LONDON – A community academic group has condemned a decision by the UK’s largest
academic trade union to again adopt an academic and cultural boycott of Israel
at its annual conference.
The Academic Friends of Israel (AFI) said the
decision by the University College Union (UCU) to pass a resolution at its
conference in Harrogate in Yorkshire on Sunday was illegal.
AFI said the
union is ignoring the legal advice it received from its lawyers in 2007, which
made it clear that distributing and promoting a call for a boycott of Israel is
in breach of the UK’s 2010 Equality Act, and also falls outside the objectives
of the union.
The act includes numerous anti-discrimination and equality
“If UCU distributes copies of the Palestinian boycott call
to its members or promotes the call with Education International or its
affiliates, it is effectively asking them to participate in the boycott,” AFI
Director Ronnie Fraser said.
The UCU, which represents around 120,000
members, has a history of anti-Israel activity with members of the union
continually promoting controversial motions against the Jewish
Fraser, who attended the debate, said the rhetoric used was
“totally unacceptable,” and that Israel was referred to as an “authoritarian,
totalitarian and fascist” state.
“The motion also contains a relentless
attack on the Jewish state and follows similar motions that have been adopted at
UCU conferences over the last five years. No other state in the world has been
singled out for attack in this way,” he said.
Last year the union voted
to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions’ campaign against Israel and
sever ties with the Histadrut, Israel’s organization of trade unions, at its
annual conference in Manchester.
The UCU voted to urge other trade unions
and bodies to follow suit.
Fraser said the UCU each time puts the onus of
blame on Israel, which he said can be interpreted as anti-Semitic.
recognize of course that many of these issues are open to debate and discussion
and that legitimate criticism of Israel is acceptable. But the recitation of a
long list of allegations against Israel, and Israel alone, without any
recognition that Palestinians might bear any guilt or responsibility for the
current impasse, or for their own crimes against Israelis, is one-sided and
anti-Semitic,” he said.