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 legislation.

“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 state.

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.

“I 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.

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