Following the decision last month by the University and College Union (UCU) to support an academic boycott of Israel, a coalition of UK Jewish community organizations have launched a new campaign to overturn the decision. Under the umbrella of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Center (BICOM) and Fair Play Campaign Group, set up by the Board of Deputies of British Jews last year to combat boycott initiatives, the campaign will be coordinated with both Jewish and non-Jewish Trade Union members and academics, the Israeli Embassy and Israel advocacy and community organisations.
Names of petitioners
Under the heading "Bad for Britain. Bad for academic freedom. Bad for Palestinians. Bad for peace," a full page petition signed by nearly 300 academics opposed to the boycott was published in The Times and Guardian on Wednesday. Signed by an impressive array of academics, the petition condemns the decision and calls for a ballot of the union's members.
The full text of the advertisement reads: "We the undersigned condemn the recent decision of the University and Colleges Union Congress to promote a boycott of Israeli universities as the actions of a small and unrepresentative minority that flies in the face of academic freedom and is bad for Britain. We therefore call on the General Secretary [Sally Hunt] to honour her pledge to ballot all of the UCU's 120,000 members so that the true voice of British academia can be heard."
This week also the Anti-Defamation League has published a series of advertisements in The Times protesting the boycott decision.
Also Wednesday, the ADL praised Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger for his statement strongly denouncing the UCU's call for the boycott as "antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy."
The ADL welcomed Bollinger's statement as a "principled stand" against the boycott attempt and praised his words as a model for other academic leaders and institutions of higher learning in the United States and around the world to follow.
"It is our hope that other university leaders around the United States and across the globe will join you in your statement and embrace these Israeli scholars and universities that the University and College Union has unfairly sought to penalize," Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, wrote in a letter to President Bollinger.
In a statement made available on Columbia University's Web site, Bollinger said the recent UCU vote to pursue a boycott policy against Israeli institutions and academics, "... threatens every university committed to fostering scholarly and cultural exchanges that lead to enlightenment, empathy, and a much-needed international marketplace of ideas."
Bollinger said that Columbia University would "... gladly stand together with [its] many colleagues in British, American and Israeli universities against such intellectually shoddy and politically biased attempts to hijack the central mission of higher education."
Meanwhile a solidarity statement that asks academics to declare themselves as Israelis for purposes of any boycott and to decline to participate in any activity from which Israeli academics are excluded has over 4,000 signatories.
Academics from across the world have already signed the solidarity statement on the SPME website and have joined a host of Nobel Laureates and distinguished academics from a wide array of disciplines and political leanings.
Initiated by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) and led by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and Steven Weinberg, Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics and professor at the University of Texas. In the UK, Academic Friends of Israel, set up in 2002 to fight anti-Israel policies of the UK education unions, is leading the initiative urging all UK academics to sign the statement.