Israel advocates blast UCU remark

British academic group calls UCU a platform for pro-boycott campaigns.

Israel Boycott office (photo credit: AP [file])
Israel Boycott office
(photo credit: AP [file])
A British academic group has condemned the University College Union (UCU) for issuing a misleading statement on the boycott vote last week that, the group says, does not include details of the pro-boycott measures the motions instruct the union to carry out. The Academic Friends of Israel (AFI), set up in 2002 to fight anti-Israel policies of the UK education unions and anti-Semitic incidents on university campuses, says the UCU has effectively become a platform for the campaign of the Socialist Workers Party and the other pro-boycott organizations against Israel. Following the vote at their annual conference last week, the UCU will be obliged to circulate a Palestinian call to boycott Israel to all local branches, support a speaking tour by Palestinian academics, encourage members to "consider the moral implications of links with Israeli academic institutions" and campaign for a "moratorium on research and cultural collaborations with Israel via European Union and European Science Foundation funding." For an organization supposedly representing academics, AFI said, "this is a suspiciously one-sided, debate stifling position." AFI Director Ronnie Fraser said that "[UCU general secretary] Sally Hunt once again has shown weak leadership and the inability to understand the issues." Hunt, Fraser said, indicated that a motion on anti-Semitism be withdrawn because the executive has a working plan on the matter. With the same breath, he said, she indicated she didn't see the benefit of voting for a boycott in [UCU] congress. "Yet she doesn't call for the withdrawal of those motions, even though the executive produced a plan for UCU support of academics and trade unions in Palestine and Israel," he pointed out. "If [Hunt] instructs the UCU to distribute to members details of the Palestinian Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) - which, according to the motion passed, she needs to do - she and the UCU will be party to the PACBI aim of the destruction of the state of Israel," Fraser said. He added that he challenged her to publicly state her personal opposition to an academic boycott of Israel. The real significance of the UCU's decision is that it confirms that the battleground is now the trade union movement, not only in the UK but worldwide, Fraser explained. In a few weeks time, he warned, Britain's largest union will be asked to boycott Israel and the showdown will come at the Trades Union Congress, the supreme body for all UK trade unions, at their meeting in September. "The message is clear - single out one country, one conflict and set your advocacy at them," Fraser said. "There is a real threat that the entire British trade union movement will be hijacked by an extreme minority set to delegitimize the right of Jews to self-determination. If that is not anti-Semitism, I would love to hear what is."