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NPC and the academic boycott

National Postgraduate Committee - Press Release - 14 August 2007
Source: NPC website

The National Postgraduate Committee of the UK held its Annual Conference ending this weekend. The conference which focussed on participation and diversity in the postgraduate community was address by Dr Jon Pike, a lecturer at the Open University and a founder of Engage, the group that led the repeal of Association of University Teachers' 2005 boycott of Israeli universities. Dr Pike provided the conference with the background details to the current UCU boycott proposals and explained how the coming term would see meetings on the topic across the UK.

While saying the Palestinian university sector did need help, particularly books and equipment, he argued that a boycott was not the right tool to promote peace or indeed to help either the Palestinians or the Israelis. Rejecting the apartheid analogy as shallow and politically naive, Dr Pike added that no other country was being subjected to an academic boycott and many would be far more deserving than Israel. Even if a boycott was applied systematically, Dr Pike argued it would still be wrong in the academic sector.

Two days later at the National Postgraduate Committees AGM, Andre Oboler, an international PhD student from Australia, stood for election as a Project Officer. Project officers stand with a remit of their own devising and if elected are given a mandate to carry out their proposal. Andre who has just completed his PhD thesis will soon be off to do Post Doctoral work in Israel. He offered to act as an ambassador on behalf of the NPC, to promote the fact that the boycott noise is emanating from a minority of

academics and that both Israeli and Palestinian students were welcome in the UK. Additionally, Andre offered to serve as a local link in Israel for those NPC affiliates who wish to set up positive engagements as a means of protest against the UCUs actions.

Although an Australia, Andre is not new to representing the UK's students. He has served for two years as the Student Observer on the board of directors of the QAA, and twice before as an officer of the NPC. At Lancaster University he has served in the Graduate Students Association, the Students Union and on the Societies Union Executive Committee.

Speaking after his election Andre said "I feel confident that the support for a boycott is coming from a tiny but vocal minority, as many of our delegates to this conference have said, but I also feel the majority who oppose such boycotts can not longer remain silent. The NPC has opposed an academic boycott of Israel since before the AUT called for their 2005 boycott, and we continue to oppose it. We oppose it because boycotts do not further higher education in the UK, only collaboration and positive engagement can do this. In this new role I hope to facilitate such engagement, not only mitigating the damage the UCU are causing, but hopefully also achieving positive academic engagement between Israelis, Palestinians and UK academics as well."

Commenting on NPCs move, Yair Zivan, Campaigns Director of UJS said "UJS welcomes this latest move by the NPC and are delighted that they are working to maintain and strengthen academic collaboration. A boycott would achieve nothing to further peace in the Middle East and only through dialogue and discussion can progress be achieved. We wish Andre Oboler the best of luck in his role and will be offering our full support for his work while in Israel."

Reproduced at Zionism On The Web with permission

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