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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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A letter to UCU

By Guy Handelman, May 30, 2007
Source: Recieved via e-mail from Guy (with permission to publish)

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to inform you of my deep distress for the recent boycott imposed upon Israeli academics by the British University and Colleges Union (UCU). As an advocate of academic freedom, I find any boycott of reliable scholarship intolerable even if that scholarship is coming from an oppositional nation. Because the UCU no doubt knows that Britain and Israel currently have friendly relationship, it appears to me that the UCU is trying to create an artificial wedge of opposition where none currently exists. Because a decrease in trust between Britain and Israel can only exacerbate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for English, Israeli, and even Palestinian citizens, the onus is on the UCU leadership to explain what goals this surge in hostility is designed to achieve and for whom.

Such a boycott is a shallow view of world affairs and human rights violations especially in comparison to the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, the caste system in southern Asia, the lack of religious freedom and women's rights in the Arab world, and the discrimination against homosexuals in Eastern Europe. Israel is guilty of none of the above.

The most that can be said about Israel is that it dealt with the Palestinian refugee problem created in the aftermath of its first war in an imperfect way. This English boycott of Israel is especially ironic because the way England dealt with the Jewish refugee problem created by the Holocaust was much less perfect! Immediately after the Jewish leadership in the British Mandate for Palestine accepted the Peel Commission in 1936 for a two-state peace solution, the Arab population of the British Mandate for Palestine actively fought the Jewish population throughout the rest of the 1930s (there were several documented massacres of Jewish civilians by Arab nationalists). Because of the outbreak of the ARAB violence, the British government created quotas on JEWISH immigration of Holocaust refugees in order to keep the status quo: an Arab community hostile to the British Mandate and the Jews in Palestine. Of course, this so-called strategy ultimately failed to quell the Arabs or keep British hegemony in Palestine for very long.

It appears that the UCU is using a similar strategy with this boycott! The boycott comes after continuous daily rockets sent from the Gaza Strip to the Israeli civilian city of Sderot almost immediately following Israel's unilateral move for peace by withdrawing from the Gaza Strip. The parallels of 2007 to 1937 are astounding in its proud display of British ignorance of the region, its politics, and its people. If history has taught us anything, it is that such a lack of understanding will ultimately produce a British citizenry with its tail between its legs, a Middle East that is even less stable, and a harsh judgment of the current generation by generations to come.


Guy Handelman

Published at Zionism On The Web with permission of the author.

Related items:

Press Releases

AFI Digest of March 28th

National Postgraduate Committee (NPC)
National Union of Students (NUS)
Jewish Agency (JAFI)
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Statement from The Russell Group on UCU motion on Israeli boycott
Statement from the LSE on UCU's motion in support of an Israel boycott
Columbia University response to boycotts of Israeli universites
Board of Deputies Response to UCU academic Boycotts
American Jewish Congress response to UCU boycott
American Physiological Society Response to the British academic boycott of Israel (includes feedback on this)
National Postgraduate Committee and the Academic Boycotts (14/8/07)
University and College Union (UCU) Press Release, Boycott illegal, 28th Sept 2007
Academic Friends of Israel Press Release, 29 September 2007

News Reports

Union committee to reconsider Israeli academics boycott, The Education Guardian, March 27, 2008
UK group proposes boycott of Israeli academia, Jerusalem Post, March 30, 2008

A slippery slope to totalitarianism, Education Guardian, May 24, 2007
Physicist who refused to lecture in U.K.: I'm not calling for boycott, Haaretz, May 25, 2007
Livni [Israeli FM] meets with British ambassador over U.K. boycotts, Haaretz, May 29, 2007
Memo From London: Should British Academics, or Rock Bands, Boycott Israel? New York Times, May 30, 2007
Lecturers back boycott of Israel, Education Guardian, May 30, 2007
Academics express outrage at Israeli boycott, Education Guardian, May 31, 2007
Divide and Rule, Education Guardian, June 5, 2007
Boycott should outrage academics, Inside Higher Ed, June 5 2007
Ignored by the Brits, Ynet, June 6, 2006
Boycott will destroy British academia, The Guardian, Saturday June 9, 2007
We Will Isolate Them, The Guardian, June 9, 2007 + ZOTW Commentry June 10, 2007
Government to form joint task force to counter U.K. boycotts, Haaretz, June 8, 2007
UK proposes joint academic seminar, Ynet News, June 10, 2007
US Unions condemn boycotts, The Jewish Chronicle, August 17 2007
Boycott a blessing in disguise, YNet News, Opinion, June 1 2007
FM praises British academics for nixing planned boycott of Israel, Haaretz, 30/09/2007
British academics forgo boycott call, Haaretz, 29/09/2007
Lecturers drop Israeli universities boycott call after legal advice, The Guardian, 29/09/2007

Responces, Blogs, Newsletters

UCU Reconsidering Boycott, Little Bulldogs, March 27 2008

UJS Chair's letter to UCU General Secretary
Lancaster University Students' Union Policy in repsonse
Academic Friends of Israel Digest vol 6 no 10 One week on
Academic Friends of Israel Digest vol 6 no 12
Goldhirsh Foundation Response
Responding to the Boycott by Shalom Lappin, at normblog, June 3 2007
Dark Days for the British Academy a letter by Prof Daniel Statman
A letter to UCU from Guy Handelman
SPME Petition against the boycott
Response from prominent British figures and law-makers, in Guardian Letters page, June 12, 2007

Other relevent documents and sources

The 2007 UCU motions
The 2007 document to be sent to branches
An explanation about the Durban Stratagy
Key quotes and summary of responses to the UCU policy
Why a cultural boycott of Israel would be banal, gestural and morally compromised
Relevent section of the Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism
More background on anti-Israel boycotts in general

Other sites related to the boycott

UJS's UCU Academic Boycott
BICOM on the UCU Boycotts
Academic Friends of Israel
Jewish Agency page on Addressing the Academic Boycott of Israel at UCU