Friday, May 19, 2006

Fighting the Jew-baiters' boycott... again

Having spent a lot of time this time last year addding whatever very meagre force this blog might have to the fight against my own trade union's boycott policy on Israeli academics, here we go again, with the union (NATFHE) mine is merging with later this year. The main clearing house for the struggle is the indespensible Engage website. You can also check out Jeff Weintraub (who reveals that even commieprof Juan Cole is against the boycott, showing how extremist it is), infotainment rules, and ZionismOnTheWeb.

I don't know what I can add, so I'll post this from the Jewish Labor Committee [hyperlinks added]:

As you probably know, the 65,000-member UK union, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE), has had a resolution proposed for consideration that deals with an academic boycott policy against Israeli academic institutions ... to be voted on at the end of May. NATFHE is about to merge with the UK's Association of University [Teachers] (AUT) which last year passed an academic boycott of several Israeli institutions. The resolution was later rescinded by the AUT in face of stiff opposition.

While the AUT boycott was targeted and binding for its members, the NATFHE boycott encourages its members to “boycott those that do not publicly dissociate themselves” with Israeli governmental policies that the union deems harmful to Palestinians. The NATFHE boycott, like that of AUT, is being pushed by a small group of anti-Israel activists.

NATFHE’s call for a boycott against Israeli academics is being met with serious objection around the world. Britain’s Ambassador to Israel, Simon McDonald has said the British government believes that academic boycotts are not productive and that “far more can be obtained through dialogue and academic cooperation.” Also in Britain, David Hirsh, [Lecturer] at Goldsmiths College, continues to serve as a leader in the academic field fighting anti-Israel policies in higher education. He is the editor of Engage Online ( ) which has extensive material on the situation.

Yesterday, the Jewish Labor Committee, where I work, sent out a letter that you might be able to use, together with information on , in preparing your own letter. Please see below. I'm sure that there are some academics with which you are in contact that can write something appropriate for the situation, or you might wish to write one of your own.

>> Arieh - JLC letter, below:

Mr. Paul Mackney
General Secretary
The National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education
NATFHE Head Office
27 Britannia Street, London WC1X 9JP
Via fax: 020-7837-4403 [from USA - 011-44-20-7837-4403]

Dear Brother Mackney:

We are writing to express our concern about Resolution 198C, titled “ACADEMIC RESPONSIBILITY,” which is scheduled for a vote at your organization’s annual conference being held May 27 to 29.

Resolution 198C talks about “ensuring equity and non-discrimination in contacts with Israeli educational institutions or individuals,” a worthy goal of and organization such as yours, committed to defending the interests of lecturers, trainers, researchers and managers working in further and higher education. As we read it, however, the resolution is designed to accomplish precisely the opposite ? namely, sanctioning inequitable and discriminatory behavior toward Israeli academics, students and others associated with Israeli educational institutions.

It is our understanding that the Constitution of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education states in Section 2.4 that among the organization’s aims is the following:

“To oppose actively all forms of harassment, prejudice and unfair discrimination whether on the grounds of sex, race, ethnic or national origin, religion, colour, class, caring responsibilities, marital status, sexuality, disability, age or other status or personal characteristic. ?”

Clearly, however, the proposed resolution calls for discrimination against Israeli academics, students and others associated with Israeli educational institutions unless they specifically and publicly disassociate themselves from “continuing Israeli apartheid policies, including construction of the exclusion wall, and discriminatory educational practices.” Instead of advancing academic responsibility, as its name implies, the resolution would, in effect, create a blacklist on which all Israelis associated with Israeli academic institutions are placed. Such an outcome would impede academic freedom and freedom of expression, two principles that should be of paramount importance to any association of teachers in higher education.

It is ironic that the resolution following the one under discussion is titled “BULLYING IN THE WORKPLACE.” During the past decade, Israel has been the only country whose academics have been targeted by resolutions of the sort now being considered by NATFHE. But it is neither fair nor appropriate to make Israelis jump through hoops before they are off a boycott list ? and certainly not fair or appropriate while massive violations of human rights and workers rights are taking place in a range of other countries and communities. If Resolution 198C doesn’t represent a classic case of “bullying,” like those others before it, then it comes very close.

It is troubling, to say the least, that while Resolution 198C does not ask for NATFHE to call for a boycott of Israeli academics, students and others associated with Israeli educational institutions, it clearly implies that it would be “appropriate” for individual NATFHE members to engage in such a boycott. Such wording not only appears to be disingenuous, but calls into question the very motives of those who proposed the resolution.

We believe it is appropriate for NATFHE to express its collective judgment on the conditions confronting academics, students, working people in general and communities and societies as a whole. Indeed, your organization should reflect and publicly express the considered opinion of its members. We also oppose “litmus tests” to determine whether or not the political beliefs of individuals are sufficiently pure as to warrant their being removed from a boycott list.

Thus, we hope that NATFHE members consider Resolution 198C and conclude, as we have, that such a proposal counters the association’s own bylaws and core beliefs. Simply put, targeting Israelis based solely on where they live and work is contrary to generally accepted norms of academic freedom, and more to the point, violates basic principles of trade union solidarity and fundamental democratic values.


Stuart Appelbaum

cc: Edward J. McElroy, Jr., President
American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO

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Anonymous said...

Cole's against the blacklist, yes, but he's for divestment:

He's a nincompoop.

bob said...

I second the nincompoop description. (I've never used that word in writing before.)