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US unions condemn boycott resolutions

By Bernard Josephs, 17/08/2007
Source: The Jewish Chronicle

Leaders of millions of American trade unionists have combined to condemn moves by their British opposite numbers to boycott Israel, describing such actions as an assault on freedom.

In a statement issued by the Jewish Labour Committee and signed by the heads of a wide range of US labour organisations, they expressed increasing concern about resolutions by British trade unions calling for divestment and boycotts.

“With the diverse range of oppressive regimes around the world, about which there is almost universal silence, we have to question the motives of these resolutions that single out one country in one conflict,” said the statement.

It was supported by 40 labour leaders, including John J Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO trade union confederation, William Burros, head of the American Postal Workers Union, James P Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America and William Lucy, head of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.

In particular, they pinpointed the call for an academic boycott, which members of UCU, the academics’ union, are considering. “Calls for academic boycotts of Israel are inimical to and counter to the principles of academic freedom, and freedom of association, for which academic unions have struggled over the years,” they argued.

Rather than cutting ties with Israeli educators, they said, “we have seen the importance of maximising, rather than proscribing, the free flow of ideas and academic interaction between people, cultures, religions and countries”.

Moves to build opposition to an academic boycott will be heard at next month’s Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton when a motion, proposed by the party’s Finchley and Golders Green branch, is debated.

It calls on the party to condemn UCU’s decision to call for a boycott and urge the union’s members to vote against the boycott proposal at a forthcoming ballot on the issue.

Meanwhile, the National Postgraduate Committee, the representative body for all masters and doctoral students in the UK, delivered another blow to the boycott proposal when it elected Andre Oboler as its envoy in Israel.

Mr Oboler’s role will include reassuring the Israeli higher education sector that the boycotts are supported by a minority and do not have the support of students.

Mr Oboler, a PhD student at Lancaster University and former Board of Deputies member, was also national secretary of the Union of Jewish Students in 2004-2005. He will promote postgraduate study in the UK for both Israelis and Palestinians. “The UK higher education system is open to all, and will remain that way,” he said.

Yair Zivan, campaigns director of UJS, welcomed “this latest move by the NPC and are delighted that they are working to maintain and strengthen academic collaboration”.

He added: “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 the best of luck in his role and will be offering our full support for his work while in Israel.”

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