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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In his address to the UK's National Postgraduate Committee after the 2005 AUT boycott was revoked, Prof Steinberg explained the history of the boycott movement and its goals.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of this form of political warfare was to relabel Zionism as racism, after this notorious UN resolution had been repealed, and to plan the political program to advance the process of demonization and delegitimization of Israel...the model that the participants proclaimed was the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

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