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Anti-Israel Academic Boycott Resource Centre
UCU boycott, NATFHE boycott, AUT boycott and other academic boycotts targetting Israeli universities

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The Durban Stratagy

In his address to the UK's National Postgraduate Committee after the 2005 AUT boycott was revoked, Prof Steinberg explained the history of the boycott movement and its goals. The full text is available here: ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND THE AUT BOYCOTT CAMPAIGN: EXAMINING THE LESSONS.

He explained, "The tactics that propel this process are based on the strategy that was formulated in detail at the September 2001 United Nations conference on Racism and Xenophobia, in Durban. This activity and the preparatory conferences that preceded it (including the Teheran session), as well as the post-conference events, brought together thousands of anti-Israel activists... The central objective of this form of political warfare was to relabel Zionism as racism, after this notorious UN resolution had been repealed, and to plan the political program to advance the process of demonization and delegitimization of Israel...the model that the participants proclaimed was the one that led to the downfall of the apartheid regime in South Africa. And boycotts as well as divestment campaigns are central elements in this model. Indeed, the promoters of the academic boycott campaign, as well as the parallel divestment effort continually declare their goal to be that of labeling Israel as an “apartheid” state. (Pro-Palestinian groups are quite good with labels and public relations campaigns. In the UK, the “Stop the war” Campaign morphed into the “Stop the war – free Palestine” campaign, and there are many other examples.) In this context, it is important to note that the texts of the boycott resolutions were taken directly from the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organization (PNGO) network [2]. The members of PNGO, many of whom are financed by radical Arab and Islamic groups and act in the name of civil society while lacking any mandate, were very active in Durban. PNGO also co-sponsored the conference held at SOAS in December 2004 that re-launched the boycott movement. PNGO also plays a central role in the campaign for church divestment resolutions against Israel, along with specialized NGOs such as the Sabeel “Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center” [3]. The demonization of Israel is their primary and constant goal, and they have the resources to press their propaganda until it is widely accepted as factual.

Prof Steinberg concluded his talk by quoting Prof. Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard who declared, “Harvard is first and foremost a center of learning, not an institutional organ for advocacy on such a complex and controversial international conflict.” Prof Steinberg said Prof Summers words were as important on the campuses of universities in the UK as they were in the U.S. He ended saying that "the universal principle of academic freedom is too precious; too fragile; and too important to be prostituted and discarded in pursuit of such particularlist political and ideological campaigns."

Those wanting to really understand the momentum behind the boycott and wondering "why now?" need to take a step back and consider the bigger picture and the way British trade unions are being manipulated.

More on the Durban Stratagy at NGO monitor (2005), and a more recent and more detailed analysis can be seen in the article by Prof Gerald Steinberg, The Centrality of NGOs in The Durban Strategy, Yale Israel Journal, 2006.

(c) Zionism On The Web, 2007

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