British Jews launch campaign to fight academic boycott

Campaign coincides with Anti-Defamation League advertisements in the Times protesting the boycott decision.

antiboycott ad 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
antiboycott ad 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Following the decision last month by Britain's University and College Union to support an academic boycott of Israel, a coalition of UK Jewish community organizations has launched a campaign to overturn the decision. Under the umbrella of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Center, and the Fair Play Campaign Group, set up by the Board of Deputies of British Jews last year to combat anti-Israel boycotts, the effort will be coordinated with both Jewish and non-Jewish trade union members and academics, the Israeli Embassy, and Israel advocacy and community organizations. 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 the Guardian on Wednesday. The petition condemns the boycott 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 honor her pledge to ballot all of the UCU's 120,000 members so that the true voice of British academia can be heard." Also this week, the Anti-Defamation League has published a series of advertisements in the Times protesting the boycott decision. Meanwhile, a statement of solidarity that asks academics to declare themselves Israelis for the purposes of any boycott and to decline to participate in any activity from which Israeli academics are excluded has more than 4,000 signatories. Academics from across the world from a wide array of political leanings have signed the solidarity statement on the Web site of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, initiated by Harvard law Prof. 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 the anti-Israel policies of the British education unions, is leading the initiative, urging all UK academics to sign the statement.