Israel boycott launch in London falls flat

Pro-boycott group gets low turnout at their anti-Israel pamphlet launch.

boycott Israel 88 (photo credit: )
boycott Israel 88
(photo credit: )
In anticipation of a motion to boycott Israeli institutions being raised at the annual University and College Union (UCU) conference at the end of the month, a pro-boycott group has published a pamphlet to promote such boycott action. However, pro-Israel groups doubted the call for a boycott would have much impact, particularly because of the increasing desire by British academics to work with outstanding Israeli universities. The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) launched the pamphlet at a reception in Parliament last week. Turnout at the launch was very poor, however, with only around 10 people attending, leading Jenny Tonge, an ardent critic of Israel, to ask why the turnout was so low. "Why Boycott Israeli Universities?" sets out the case for an academic boycott of Israel, and claims it is a result of demands by over 50 organizations from across Palestinian civil society. "There is also a growing body of support for the boycott call… including many who are Jewish," the pamphlet claims. "In August 2006 the Greek university trade union joined… in September more than 50 Irish academics called for a halt on research collaboration with Israeli institutions." In arguing for the boycott, the pamphlet cites "the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, the human rights abuses, the denial of the educational rights of Palestinians - and the complicity of Israeli universities in their government's policies". It also blames Israel for last year's Lebanon war, stating: "On July 6, the IDF launched a renewed assault on Gaza in response to the seizure of an Israeli soldier. Six days later, in response to the seizure of two soldiers by Hizbullah, Israel began a wholesale destruction of the infrastructure of Lebanon." The pamphlet also says that Israel has "committed a broad range of human rights violations extending past murder to the level of war crimes." There is also an entire section deconstructing the argument that an academic boycott is an infringement of academic freedom, with a three-page list of how Israel abuses academic freedom. The pamphlet will be widely distributed on university campuses in the run-up to the UCU conference. In an article in this week's Jewish Chronicle, Adrian Cohen, a founding member of Engage, the campaign against anti-Semitism on the Left, wrote: "Whatever its motivation, the boycott campaign is wholly destructive: an assault on basic civil liberties, an undermining of Jewish social emancipation and the undermining of any prospect of the emergence of a progressive consensus within the community. And it does nothing to help the Palestinians."