Though the British NATFHE boycott of Israel was expected to be killed when the union merged with the AUT in the University and College Union, it may linger on and be transmuted into a different form of joint action in the UCU, as was indicated by earlier statements by the AUT and by NATFHE General Secretary Mackney.
Meanwhile, the governing council of the British National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued a statement opposing boycotts.
The battle is not over! Ami Isseroff
NAS Council Opposes Academic Boycotts
LONDON, June 2, 2006 -- The governing council of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) said in a statement this week that it opposes academic boycotts, "firmly believing that scientists provide a voice for rationality and moderation in political affairs. A boycott of Israeli academics announced yesterday by Britain's largest faculty union would undermine the crucial long-term goal of building strong bridges of understanding between cultures." (For a 2005 NAS Council statement, "International Cooperation in Science," visit: http://www.nationalacademies.org/morenews/20060530.html)
The motion to boycott Israeli academics, approved Monday by the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE), Britain's largest academic trade union, has provoked condemnations from Israeli and British officials and from senior academics and universities in Israel and abroad, the Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday.
The call to consider a boycott of Israeli academics was passed with 106 votes in favor, 71 votes against and 21 abstentions.
Following the vote, the union's official statement declared that "[The] Conference notes [the] continuing Israeli apartheid policies, including [the] construction of the exclusion wall, and discriminatory educational practices."
Israel's Ambassador to the UK, Zvi Hefetz, told the Jerusalem Post, "Around the world, this proposal has been rejected as an act of blatant discrimination. As a means of promoting dialogue and coexistence in the Middle East, an academic boycott of Israel is counterproductive in the extreme.
"By pursuing such a policy, NATFHE will isolate its members and their students rather than isolating Israeli academics, who are [in] the forefront of international cooperation on academic study and research, including with Palestinian universities and institutions elsewhere in the Arab world," Hefetz added.
Following NATFHE's vote on Monday, University of Haifa President Aaron Ben-Ze'ev said the university strongly condemned the boycott decision.
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Lord Triesman also expressed regret at the boycott vote:
"We regret today's decision by the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) to vote in favour of boycotting Israeli academics and institutions," Triesman said in a statement. "We believe that such academic boycotts are counterproductive and retrograde. Far more can be obtained through dialogue and academic cooperation."
The resolution was "advisory" rather than mandatory, the New York Times reported Tuesday, and was similar to a call last year by the smaller Association of University Teachers.
Yesterday, those unions merged into a single body, the University and College Union (UCU). The New York Times reported that there had been some discussion of the resolution's status after the merger. "Some academics said the struggle over the principle of boycotting would carry over to the new organization," it said.
But the focus of the merged unions' first official statement focused more on pay raises and made no mention of the boycott.
"The creation of new union UCU is today being marked by a day of solidarity by its higher education members who are involved in a major national pay dispute," the UCU announced yesterday in a press statement.
"The University and College Union will continue the dispute which began with the predecessor unions AUT and NATFHE. Events will take place across the UK, including a lobby of the headquarters of the employers' body, UCEA, which has repeatedly failed to make an acceptable pay offer."
Members were also asked to mark the solidarity day by collecting money for a dispute hardship fund to help support members "hit by pay deductions as a result of taking part in the industrial action," the statement said.
Last year, the AUT voted to boycott Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities, charging them with complicity in Israel's "suppression of the Palestinians," according to the Jerusalem Post. The council of the association reversed the decision after objections by leading scholars and academic organizations.
For more information, visit: www.nationalacademies.org
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Replies: 3 Comments
It seems to me that one appropriate and very helpful place to find information on left-wing opposition to anti-Israel boycott calls is the Engage project, namely
Another is Norm Geras' blog -
And there are more.
Arieh Lebowitz, Friday, June 9th
I think the real effect of the boycott is as an instrument for publicizing and legitimizing the idea of "Apartheid Israel."
Look at how much publicity they got from this one motion in a British union that nobody outside Britain every heard of before.
Your comments about the engagement with the Muslim lobby group are interesting - do they suggest a way to counter the boycott?
My idea however is, "if you can't beat them, join them." If this tactic is so successful, why not organize a boycott of firms that do business with Hamas, Iran and Hizbullah or of media that insist on calling terrorists "resistance fighters?" Or why not infiltrate universities and labor unions with people who are intent on a single issue - just like the ISM and the boycotters do. Only our issue will be passing resolutions that support Israel.
Is it possible? Wby not?
Ami Isseroff, Thursday, June 8th
The newly formed UCU, backed by the former AUT, has stated that this resolution is not binding and no consideration of whether it should become binding upon the UCU could occur prior to June 2007.
This provides a window of opportunity to present a rational counter argument. From my limited observations there appears to be little comprehension of what the scope of any boycott would entail and the positive or negative impacts for UK universities and colleges.
Logically if UK academics are going to boycott Israel in any form then it must include refusing to use Israeli made products at any level. The rationale for this being that profits made from Israeli industry fund Israeli academia. Thus UK academics should be advised that until such times as the issue can be clarified all PC's claiming to contained Pentium 4 and Centrino technology and mobile phones should not be used if there is the possibility Israel derives any income from any of the components.
In another engagement with a "Muslim" lobby group I noted that as soon as putting aside these hi-tech goods was mentioned, there was sudden reticience to engage in any discussion of the boycotts. In fact the said group removed letters which called for a more effective boycott. (They were much more keen on victimising Muslim Mom & Pop corner shops that sold Israeli dates)
I believe that this talk of boycotts by NAPTHE is really hypocritical tokenism where the proponents like to be seen doing something, but aren't really interested in making any significant stand in their workplace, and certainly not in denying themselves access to hi-tech products.
Rod Davies, Monday, June 5th
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