Press release from Academic Friends of Israel


The Academic Friends of Israel

            Press Release

For immediate release 29 May 2011

The Academic Friends of Israel condemns the University College Union for passing an illegal resolution that promotes the academic and cultural boycott of Israel

The Academic Friends of Israel condemns the University College Union for passing a resolution today at its conference in Harrogate which ignores the legal advice that the UCU received in 2007 which made it clear that distributing and promoting a call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel is in breach of discrimination and equality legislation and also outside the aims and objects of the union.

Ronnie Fraser, Director of the Academic Friends of Israel, commented:

“If UCU distributes copies of the Palestinian boycott call to its members or promotes the call with Education International or its affiliates it is effectively asking them to participate in the boycott. As well as being in breach of the 2010 Equality act; their actions would also be outside the aims and objects of the union.

The rhetoric used against Israel in the debate today was totally unacceptable such as Israel is an authoritarian, totalitarian and fascist state.  The motion also contains a relentless attack on the Jewish state and follows similar motions that have been adopted at UCU conferences over the last five years.  No other state in the world has been singled out for attack in this way. There might be some justification for such an attack if the facts alleged in the preamble were true.  In fact almost everything stated is a falsehood , Moreover, any state has the right to penalise those involved in economic boycotts against it, and the implied condemnation of Israel for doing so, or for considering such action, is the application of double standards by requiring of Israel a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

He continued:

“I recognise of course that many of these issues are open to debate and discussion and that legitimate criticism of Israel is acceptable.  But the recitation of a long list of allegations against Israel, and Israel alone, without any recognition that Palestinians might bear any guilt or responsibility for the current impasse, or for their own crimes against Israelis, is one-sided and antisemitic.”


For further details, please contact Ronnie Fraser, Director of The Academic Friends of Israel, via email (


The Academic Friends of Israel

            Press Release

Appendix: UCU motion 36        

Composite: Threats to academic freedom in Israel and Palestine                  National Executive Committee, LSE

Congress notes:

  1. Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestine and daily oppression of Palestinian teachers and students
  2. the restrictions on the free movement of Palestinian Academics within the Occupied Territories and crossing between the Territories and Israel and on foreign travel
  3. Israel’s ongoing construction of settlements
  4. the current witch-hunting of Israeli academics, civil rights campaigners and NGOs who are deemed to be damaging Israel’s economic interests by their political activities
  5. the recent alarming moves in the Israeli Knesset to penalise Israeli academics who support boycott action or even just provide information which may assist boycotts; this law will lay academics open to fines of £5000 with ‘no need to demonstrate that injury was done’ and to unlimited damages if losses are caused.
  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.

Congress deplores these attacks on the academic freedom of our Palestinian and Israeli colleagues.

Congress instructs NEC to:

  1. circulate to all members
  • the call by the Israeli academics
  • the PACBI call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel
  • information about the current legislation passing through the Knesset threatening heavy fines and other penalties on Israelis taking non-violent action against the occupation.
  1. seek a delegation to meet the Israeli Ambassador to raise our concerns
  2. press the Foreign Office to protest to the Israeli Government
  3. raise the issue with Education International and press them to seek similar action by all affiliates
  4. publicise these threats and our actions in response.

Live Blogging from UCU Congress

1657.  Congress is due to finish at 6 today and is running late.  This boycott motion is on the agenda but it looks like it may not be taken today.

1659.  I am going to describe what is going on – to the best of my ability.  When something is “in quotation marks” then it is a direct accurate quote.  When there are no marks, it is my description of what is being said.

1701.  Sally Hunt, General Secretary spoke half an hour ago.  It was a general critique of Government education policy.  A call for some reform in the union – including reducing the size of the NEC. She made an appeal against factionalism.  Preparing her bid for re-election?

1706.  Debating motion concerning the timing of Congress.

1707.  Coming up later, mtion L10 Venezuela:  “UCU Congress notes the unilateral and unlawful sanctions imposed by the US administration against the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA for trading with Iran.  Venzuela is a sovereign country that has the right to trade with any country it chooses.”  So this Congress may vote to “circulate the PACBI call” for an academic boycott of Israel while at the same time “strongly condemning US sanctions against PDVSA”.  We’ll see.

1713. Coming up, the international debate, starting with  Composite 35, wishing Amnesty International a happy 50th birthday and seeking ways to work with it.

1716.  A count has been ordered on Motion 34 concerning future timings of UCU Congresses.

1720.  Amnesty motion next, and then is the motion entitled “Threats to Academic Freedom in Israel and Palestine”.   We are still counting votes on the motion about Congress timing.

1725.  Amnesty International.  Marion Hersh proposing for the NEC.

1726.  Not contentious.  I’m going to briefly talk about Amnesty International.    Amnesty does good work supporing womens rights and LGBT people.  Amnesty has done interesting work on recent events in the MIddle EAst and Egypt.  Also calling for the impeachment of Ghadaffi.  This is urging us to strenthen our links and support Amnesty.

1728.  Mike Cushman for LSE moving.  UCU has always been proud of its record for defending academics under attack from Columbia to Burma and beyond.  What kind of state crminalizes non violent civil society action against criminality?  An authoritarian, totalitarian and fascist state.   A bill in the Knesset that will do exactly that.  “it is prohibited to initiate a boycott against Israel…”

Criminality every day.  And it says if you engage in BDS  – you will be liable for a fine of £5000 each time.  If you provide information, if you do research, if you find out what is going on in the occupied territories, you will be fined.

The money will be paid to the people who have been boycotted.  This bill mixes criminal and civil law.  £5000 every time you do some research that says this settlement is exporting goods illegally.  I Beg to move.

1732. Sue Blackwell.  Ariel is the 4th largest settlement in the West Bank.  The wall around Ariel separates Palestinians from their services.  Once a 5 minute trip now takes half an hour.  Waste from ariel pollutes Palestinian villages.  Ariel receives more money than other places in Israel.

There is a conference at Ariel conf tomorrow.  Gush shalom is calling for a boycott of this conference.  American Jewish activist Lawrence Davidson has dubbed it “criminal criminology”.

We should not forget that our Palestinian colleagues believe that the exclusive focus on settlement institutions obscures the call against all israeli institutions.

1733. Ronnie Fraser.  I would like to remind proposers of this motion they ignore UCU’s legal advice.  Distributing and promoting the call for a boycott is in breach of legislation.  outside the aims of our union.  if this is adopted and the NEC distributes the boycott cal then it is in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

If any UCU officer or member of the NEC were to raise the matter of the boycott the union will be once again guilty and in breach of the equality legislation.  The Legal advice also prevents us supporting a call for a boycott by others.

This affects me now.  I hold a position at an Israeli university.

Motion 36 contains a relentless unique attack against the Jewish state.  And almost everything stated in the motion is false.

Any state has the right to penalise those involved in boycotts against it.

Chair: stop now please.

Ronnie asks to raise a point of order.

No, says the chair.

Chair: “you need to stop now and if you do not stop I will ask for your microphone to be cut”.  You can raise a point of order later”

Next a delegate named “David” by the Chair.  He made an emotional speech.  He said that some settlers in the West Bank are against the wall, saying that they wanted to build houses on the land taken up by the wall.  He said they wanted to build from the Nile to the Euphrates.  “This is an expansionist people” he said.

Camila Bassi – motion is unbalanced.  No criticism of Hamas, which prevented people from protesting in support of the Egyptian uprising

Mike Cushman: We have been misled from the platform.  Don’t worry.  We’re not going to be sued.  You can stand up for justice and it won’t cost you.

Ronnie Fraser, point of order.  The legal advice made it clear that calling for boycott would expose us to legal action.  I ask that the following points be withdrawn as they are asking the members of the NEC to break the law.

Paul cotteril: if any of the motions would have raised legal issues, congress would have been so advised.

Big round of applause.

Move to the vote.

Very clearly carried.  (as many as 10 people voted against the motion).  Maybe half a dozen abstentions.

That’s it for today.   Motion was overwhelmingly carried as we knew it would be.

The claim that some of the settlers want to occupy all the land from the Nile to the Euphrates was extra-ordinary.  His claim then that “This is an expansionist people” is an antisemitic claim.

Same time tomorrow.  Sorry for the rushed and incomplete notes.