Extract from the UK Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism
September 2006, All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism
Source: Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism
Taken from Pg 40-41
A selections of news articles that connected on the release of the report can be seen at the forums.
206. We received evidence regarding the attitudes of a small number of academics whose critical views of Israel have adversely affected their relations with Jewish students. Particular tension has been caused by rare cases of academics who have crossed the line between personal interest or activism, and academic abuse of power. We also received evidence concerning the collective activities of academic teachers’ unions.
207. At its annual conference in 2005 the Association of University Teachers (AUT) passed a motion boycotting two Israeli universities, Haifa and Bar Ilan. The panel heard oral evidence on this from Dr Jon Pike, Chair of Engage, an organisation that successfully opposed and overturned the boycott.
208. In May 2006 a motion was passed at the annual conference of NATFHE, the larger of the two higher education unions, calling upon members to boycott all Israeli academics. The motion criticised “Israeli apartheid policies, including construction of the exclusion wall, and discriminatory educational practices”, and invited members to “consider their responsibility for ensuring equity and non-discrimination in contacts with Israeli institutions or individuals and to consider the appropriateness of a boycott of those that do not publicly dissociate themselves from such policies”. Three days later NATFHE merged with the AUT to create a new union, the University and College Lecturers Union (UCU). The policy is not binding upon the UCU and it is expected that a boycott motion will be debated by the new union in 2007.
209. Some witnesses noted that even though the motivations of the boycotters may not in themselves be antisemitic, the effect of their actions would be to cause difficulties for Jewish academics and students. The majority of those who have institutional affiliations to Israeli universities are Jewish, and thus the consequences of a boycott would be to exclude Jews from academic life. A boycott would have a detrimental effect on Jewish studies departments in the UK leaving them potentially unable to continue teaching. Jane Ashworth, Director of Engage, has also spoken publicly on this issue, pointing out that policing such a boycott, for example monitoring email contact with foreign universities, would in effect target Jewish academics since they would be most likely to have contact with their Jewish counterparts.
210. The singling out of Israel is also of concern. Boycotts have not been suggested against other countries. Also of particular concern to witnesses was the concept of a ‘loyalty test’ for Israeli Jews, described by some as ‘McCarthyite’, signifying as it does the assumption of collective responsibility and collective guilt.
211. Dr Pike told us that the discourse around the boycott debate gave cause for concern, as it moved beyond reasonable criticism into antisemitic demonisation of Israel. He commented on the continual use of Nazi analogies and suggestions that Israel was “a fascist state”. After the boycott had been overturned, Engage was falsely described as a well-funded and well-organised Zionist operation, organised through a Zionist Federation meeting in Manchester. It was said that the “Zionists” turned up in large numbers to block the boycott, that the “campus Jews” had turned out purely to block the boycott, and that they were not considered to be “proper trade unionists”.67
212. A side-effect of the attempt to boycott Israeli universities is that it has the effect of closing down debate on Israel within the Jewish community. British Jews can feel under siege and this leads to a desire among many to show a united front and defend Israel in the face of demonisation. Instead of organising debates on the two-state solution and encouraging free discussion, Jewish student activists are forced to spend the majority of their time confronting efforts to delegitimise both Israel and their own presence on campus.
213. We conclude that calls to boycott contact with academics working in Israel are an assault on academic freedom and intellectual exchange.We recommend that lecturers in the new University and College Lecturers Union are given every support to combat such selective boycotts that are anti-Jewish in practice.We would urge the new union’s executive and leadership to oppose the boycott.
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