Israeli academics won’t go to Ariel College while the boycotters see no difference between Ariel and Tel Aviv

This piece is written by Saul

How the boycott campaign in UCU exploits Israeli naivity.

Just like Easters of old, May is not a good time for Jews; or at least those Jews who are opposed to the singling out of Israel for unique punishment by the UCU.

As regular as clockwork, the UCU has a motion calling for the continuing demonization and exclusion of the Jewish state.  Nothing new there.  What is new is that this exclusion is now being made in the name of “Israeli colleagues” themselves.   But if we look in a bit more detail at what it is precisely the UCU’s “Israeli colleagues” are calling for, we can see the gap that exists between what the Israeli academics have said and how their statements are being dishonestly exploited by the anti-Zionist boycott campaigners.

In a motion proposed by the LSE UCU, – “Threats to academic freedom in Israel and Palestine” – we read the following:

Congress notes:

6.      the petition from 155 Israeli academics expressing their “unwillingness to take part in any type of academic activity taking place in the college operating in the settlement of Ariel”, calling Ariel an illegal settlement whose existence contravenes international law and the Geneva Convention.

The nature of this petition and its limits are clear – to avoid any type of academic activity that offers the opportunity of the Israeli right to treat the Occupied Territories as a part of Israel proper.  Of course opposition to the settlers is not restricted to 155 academics but is a widepsread position in Israel.  The point here, however, is that the call cited by the motion relates solely to Ariel college and the Occupied Territories.

However, when we return to the UCU motion that cites this petition, something magic happens. The Israeli campaign which targets Ariel and the occupation of the West Bank now appears alongside the campaign to boycott Israeli academia in general:

Congress instructs NEC to:………

circulate to all members

o    the call by the Israeli academics

o    the PACBI call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

What the LSE UCU has done here – and what it is encouraging the UCU to do – is to dishonestly appropriate and exploit a legitimate political concern of a number of Israelis concerning one aspect of contemporary Israel – its occupation of the West Bank – to serve the entirely illegitimate aim of demonising and excluding Israel as a whole.

First the LSE motion tells UCU to circulate the call by the Israeli acdemics.  In the very next line, it tells UCU to circulate the call to boycott Israeli academics.  Perhaps Mike Cushman, the brains behind LSE UCU, cannot see the irony?

Alongside the abuse of Israeli academic intentions lurks a second irony.

In failing to distinguish the distinction between Israel and the Occupied Territories (a distinction inherent in the petition, but dissolved in the motion), the UCU anti-Zionists join hands with the Israeli right. While the settlers seek to incorporate the West Bank to Israel, the  boycotters seek to incorporate Israel into Palestine. In so doing, both groups seek to erase the legal and political distinction between the legitimate Israeli nation-state and the illegally occupied lands of the West Bank all in the name of (a differently evaluated) unitary state.

Of course, Israeli academics – or any other Israelis – should be free to express whatever political perspectives they have, and to sign any petition they want, in spite of the fact that those with lesser principles outside Israel will exploit such actions for their own illegitimate and exclusionary ends.  The responsibility for this abuse is entirely the responsibility of the abusers themselves – in this case, UCU LSE and, should the motion pass, the UCU as a whole.

Press TV, on behalf of the Iranian regime, seems to support the Israeli academics too; as does Norman Finkelstein; as does Electronic Intifada.

Click here for David Hirsh’s analysis of the possible boycott of Ariel from 2005.

This piece is written by Saul

12 Responses to “Israeli academics won’t go to Ariel College while the boycotters see no difference between Ariel and Tel Aviv”

  1. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    For once, David, I think that you used “irony” incorrectly (much as it pains me to criticise a fellow sociologist – now _there’s_ a clear use of irony – “the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite” – OED). What the UCU apparatchiks are doing is using is linguistic sleight of hand, and hoping that we (the general public) won’t notice the linguistic disjunctures in what they’re doing. Most delegates, if they notice, won’t care, and the others will be, possibly, intimidated into silence. They call themselves left-wingers, but that’s an insult to der alte Karl and his readers and genuine followers.

    What we do know is that they won’t dare put this to the membership, because the membership would just tell them to focus on pay and conditions, especially in the current industrial relations climate. And the real sadness is that, were they to be able to actually act on their resolutions (as opposed to acknowledging that they were really just exercises in intellectual masturbation), the union would be, in short order, destroyed by the law on race relations.

    What a waste of intellectual ability!

  2. Ran Greenstein Says:

    What a bizarre argument! Since the UCU discusses the Israeli academics’ initiative and says explicitly it is about Ariel, which is in illegal settlement, and since it mandates that it be circulated to its members, in what way is it misleading?

    And since the general call for boycott specifies it is about institutions and not individual academics, in what way is it a contradiction to circulate a petition by individual academics? Understandably, David, your arguments are losing ground in light of both academic and student boycott victories recently (latest at U of London Union), but desperation is not an excuse for such failure of logic

  3. Sarah AB Says:

    Thanks David – do you get any sense that things are changing within the UCU, despite this motion? I feel vaguely aware that more people are saying the UCU should focus on pay and conditions and expressing irritation with this kind of campaign. There seemed some quite firm statements to that effect in the fairly recent election manifestos, for example.
    Obviously the present climate in HE would have had a part to play in this shift (if it is a shift).

  4. David Hirsh Says:

    I didn’t write this piece – was written by Saul – I’ll make it clearer in the text.

    I think more and more people are convinced of the need for a union – so the union won’t collapse under its own antisemitic idiocy.

    But I also think that congress is as obsessive, if not more so, about boycotting Israelis, than it ever was.

    There is another motion to congress rejecting the EUMC working definition of a-s. So if you refuse to address your own antisemitism, try to change what antisemitism means!

    • James Mendelsohn Says:

      Is an alternative definition suggested David?

      • David Hirsh Says:

        This is the NEC motion. I’ll put up a post on Friday – I’ll have a little comment in the JC on Friday.

        Campaigning for equality, paragraph 11
        EQ5 EUMC working definition of anti-semitism National Executive Committee

        Congress notes with concern that the so-called “EUMC working definition of antisemitism”, while not adopted by the EU or the UK government and having no official status, is being used by bodies such as the NUS and local student unions in relation to activities on campus.
        Congress believes that the EUMC definition confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine antisemitism, and is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus.
        Congress resolves:
        1. that UCU will make no use of the EUMC definition (e.g. in educating members or dealing with internal complaints)
        2. that UCU will dissociate itself from the EUMC definition in any public discussion on the matter in which UCU is involved
        3. that UCU will campaign for open debate on campus concerning Israel’s past history and current policy, while continuing to combat all forms of racial or religious discrimination.

  5. Toby Esterhase Says:

    In one line the motion says listen to the call of Israeli academics.
    In the next line the motion says boycott Israeli academia.

    In one line the motion supports a move against the settlements and against the occupation.

    In the next line the motion supports PACBI, whose boycott assumes that there is no distinction between Israel and the Occupied Territories.

  6. James Mendelsohn Says:

    Thanks David – found a link at

  7. Absolute Observer Says:

    “Understandably, David, your arguments are losing ground in light of both academic and student boycott victories recently (latest at U of London Union), but desperation is not an excuse for such failure of logic.”

    What arguments are that then?

    That for ULU and UCU Jewish crimes are more important than, say Chinese crimes, US crimes, UK crimes, Iranian crimes, Syrian crimes, Libyan crimes.

    That for UCU and ULU only Jewish crimes are deserving of an exclusion of their academics from the rest of the world (or could you point me to the other countries UCU are organising a boycott of?)

    That for UCU and ULU only Jewish academics are to held responsible for the actions of their government?

    That for UCU and ULU only Jewish violation of Palestinian human rights (as if other countries don’t violate Palestinian human rights) are to be the subject of unique treatment?

    That for UCU and ULU the only illegitimate state in the world is the Jewish state.

    That for the UCU only Jews and/or those who think that the demonisation of Israel is wrong, should be prohibited from even raising the question of antisemitism when it comes to UCU policy of singling out Jews for unique treatment?

    Needless to say, this is not the first time in history that Jews have lost the argument.

    The fact that you see these matters in terms of “winners” and “losers” underlines precisely how much of an little Israeler nationalist you are. Despite your possibly genuine concern for Palestine, in reality, all that matters to you is that Israel “loses”.

    Now, that is what I call intellectual and political maturity!

  8. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Is Ran Greenstein for real? He says “And since the general call for boycott specifies it is about institutions and not individual academics, in what way is it a contradiction to circulate a petition by individual academics?”

    Since when did boycotting an institution _not_ involve boycotting its individual members? Or has Greenstein some magic formula to allow, say, Benny Morris to continue to communicate and attend conferences with boycotting academics and even have his papers published in their journals, all the while boycotting Tel Aviv University? This suggests that Ran Greenstein is inhabiting a different planet from the one the rest of us are living on.

    Anyway, as Greenstein knows full well, the PACBI boycott call has everything to do individuals as well as institutions: he just likes to pretend it doesn’t. This makes it easier to live with a call to deny both Israeli academics – whether or not they oppose government policy – their institutions and those who would interact with them the opportunity to exercise their academic freedom of speech.

    This suggests that his desire to feel “good”, however he defines this, outweighs his sense of moral correctness.

  9. ex-UCU Says:

    In view of Ran’s confidence of arguments being won, I am sure, therefore, that he would be among the first to call for a vote [one member/one vote] of the entire membership of UCU on what for him and for others is such a pivotal and important matter.

    After all, a vote in favour would simply verify Ran’s reading of support for boycott amongst UK academics.

    It only seems logical.

  10. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Ran Greenstein believes that David Hirsh and the rest of us fighting for universal academic freedom – to include Israeli academics and all those who interact with them – believes that our arguments are losing ground. Given that, he might find the following enlightening, extracted from President Obama’s speech on the Middle East today:

    Except, I suppose, that he will blame the “Lobby” for Obama’s stance.

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