.
"It beggars belief that such a blatant 'McCarthyite' demand - which clearly is discriminatory, anti-Semitic and in clear violation of the UK Race Relations act - is allowed to be published and debated by a union that prides itself on supporting academic freedom and according to its rules 'promotes equality for all' and actively opposes 'all forms of harassment, prejudice and unfair discrimination,'" he added.
This is the second time a boycott has been called for at The annual conference, the same call for a boycott was passed last year and despite advice from legal counsel calling the boycott unlawful, the motion was allowed no debate this year.
There is a campaign group within the union which was begun last year "Stop the Boycott" which is vehemently opposed to trade union boycott initiatives. That group had their lawyers send legal advice to Sally Hunt, UCU General Secretary and Linda Newman, UCU President regarding the legality of a motion to boycott Israeli academia.
"It is not for UCU to comment on legal advice received by other organizations, especially since we have neither seen the instructions the advice responded to, nor do we know the context or purpose for which the advice was given. There is no call for a boycott; the motions to Congress call for a wider debate about what is happening over there, and members will initiate that debate, as is their right, at congress," Hunt said.
According to Fraser though, the UCU has become institutionally racist by creating a discriminatory atmosphere on campus towards Jewish academics,
Within the UCU are many Jewish academics though and the effect of the motion is unclear if those who are Jewish must adhere to the boycott or if they must pass a litmus test to maintain membership in the union.
Another Stop the Boycott co-chair, Jeremy Newmark, said that "UCU has again demonstrated how out of touch it is with the vast majority of its membership and with the wider academic community. This motion does nothing to help the Palestinians."
He added that "trade unions exist to defend their members in the workplace. Our legal opinion, produced at the request of UCU members, shows that this motion promotes discrimination. It runs counter to all that a trade union should stand for, discriminating against some of its members instead of defending all of them."
Since 2004, academic trade unions have been subjected to calls for a boycott of Israeli academia by a minority but active section of the far-Left within the unions.
Rampant anti-semitism appears to be fueled by a small but vocal group with an agenda of defeating Israeli statehood. The objective of such a motion by the union will ultimately be brought to light and those in favor of such outdated maneuvers should be ridiculed for the attempt.
More about Union, Israel, Academics