FFIPP Newsletters, 2005-

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FFIPP-UK mailing no 1 26 April 2005

FFIPP-UK Newsletter, 27 April 2005

FFIPP-UK Newsletter, 10th May 2005

FFIPP-UK Newsletter, 6 June 2005 – draft?

FFIPP-UK mailing no 1 26 April 2005

Subject: FFIPP-UK mailing – Some discussion papers on the boycott question
Date: 26 April 2005 10:22:47 BST
To: richard@richardkuper.com

Below you will find a mailing of three short articles, put together by the US Bay Area-based group, Jewish Voice for Peace, following the AUT vote last Friday.

It consists an introduction by Mitchell Plitnick and three articles:
1. Baruch Kimmerling, from the Hebrew University, arguing against the academic boycott
Ilan Pappe’s Guardian article of 20th April in favour of the boycott; and
An argument by Henri Picciotto of Jewish Voice for Peace in favour of selective sanctions (not including academic boycott).

I hope you will find these of interest.

Best wishes
Richard Kuper

[The Association of University Teachers in Britain voted today to begin an academic boycott of two Israeli universities, Haifa University and Bar-Ilan University. They voted not to initiate a boycott of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The boycotts are based on specific causes in the case of each university. At Haifa, it is due to the controversy surrounding a masters? thesis by Teddy Katz documenting a massacre during the 1948 war at Tantura, a document which was roundly lambasted by many Israeli academics. It was defended by Ilan Pappe of Haifa U, who has been harassed due to this and other political causes. At Bar-Ilan, the call for boycott is based on that institution?s allegiance with the College of Judea and Samaria, an Israeli/Jewish college in the Occupied Territories.

Below, we find two views of the academic boycott. One, by Prof. Baruch Kimmerling of the Hebrew University opposes the boycott; the other by Ilan Pappe defends it. Finally, we include a JVP view of the whole issue of targeted sanctions, boycotts and divestment, by Jewish Voice for Peace Board of Directors member, Henri Picciotto.

JVP has long taken the stance that outside pressure on Israel is absolutely crucial if the occupation is ever to end. But we also believe that such pressure needs to be properly targeted, both for ethical and tactical reasons. We offer these various views to you to stimulate discussion, debate and creative thinking on this controversial subject. —

Mitchell Plitnick, Director of Education and Policy, JVP]

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  1. The Meaning of Academic Boycott

By Baruch Kimmerling

The British Association of University Teachers’ annual council, which convenes on April 20 in Eastbourne, will also debate whether to boycott Israeli universities as a protest against oppressive policies directed against the Palestinians. The motion submitted to the AUT additionally specifies three reasons for boycotting three Israeli Universities. The allegation against the Hebrew University is based on a simple dispute over a real-estate plot which was settled some time ago and has nothing to do with the occupation or oppression of the Palestinians. Namely, the institution is planning to construct a large complex of dormitories, partly on land formerly settled by several Palestinian refugee families uprooted during the 1948 war. In fact, the entire Mt. Scopus campus was an Estate of the British Lord Gray and was purchased by a Russian-Jewish philanthropist in 1919 and donated for the purpose of establishing a university. It was never owned by any local population under any title and was never cultivated by them. Moreover, the dormitories on campus provide much-needed housing for hundreds of Palestinian students who face difficulties renting apartments in town. By this way the motion mixed the general issue of protest against Israeli policy that having nothing to do with the universities with some presumed wrongdoing of specific institutions.

Admittedly, a more serious charge, which is directly connected to the occupation, is the one regarding the academic recognition extended by Bar Ilan University to the College of Judea and Samaria located in Ariel, a West Bank settlement. Charges against Haifa University seem partially justified as well. It seems to me that Dr. Ilan Pappe is indeed harassed for his political views by some faculty and administration staff. However, as a tenured staff member, his position is secure. The controversial MA thesis by Mr. Theodore Katz (submitted at the same institution) which included a chapter about a massacre committed by Israeli forces in the village of Tantura during the 1948 War was retracted under threat of a libel suit. Additional misconduct on the part of this institution, such as the dissolution of the Jewish-Arab theater ensemble, does exist. However, the situation in Haifa looks more like a lack of proper leadership combined with the inter-departmental and interpersonal rifts that common at many universities.

Contrary to a few of my Israeli colleagues, I do respect the right of every member of the scientific international community to call for an academic and cultural boycott on Israeli institutions. I even agree with most of the reasons raised in support of this call. However, the very same reasons that lead some academics to call for a boycott lead me to urge the international academic community not only to refrain from boycotting us but to offer us its moral support and protection.

I will be the first to admit that Israeli academic institutions are part and parcel of the oppressive Israeli state that has, among other acts of foolishness and villainy, committed grave crimes against the Palestinian people. A major cause for the Israeli academy’s inseparability from the state is that we are so heavily funded and heavily subsidized by the government. A successful boycott will have a boomerang effect by cementing the dependence of Israeli academic institutions and their members on an increasingly capricious government.

Since Mrs. Limor Livnat’s appointment as Minister of Education, the Israeli academy has become the target of a reconstruction and “reeducation” campaign. This policy was in no way accidental. In Israel today, mass media is generally chauvinistic and unwilling to challenge the policies of the Sharon government. Dissenting journalists who document the daily afflictions and human rights violations suffered by the Palestinian population, are the subject of petition drives designed to pressure the country’s most liberal private newspaper, Ha’aretz, to stop publishing their work. In this repressive climate, the Israeli academy remains almost the last bastion of free thought and free speech. Most of the humanistic and dissident voices in Israel sound from the ranks of the academy, or are supported by its faculty members.

This is not to say that all the members of the Israeli academy are great humanists or necessarily support the idea of self-determination of the Palestinian people. We are a highly heterogeneous community, as is true of any other fine academic establishment. Some of us are highly active in ethnocentric groups. Others (perhaps the majority) are alienated from any public or intellectual activities. Nevertheless, a small but salient minority remains consistently very active and highly committed to the humanization and democratization of various aspects of Israeli society. Finally however, the most important feature of this community is that, in spite of the deep ideological rifts separating us, we continue to co-exist and to conduct a spirited dialogue amongst ourselves as well as with the world outside the ivory tower. This is made possible by the protective umbrella of academic freedom

In addition, I believe that the Israeli academy has stood fast in a time of crisis and has conducted itself more responsibly than, say, the British academy (when the British government was engaged in acts of brutality against the Irish-Catholics, during the Falkland/Malvinas war, or throughout the long Thatcher regime), or the patriotic American academy (during the current war against Afghanistan, the McCarthy era witch-hunts, or even during most phases of the Korean and Vietnam wars). Yet, I have never heard of any calls to boycott either the British or American academies. As for the cause celebre of the “successful” boycott against the South African academy, it is well known that it mainly damaged the progressive forces within South Africa and probably hindered its democratization process.

Certain scholars have suggested that the boycott should be institutional, rather than personal. Their call is to exempt “conscientious Israeli academics and intellectuals opposed to their state’s colonial and racist policies” from the boycott. Some of these academics have offered ?generously- to cooperate with me (presumably because I am in some catalogue listing the “good guys”), while boycotting my institution. Obviously it is their right to boycott whichever institution or person they wish, but they must realize that if the call to freeze funds to my institution is effective, the resulting constraints on research and conferences will also hurt the “good guys.” Moreover, the very idea of making selections among members of the academy is a horrifying prospect and I hereby pledge not to cooperate with any institution or person who will make such selections, disregarding whether I myself am ruled out or accepted by them. Once again, the crucial point here is that the call for a selective boycott, while wrong in itself, also undermines the logic of making a case against the universities at all. Ultimately, selections made on the basis of non-academic criteria endanger academic freedom.

I am fully aware that academic freedom is not above other moral considerations and does not exist within a political and social vacuum. I can understand British academics who feel strong moral resentment when confronted by oppressive policies and war crimes directed against Palestinians and who desire “to do something” within their own profession. Moreover, I can sympathize with Palestinian academics who daily witness the destruction of Palestinian academic institutions and the harassment of faculty and students, while knowing that at the same time, and only a few miles away, my institution operates more or less normally. Their feelings are especially comprehensible in light of the fact that my institution never took any institutional measures to relieve the harsh conditions suffered by Palestinian universities and colleges. And so, while not joining their call for a boycott, I can understand the emotions and motivations behind it.

I have less understanding, however, for my Israeli colleagues who are asking to be boycotted. I do not condemn them, as some my colleagues do, because they are fully entitled to express their opinions and to try to convince us of their correctness. Moreover, they and I share the goal of democratizing and de-colonizing Israeli society. The only divergence between us (besides our different conception of the very meaning of the academy) is that, should their call be taken seriously it would weaken our common academic autonomy and freedom. This sad outcome is the precise goal of our adversaries and will have catastrophic consequences for our common struggle.

On a final note, an agreement was signed between the four major Israeli universities and four Palestinian universities on June 4th in Roma at La Sapienza University. The agreement promotes close collaboration between Palestinian and Israeli researchers and institutions in various fields and disciplines and is endorsed by the Italian government and UNESCO. It declares a strong commitment to turn the campuses on both sides into places of peace, tolerance and pluralism. I strongly believe that supporting and implementing such positive steps will prove infinitely more effective in empowering the rational elements in the region than would futile and anti-academic boycotts.

Therefore, I am calling on the British and international academic community to strengthen its connections with both the Israeli and the Palestinian academic communities, in order to empower them. Both peoples need a strong and secure academic space as a part of their civil societies in order to promote the elements that are able to initiate major social and political changes in the region.

Baruch Kimmerling is George S. Wise chair of Sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has published numerous books and articles on Jewish-Arab conflict, sociology of war and peace, Israeli and Palestinian societies, culture and history, including The Israeli State and Society: Boundaries and Frontiers (SUNY, 1989), The Invention and Decline of Israeliness (California, 2001), The Palestinian People: A History (with Joel Migdal, Harvard, 2003), Politicide: Ariel Sharon’s War against the Palestinians (Verso, 2003) and Immigrants, Settlers and Natives (Am Oved, Hebrew, 2004).

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  1. Haifa University academic Ilan Pappe is one of the few Israelis supporting the university boycott of Israel. Here he explains why

Guardian, UK April 20, 2005

I appeal to you today to be part of a historical movement and moment that may bring an end to more than a century of colonisation, occupation and dispossession of Palestinians. I appeal to you as an Israeli Jew, who for years wished, and looked, for other ways to bring an end to the evil perpetrated against the Palestinians in the occupied territories, inside Israel and in the refugee camps. I devoted all my adult life, with others, creating a substantial peace movement inside Israel, in which, so we hoped, academia will play a leading role. But after 37 years of endless brutal and callous oppression of the people of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and after 57 years of colonisation and dispossession of the Palestinians as a whole, I think this hope is unrealistic and other means have to be looked at to end a conflict that endangers peace in the world at large.

Violence and armed struggle have also failed, and they can’t be easily condoned by people like myself who are basically pacifists at heart. Historical examples, such as in South Africa and Gandhi’s movement in India, prove that there are peaceful means for achieving an end to the longest oppression and violation of human rights in the last century. Boycotts and outside pressure have never been attempted in the case of Israel, a state that wishes to be included in the civilised democratic world. Israel has indeed enjoyed such a status since its creation in 1948 and, therefore, succeeded in fending off the many United Nations’ resolutions that condemned its policies and, moreover, managed to obtain a preferential status in the European Union. Israeli academia’s elevated position in the global scholarly community epitomises this western support for Israel as the “only democracy” in the Middle East. Shielded by this particular support for academia, and other cultural media, the Israeli army and security services can go on, and will go on, demolishing houses, expelling families, abusing citizens and killing, almost every day, children and women without being accountable regionally and globally for their crimes.

Military and financial support to Israel is significant in enabling the Jewish state to pursue the policies it does. Any possible measure of decreasing such aid is most welcome in the struggle for peace and justice in the Middle East. But the cultural image in Israel feeds the political decision in the west to support unconditionally the Israeli destruction of Palestine and the Palestinians. The message that will be directed specifically against those academic institutes which have been particularly culpable in sustaining the oppression since 1948 and the occupation since 1967, can be a start for a successful campaign for peace (as similar acts at the time had activated the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa).

Calling for a boycott of your own state and academia is not an easy decision for a member of that academia. But I learned how the concerned academic communities, worldwide, could mobilise at the right moment when I was threatened with expulsion by my own university, the University of Haifa, in May 2002. A very precise and focused policy of pressure on the university allowed me, albeit under restriction and systematic harassment, to purse my classes and research, which are aimed at exposing the victimisation of the Palestinians throughout the years. This is a particular important avenue, as I am the only one who does it in my own university, and one of the few who does it in the country as a whole, and also because the university has a large community of Palestinian students, who are prevented by draconian regulations from expressing their anger and frustration at what had been, and is, done against their people. These students have felt totally isolated since the university established close links with the security apparatuses in the country. The fact that the university is closely connected to the security services – by providing postgraduate degrees – is by itself not a crime, but as these are the agencies that exercise on a daily basis the occupation in the Palestinian areas, their presence in the campus means academia is significantly involved in perpetuating the evil.

As I learned from my own case, outside pressure is effective in a country where people want to be regarded as part of the civilized world, but their government, with their explicit and implicit help, pursues policies which violate every known human and civil right. Neither the UN, nor the US and European governments, and societies, have sent a message to Israel that these policies are unacceptable and have to be stopped. It is up to the civil societies, through organisations like yours, to send messages to Israeli academics, businessmen, artists, hi-tech industrialists and every other section in that society, that there is a price tag attached to such policies.

I thank you in advance for your support. Should you decide to embark on the bold policy suggested, you empower me and my friends who will, I am convinced of this, be able to build together with our Palestinian comrades a just basis for peace and reconciliation in Palestine.

Ilan Pappe is senior lecturer in the department of political science in Haifa University and the chairman of the Emil Touma institute for Palestinian studies in Haifa.

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  1. The Case for Selective Sanctions

A JVP position paper by Henri Picciotto

Some members of Jewish Voice for Peace raised the question of how to escalate our nonviolent activism, and the possibility of calling for sanctions against the Israeli government. Many of us are frustrated by the contrast between the horrors of the situation and our inability to effect immediate, sweeping change. Still, we have to keep reminding ourselves that frustration alone is not sufficient foundation for policy, as it provides no useful way to evaluate competing strategies. Nor can we make our decision based on whether we will be attacked: we will be attacked no matter how we choose to proceed.

Instead, our criterion has to be “does this strategy build or undermine the movement for justice and peace?” To evaluate this, we need to first acknowledge that we are not anywhere near being able to build an economic pressure movement that could actually force the hand of the Israeli government. The sanctions against South Africa were a tactic at the tail end of a decades-long movement, when the South African government was thoroughly isolated in the US population. As of now, the Israeli occupation has powerful support in the United States. Not only the US government, not only the military-industrial complex, not only both major parties, not only the Christian right, but also millions of ordinary citizens. Not everyone by a long shot, but enough that it is a significant obstacle to any forward motion, and a guarantee that sufficient economic leverage against the Israeli occupation is not yet within our reach.

Our central task by far, and for the foreseeable future, is to educate the public so as to eventually be able to influence United States policy, and thus Israeli actions. Our strategic criterion needs to be whether a given campaign helps us educate people, or whether instead it helps our opponents? disinformation machine. On this score, we face a more hostile environment than our European colleagues, and thus we cannot uncritically adopt the decisions of the European Social Forum. (They approved an economic sanctions platform, at the urging of Palestinian activist Mustafa Barghouti.)

A look at recent campaigns is instructive:

On-campus “Divest from Israel” campaigns have crashed and burned, generating fantastic opportunities for our opponents to collect thousands of signatures in defense of the Israeli government (e.g. Harvard) while our allies struggled to collect hundreds. On the other hand, campaigns to “divest from companies that deal with the Israeli military” met with success (Oberlin, University of Pennsylvania).

A campaign to get a San Francisco grocery store (Rainbow) to boycott Israeli goods completely failed, and ended up being a great opportunity for our opponents to portray its sponsors as anti-Semites, a spurious charge, but one that worked for them.

The academic boycott of Israel has likewise been a total bust, while inviting pro-justice Israeli academics has proven useful.

In other words, the situation in Palestine has indeed gotten much worse, but the political situation here in the US is mostly unchanged as far as Israel/Palestine. Choosing a strategy that plays into the hands of our opponents is just wrong: when they attack us, and they will, we want to come out of that confrontation having more supporters, not fewer. The problem is not at all that being attacked is rough going for us — we can stand a little rough going. The problem is that an effective attack sets us back.

How we frame our campaigns has an enormous impact on the outcome of the struggle. At this point, generic anti-Israel campaigns only weaken our movement and in fact perpetuate the occupation by shifting the debate away from it and towards the phony issue of “Israel’s right to exist” and the like. This is a debate we do not need.

Just saying that such sanctions are not aimed at Jews or the Israeli people does not solve the problem. We should instead keep the focus of our campaigns laser-like on the occupation itself (and other human rights violations.) A boycott of goods from settlements does precisely that, as do campaigns against companies that do business with the Israeli military, such as Caterpillar. We should focus on the crimes we seek to stop. Every attempt our opponents make to defend the settlements and the occupation further exposes the nature of these human rights violations.

Of course, even though we do not think generic sanctions campaigns are effective at this time, we continue to reject the absurd charge that they are inherently anti-Semitic. Yes, anti-Semites may call for sanctions against Israel, but most supporters of Palestinian rights are motivated by a humanistic solidarity impulse, and they are our allies in the struggle for justice and peace.

Opposing generic anti-Israel campaigns at this time does not mean we cannot build campaigns that have teeth?quite the opposite. The campaign against the Caterpillar sales of weaponized bulldozers to the Israeli military is one example. Human rights groups are pursuing this through shareholder resolutions and direct actions, and a divest-from-Cat campaign is definitely a possibility. Another example is the campaign led by the International Solidarity Movement last year, asking the City of Berkeley to support the call for an investigation of Rachel Corrie’s death. They did excellent work lobbying the city council, mobilizing allies (including JVP), and actually showing up at the council meetings.

Of many such attempts, this was the first to succeed in Berkeley. All the experts were warning ISM to expect to lose, and yet they won. Because the campaign was focused on a specific human rights violation, rather than generically anti-Israel, it left the pro-occupation forces with nothing effective to do or say — they raised generalities about anti-Semitism which were just not credible and clearly irrelevant, especially given the presence of a strong Jewish voice for peace at the council meetings. Even if the ISM proposal had not passed, the campaign would still have been a success, because the focus was on justice and human rights, not Zionism and terrorism — and many people were educated in the process.

The selective divestment strategy is quickly gaining adherents. In Israel, the feminist and anti-militarist organization New Profile has endorsed selective divestment. Here in the US, the Presbyterian Church resolved to explore “selective divestment of church funds from those companies whose business in Israel is found to be directly or indirectly causing harm or suffering to innocent people, Palestinian or Israeli”. (Note that they wisely “did not approve a blanket divestment from companies that do business in Israel”.) This was the first in what may soon be a torrent of church-based activism: the gigantic World Council of Churches has recently spoken in support of the Presbyterians. The genie is out of the bottle, and we may be entering an entirely new phase in the movement for justice and peace in Palestine/Israel.


Henri Picciotto is a math teacher, a Jew from Lebanon, and a member of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Voice for Peace


FFIPP-UK Newsletter, 27th April 2005

  1. Haifa University president calls on dissident academic to resign – from Ha’aretz newspaper
    2. Letter from Ron Kuzar, Haifa University
    3. Letter from Avraham Oz, Haifa University
    4. “You brought the boycott upon yourselves”: An open letter from former Knesset MP Uri Avnery to the President of Bar Ilan University
    5. “Waiting for the boycott to bite”, Education Guardian report by Donald MacLeod and Polly Curtis
  2. Haifa University president calls on dissident academic to resign

By Tamara Traubman, Haaretz Correspondent

26th April 2005

Haifa University President Aharon Ben-Ze’ev called on Dr. Ilan Pappe, a staff member who supports the academic boycott on Israeli universities, to tender his resignation. “It is fitting for someone who calls for a boycott of his university to apply the boycott himself,” Ben-Ze’ev said Monday.

Ben-Ze’ev said the university management would not boycott Pappe nor would it take disciplinary steps against him, because boycotts destroy academic freedom. But he said Pappe’s behavior was “intolerable from a moral point of view,” and that he should therefore decide to leave of his own accord.

Pappe, a member of the political science department, was not available Monday evening for comment.

The Association of University Teachers – the leading union of British lecturers with some 48,000 members – decided on Friday to impose the boycott on Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities on the grounds that they “collaborate with the crimes of occupation.” Haifa University was charged with restricting academic freedom of staff members who have spoken out against government policies, while Bar-Ilan is being boycotted for its ties with the Judea and Samaria College in Ariel in the West Bank.

The boycott was the talk of the day Monday on both campuses with staff members planning to take action to counter it. Prof. Eitan Gilboa of Bar-Ilan’s political science department, said he and the rector, Prof. Yosef Yeshurun, will call on all British AUT members who oppose the boycott to resign from the union. Gilboa said they would also ask the Israeli government to request that the British government impose sanctions on Birmingham University and the Open University where the initiators of the boycott teach. He said they would also request that academics at British universities who apply the sanctions be brought to disciplinary hearings.

Gilboa called the boycott “an academic terror attack on Israeli academe.” He said its initiators were “a radical and extremist group” that has been trying for a long time to find an excuse to boycott Israel.

The presidents of the two universities and staff members are planning personal appeals to British lecturers to work against the boycott. Haifa University Rector Prof Yossi Ben-Artzi said the boycott could severely harm the two universities. “There is hardly a staff member who does not have connections with Britain,” he noted.

Prof. Avi Saguy of Haifa University, who is organizing a psychology conference together with Palestinian professionals, said a British colleague had already written to protest the decision and ensure his participation in the conference. Three AUT members announced they would resign from the union. Two of them, Jonathan Ginsberg and Shalom Lapin of Kings College, London – called on other unions in Britain and abroad to cancel recognition of the AUT until it withdraws the boycott.

  1. Letter from Ron Kuzar, Haifa University

As someone who is strongly opposed to Israel’s behavior towards the Palestinians in the territories as well as its misconduct of its Arab
citizens, I would like to make the following points:

  1. While I do find some similarities between South-Africa’s apartheid and Israel’s conduct in the occupied territories, I do not find the AUT
    boycott to be similar to that imposed on South-African universities. The latter was part of a total embargo – diplomatic, economic, cultural, and
    educational – a concerted effort of the international community to force SA to abandon apartheid. Had there been a total international embargo on Israel to force it to abandon the occupation of the territories, I would have supported that embargo, including the boycott of Israeli Universities (all of them).
  2. The University of Haifa has made many mistakes, or even worse, hasacted in an unfair manner towards its Arab students. Yet, this is an institution with a dynamic community of lecturers, many of whom are opposed to both its policies against Arab students (see the recent discussion about signs in Arabic) and some (perhaps others) are opposed to Israel’s policies in the occupied territories. As an institution, the University of Haifa has not allied itself in any way with expansionist anti-Palestinian policies. Hence, the university is not a tool in the hands of the state or the expansionist forces in Israel, but rather a battle ground in which different ideologies are in conflict.
  3. Even if Pappe’s allegations (as reported) are all true, this is not enough of a reason to impose a boycott on the whole university. There could be more specific ways to challenge the university’s decision re Teddy Katz’s MA or re Pappe’s secure position at the university.
  4. While I do not trust the Jerusalem Post as a source of reliable information, I haven’t seen any alternative reports of what went on at the AUT conference. If these are indeed the facts of the decision making procedure, I condemn the decision as both illegal and unjustified in light of 1, 2, and 3 above.
  5. The boycott against Bar-Ilan University is fully justified since this university actively supports a college which is part of the settlement apparatus.

Ron Kuzar
Dr. Ron Kuzar
Address: Department of English Language and Literature
University of Haifa
IL-31905 Haifa, Israel
Office: +972-4-824-9826, Fax: +972-4-824-9711
Home: +972-2-641-4780, Mobile: +972-54-481-9676
Email: kuzar@research.haifa.ac.il
Homepage: http://research.haifa.ac.il/~kuzar

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  1. Letter from Avraham Oz, Haifa University

An update written on a date where professional and personal concerns converge may require a special issue to be addressed. Today’s date traditionally mark both Shakespeare’s date of birth and death, It is also the Eve of Jewish Passover, known as the holiday of Liberation. As the old Chinese curse would has it, the Middle East will never fail to provide interesting occasions to furnish a special update.

The British AUT has voted a couple of days ago in favor of a motion to boycott two Israeli Universities, one of which is the one I am employed in. Since, I have been asked by many friends for my reaction to this, and I gather I owe you my response.

Whenever asked, over the last few years I expressed my opinion that even though the repressive policies of my country against the Palestinian population, especially in the territories occupied in 1967, is appalling, racist, sometimes horrifying in its cruelty, and often having crossed the boundaries of war crimes, academic boycott was neither morally justified nor effective. It does not distinguish between university administrations and faculty; nor am I sure that a proper mechanism was devised to distinguish between faculty members who think they can live in the ivory tower of academia in times of gross injustice and such ­ and there are many in Israeli academia ­ who risk their position for actively participating in acts of protest against official policies of repression and cooperation with the victims of injustice.

However, while I still adhere to my opinion regarding this matter, both my government and my university hardly have a cause for complaint: they did whatever they could to provoke the responses leading to this, to my mind, erroneous move. The Mini-stress of Education and Culture, who will probably soon cry havoc on that boycott, is the same person who threatened to deny Daniel Barenboim a prestigious prize, and goes on demanding the firing of academics whom she blacklisted as traitors to the national cause. An academic community which didn’t shout its protest when an eminent academic and moral figure such as the late Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz was forced to withdraw the Israel prize following an ugly wave of political bigotry; which kept quiet when academic freedom in the Occupied Territories was constantly curbed by closures and harassments; which is even now piling on my friend and colleague Ilan Pappe as responsible for the move, while having cheered and elected the person who demanded his firing as their academic leader, but never seriously questioned the “academic privilege” overriding transparency when a formerly cum-laude awarded thesis was suddenly disqualified by an anonymous group of readers following a political controversy surrounding its conclusions; such an academic community should first question its own standards, before proclaiming itself the victim of an anti-Semitic campaign. No equivalent to the AUT was ever created in Israel, to become a body where not only local problems are tackled in the face of a system which made higher education in Israel approach total crumbling, but also take a stand in matters which transcend local issues, and protect the rights of those individuals within academy who face injustice perpetrated by the administrations for protesting against the abuse of justice.

As many of you know, on a personal level, I have many reasons to endorse the allegations directed against my university: I will not elaborate on matters which are still subject to a court litigation. However, while still believing the AUT measure to have been counterproductive, I would advise my colleagues to look deeper into the circumstances which have led a majority of members of the AUT council to go along with such an extreme motion. Hiding our heads in the old arguments of Jew-baiting will not answer many viable questions directed at us, which we often fail to address. Justification for boycott aside, can we really, in all honesty, brush aside the issues directed not only against Israeli policies, but against the general functioning of academia in Israel? I wish all of us will take a moment, while celebrating tonight the holiday of Liberation, to ponder on “the oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely… the law’s delay, the insolence of office, and the spurns that patient merit of th’unworthy takes,” rather than exonerate ourselves of any wrongdoing by assuming the role of the eternal victims.

For better days,

  1. Oz

Professor Avraham Oz
Department of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, University of Haifa
2105 Eshkol Tower, Mount Carmel, 31905 Haifa, Israel
Office Tel +972-4-8240672 Office Fax +972-4-8249713
Home Tel +972-3-5609627 Home Fax +972-1533-5609627
Mobile +972-50-7220783 Email: avitaloz@research.haifa.ac.il

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  1. You brought the boycott upon yourselves 

Gush Shalom letter to Bar Ilan University
Tel-Aviv, April 26, 2005

Professor Moshe Kaveh
Bar Ilan University

Dear Sir

In various media interviews today you expressed anger at the decision of British university lecturers to declare a boycott against the Bar-Ilan University, calling it “an unacceptable mixing of politics into academic life”. When asked about the “Judea and Samaria College” which your university maintains at the settlement of Ariel, you stated that this was “an entirely non-political issue” and that said college was nothing more than “the largest of five colleges which Bar Ilan maintains at different locations in Israel”. Indeed, you declared yourself and your colleagues to be proud of the decision to establish the Ariel college, and you felt no contradiction between continuing to maintain that college, at the investment of a considerable part of Bar Ilan’s total resources, and the maintenance of extensive ties with universities worldwide, including in Britain.

As an example you mentioned your own ties as a physicist with Cambridge University and your plans to spend some time at Cambridge this summer – plans which, as you stated, remain unchanged also in the wake of the British lecturers’ decision.

Surely, a person of your intelligence and experience can be expected to note the obvious contradictions in the above position. As you well know, Ariel is not “a location in Israel”. Rather, Ariel is a location in a territory under military occupation, a territory which is not and has never been part of the state of Israel. Moreover, Ariel is a special kind of location: it is an armed enclave, created by armed force and dependent for its continued existence on force, and force alone.

The creation of Ariel is a severe violation of international law, specifically of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which specifically forbids an occupying power from transferring and settling its own citizens in the occupied territory. On the ground, the creation and maintenance of Ariel entailed and continues to entail untold hardships to the Palestinians who happen to live in the nearby town of Salfit and in numerous villages a long distance all around. Palestinian inhabitants are exposed to ongoing confiscation of their land so as to feed the land hunger of the ever-expending Ariel settlement, and their daily life are subjected to increasingly stringent travel limitations in the name of “preserving the settlers’ security”.

The government-approved plans to extend the “Separation Fence” so as to create a corridor linking Ariel to the Israeli border necessitate the confiscation of yet more vast tracts of Palestinian land, depriving thousands of villagers of their sole source of livelihood. Moreover, should the Ariel corridor be completed, it would cut deeply through the territory which the international community earmarked for creation of a Palestinian state, depriving that state of territorial continuity and viability. For that reason, the plan aroused widespread international opposition, not least from the United States, our main ally on the international arena.

In all of this the Bar Ilan University, of which you are president, made itself a major partner – indeed,since a violation of international law is involved, the term “accomplice” may well be used. The “Judea and Samaria College” which you and your colleagues established and nurtured has a central role in the settlement of Ariel, increasing its population and its economic clout. The college’s faculty and students are prime users of the “Trans-Samaria Road”, the four-lane highway which was created on confiscated Palestinian land in order to provide quick transportation to Ariel. The Palestinian villagers on whose land this highway was built are excluded from using it. They are relegated to a rugged, bumpy mountain trail.

It is you and your colleagues, Professor Kaveh, who started mixing academics with politics. A very heavy mixture, such as few universities anywhere ever engaged in. You cannot really complain when people in Britain, who have different standards for what is the proper moral behavior of academics (or for human beings in general) take action which you do not like. In fact, if you are truly proud of establishing and maintaining the “Judea and Samaria College”, you must have the courage of your convictions and take the consequences. Much better, of course, would be for you and your colleagues to sever your connection with the ill-conceived settlement project – and than you can quite rightly demand that the boycott be removed from your university.


Uri Avnery
Gush Shalom (The Israeli Peace Bloc)
GUSH SHALOM – pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033, www.gush-shalom.org

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  1. Waiting for the boycott to bite

Could the vote by lecturers to suspend links with two Israeli universities fuel a rise in anti-semitism on campus? Donald MacLeod and Polly Curtis report

The Guardian, Tuesday April 26, 2005

In theory, Friday’s now notorious decision by British lecturers to mount an academic boycott of Israel has nothing to do with their students. It might affect joint research projects or conferences, perhaps the occasional PhD student.

In practice, the boycott vote has fanned a bitter row about anti-semitism already smouldering in the National Union of Students and in several student unions around the country. Coming after the resignations of three Jewish student officers during this month’s NUS annual conference, claiming the union leadership was turning a blind eye to anti-semitism, the Association of University Teachers’ vote provoked instant condemnation from the Union of Jewish Students (UJS).

“We see it as a another nail in the coffin of Jewish students,” says Danny Stone, campaigns director of UJS. “The AUT should be ashamed of themselves. We are going to call for AUT members to resign. It is absolutely appalling. How can they justify teaching about the Middle East conflict when it is clear that those who voted for the boycott are biased?”

Stone says the boycott could cause tension and hatred in universities. “The worry is that it separates ‘good Jews’ from ‘bad Jews’ on campus by whether they speak out in favour of a boycott, or support Israel, or say nothing.”

And there is already tension. The NUS is holding an inquiry into the complaints by Luciana Berger and Mitch Simmons, who resigned from the national executive, and Jonny Warren, who resigned from the steering committee. They felt the NUS leadership had failed to react robustly when a pamphlet referring to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was discoverd on a Palestinian students’ stall. The Protocols, a 19th-century forgery about a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, has a grim record of being used to whip up anti-Jewish feeling and justify pogroms even before the Nazis used it.

Warren, who says he got involved in the NUS to combat the appearance of the British National Party at Leeds University, where he was studying, says he felt utter revulsion that such a “disgusting” leaflet should be on show at the union conference. The “tepid” response of the leadership prompted his resignation, along with Simmons and Berger, who complained the NUS had not dealt firmly with other incidents during the year, particularly provocative statements at the union of the School of Oriental and African Studies, in London.

Their resignations prompted “distress” from the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, that Jewish students should feel intimidated. Islamic and Palestinian student groups issued sympathetic statements but clearly felt the complaints were being overdone -they saw the same incident in a different light.

The General Union of Palestine Students (Gups) said it disassociated itself from the leaflet on Zionism on its stall and that it did not represent its views in any way. “Once Gups became aware of the existence of the leaflet, it was removed from the stall,” said a statement last week.

The group added: “The NUS was extremely supportive and efficient in helping to resolve the matter fairly, justly and rapidly. Gups met with the UJS at the invitation of the NUS and an amicable resolution was reached and the leaflet removed.

“Gups condemns any act of racism or discrimination. We ourselves have suffered several attempts to stop our meetings in universities in the last academic year.”

Last week, the group had not commented directly on the AUT boycott but its attitude is clear. “We understand the Palestinian struggle as a quest for freedom and self-determination by our people against illegal occupation. We believe that the only way to end the Israeli occupation is by putting pressure on Israel to adhere to international law and to stop its policy of occupation and land confiscation,” said the statement.

“We believe that the people of the Holy Land (Muslims, Jews and Christians) deserve to live there in peace. We in Gups had the courage to take the road to peace even when this meant a state of Israel on 78% of our historical Palestine, and we invite pro-Israeli organisations to take such a step so that we all can live in a lasting and just peace.”

Wakkas Khan, president of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (Fosis), said: “We condemn all forms of anti-semitism towards any Jewish student within the national union. Recently Muslim students have been on the backlash of increased Islamophobia. We need to tackle all forms of discrimination. We empathise with our Jewish friends and stand shoulder to shoulder with the Jewish community to rid society of these grotesque forms of discrimination.”

However, Fosis could not resist pointing out that anti-semitism was not the main form of discrimination within the student movement. “Recent figures released show that while a Jew is three times more likely to be attacked, an Asian or a black person is 10 times more likely to be attacked, and an Arab or Muslim is 11 times more likely,” said the group.

Fosis felt it had a good conference, helping to defeat the Labour group in the executive elections and hosting a meeting addressed by Professor Tariq Ramadan – seen by Muslims as a moderate scholar of international repute, but opposed by some as anti-gay and banned from the US.

There is a certain amount of the usual infighting that characterises student politics as different factions try to assert themselves. The past few years have seen Muslim students arrive in strength at some UK universities and while the NUS can always agree to condemn racism, it is more concerned about Islamophobia than anti-semitism. And for both Jews and Muslims Israel-Palestine is a visceral issue that embitters student politics.

Three years ago passions were running high when students at Manchester University tried to commit their union to a boycott of Israeli goods. Manchester has a 500-strong Jewish society with strong local community networks. It also has about 2,500 Muslim students and a strong Islamic society, whose members have begun to play a more assertive role in student union politics.

Then as now, pro-Palestinian supporters cited the success of the boycott of apartheid South Africa as a good precedent and accused Israel of operating an apartheid system.

On that occasion, Jewish students, who feared an economic boycott was the thin end of a wedge that would lead to the proscription of Zionism and hence the banning of Jewish societies from student unions (something that occurred sporadically in the 1980s), successfully resisted the move.

Despite the defeat for the Manchester motion in 2002, there has been a total of 19 boycott motions at student unions since then, according to Stone. Even though they were unsuccessful, they soured relations on campus and made Jewish students feel less safe and welcome, he says. Then, as now, student politics and the stance taken by academics seemed to interact. In the same year, Professor Mona Baker, of the then University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (Umist), became a global cause célèbre when she sacked two Israeli academics from journals that she owned, in line with an academic boycott against Israel. She vehemently denied anti-semitism, saying the two professors were friends, but argued they were representing their universities and hence the state of Israel.

That did not stop Baker being investigated by her own university in the wake of a political outcry, despite the fact that her action related to her private business activities. She is still on the staff of the merged Manchester University, as is another Umist professor, Michael Sinnott, who was investigated over an intemperate email, in defence of Baker, that he sent to a Harvard academic, in which he described Israel as the “mirror image of Nazism”.

Boycotting Israel can be viewed as blatant discrimination by a university, as Oxford’s Andrew Wilkie, Nuffield professor of pathology, discovered to his cost in 2003. He told Amit Duvshani, a student at Tel Aviv University, that he would not agree to his request to work in his laboratory because the professor had a “huge problem” with the Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

Referring to the student’s three years of Israeli national service, he wrote: “I am sure you are perfectly nice at a personal level, but no way would I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army.” Wilkie was suspended – the stiffest disciplinary measure short of dismissal – and told to take part in equal opportunities training.

This is something the AUT will now have to grapple with, as its executive works out how to advise members. Will it be advising them to break the law? University managers will be in no hurry to help it out. Jocelyn Prudence, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association, who has clashed with AUT general secretary, Sally Hunt, in the past, says pointedly: “[It is] deeply problematic and very unhelpful and opens up all sorts of questions and issues at a point when most people want to be getting on with the main job of academia and I would have thought that they would have wanted to get on with their role in implementing the pay agreement.”

It was a swift reversal of the celebratory mood on Thursday night as the union leadership toasted the decision to merge with the other lecturers’ union, Natfhe, after nine months of arduous negotiation. The next day that was shattered when the conference narrowly defeated the leadership’s frantic attempts to dodge the boycott. It made several efforts to stop it: bringing its own motion to “remove barriers” between academics in Israeli and Palestinian universities, which was rubbished by the pro-boycott lobby when it referred to building links with an Israeli academic union that didn’t exist. It also approved a separate motion to circulate information from Palestinian academics, without committing the union to action. Both were seen as attempts to persuade the wavering sympathisers to reject the main three boycott motions.

These, the leadership argued, should be referred back to the executive because the facts weren’t clear enough. But the pro-boycott campaigners had got in there first with a supportive message from Ilan Pappe, the Jewish academic at Haifa University who is at the centre of claims that the university threatens the academic freedom of those who criticise Israel.

The boycott has been noisily condemned around the world. The merger honeymoon didn’t last long.

For students, the AUT decision will make it harder for the NUS, which has opposed a boycott up to now, to patch things up between its warring factions. Kat Fletcher, the NUS president, is anxious to conclude the independently chaired inquiry as soon as possible and take action if it is recommended. Meanwhile, she is seeking clarification from the AUT. Asked about the conference incident and the resignations, she said she feels bound not to prejudge the inquiry but says the NUS has a proud history of fighting racism of all kinds.

Danny Stone says Jewish students will question whether there is a place for them in the NUS at all, if they do not get satisfaction. “We will have to consider very carefully our place within the NUS if there is no proper investigation, no serious thought given to it, and it is just swept aside.”


FFIPP-UK Newsletter, 10th May 2005

  1. A draft motion for the AUT Special Council
    2. Alone on the Barricades, a detailed study of the Pappe case by Meron Rappoport, Ha’aretz, 6th May 2005
    3. Bar Ilan University – what role does it actually play in relation to the College (now University) of Judea and Samaria?
    (a) Some information and commentary from Reuven Kaminer from Jerusalem
    (b) You brought the boycott upon yourselves
    Open letter to the President of Bar Ilan University from former member of Knesset, Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom (the Israeli Peace Bloc)
    (c) Academics, left-wing activists hold protest in Ariel College
    (d) Arik’s game
    (e) Panel blasts Ariel university decision
  2. A draft motion for the AUT Special Council

What follows is a possible text of a motion to be submitted to the AUT Special Council meeting at the end of May. It’s not set in stone. It attempts to identify key issues, take sensible positions with regard to them and provide some material to aid the discussion. It seems to reflect the feelings of many people in and around FFIPP but is put forward as a FFIPP-UK discussion paper. We hope it will provide a basis for discussion in AUT branch meetings in the weeks leading up to the Special Council.

DRAFT motion for AUT Special Council

The AUT condemns the continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, now nearing the end of its 38th year. We note the illegal settlement building, confiscation of Palestinian lands, collective punishments, extensive housing demolitions, harassment at checkpoints, administrative detention without trial. – all of which constitute prima facie violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. We note the continued construction of the ‘separation fence’ in the occupied territories despite the 2004 ruling of the International Court of Justice that this was contrary to international law.

We note that arbitrary controls on freedom of movement into and within the occupied territories have made attendance of staff and students at universities a lottery with constant interruption of teaching, research and studies. We note the recent expulsion by the Israeli authorities of Gazan students from Bir Zeit University in their final year of study with no opportunity to complete them. And we note the lack of resources generally to underpin the Palestinian higher education system in comparison to those in Israel.

We note that the factual basis of the two resolutions passed by the AUT conference supporting the boycott of Haifa and Bar Ilan Universities has been called into question, particularly severely in the former case. We note further, that the Israeli government has declared the College of Judea and Samaria to be Israel’s ninth university

In the light of this:

  1. We call for the immediate lifting of the boycott on Haifa University, which cannot be sustained on the basis of the resolution adopted.
  2. We call for a moratorium on the boycott of Bar Ilan university while the Executive investigate urgently the relationship of Bar Ilan to the new ‘university’, and report back to Council as soon as is practicable.
  3. With regard to the new ‘university’ of Judea and Samaria:
    a) we call on all genuine Israeli universities to oppose its establishment and, if the Israeli government goes ahead, to refuse to cooperate with it
    b) we call on British universities to refuse to recognise as degrees any awards made by this so-called university or to treat its staff in any way as academic colleagues.
  4. We resolve to act in full cooperation with Natfhe wherever possible on this issue.


  1. There is widespread opposition within the AUT to the continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, now nearing the end of its 38th year. We note the almost daily violations of international law that accompany it, including illegal settlement building, confiscation of Palestinian lands, collective punishments, extensive housing demolitions, harassment at checkpoints, administrative detention without trial.
  2. There is widespread opposition within the AUT to the ongoing violations of academic freedom that are part and parcel of the occupation.
  3. We should take note of the evolution of National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (Natfhe) – the other trade union in the field of higher education in Britain – on this issue and work with it where possible.

Natfhe has discussed the issue in the recent past, moving from a position of reviewing links with Israeli universities with a view to severing them (in 2002) to agreeing that Natfhe should, among other things, pursue a policy based on active support for Palestinian post-school education including work with FOBZU on the Palestinian ‘right to education’ campaign’; promotion of links with Palestinian and Israeli unions, and exploration of possible twinning with Palestinian and Israeli universities.

On 30th April 2005 Natfhe resolved that: “In the light of AUT Council decisions on Palestine and Israel, the NEC confirms its policy of working to support the building of civil society in Palestine, including cooperation with AUT where appropriate, to build positive relations with Palestinian and Israeli institutions and organisations which share our goals, and the consideration of sanctions where they are targeted and deliverable in respect of institutions which are creating obstacles to a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Palestine.”

  1. In relation to the general issue of an academic boycott of Israel two questions need to be posed a) are academic boycotts ever justified? and b) if they are, do they make strategic sense in relation to universities in Israel today.

We know that opinion is divided on the former question. Some people are clearly opposed in principle to such boycotts – both those who have said nothing about their general views of the occupation and many who are equally clearly opposed to the occupation (as expressed on the Engage website). Others support such boycotts in extremis.

We do not believe we can resolve this issue here and now. We note there is no longer a credible call before the AUT for a general academic boycott, whether on moral or strategic grounds. We repeat the view expressed in the letter to the Guardian initiated by FFIPP-UK members that such a call can easily be diversionary.

  1. Was the AUT justified on strategic grounds in calling for boycott of two specific universities in Israel on specified grounds?
  2. a) the boycott of Haifa university is misconceived in its own terms. Ilan Pappe may have been threatened with disciplinary action but the authorities backed off – perhaps as a result of Israeli and international protest,. Pappe remains a tenured member of Haifa University. While one may deplore the way the university authorities acted, any talk of a boycott because of this is, at best, wholly disproportionate. We should also recognise that Ilan Pappe’s actions in calling for an international boycott of Israel, do not exactly endear him to the university authorities or, indeed, to many of his colleagues – yet nonetheless he does remain in post.

Whatever one’s attitude to academic boycotts in general, there would appear to be no grounds for singling out Haifa University on the grounds advanced.

(For further information and opinion on the situation at Haifa see Appendix A)

  1. b) Bar Ilan University. Here the situation is more complicated. The College of Judea and Samaria is an occupation college in the illegal settlement of Ariel. But the facts in the AUT resolution, again, do not appear to be entirely accurate. It would appear that Bar Ilan is only responsible today for validating some teacher training degrees, and that this will cease at the end of academic year (Ha’aretz, 29th April 2005, http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasen/spages/570334.html ). (This is not to deny Bar Ilan’s formative influence in the establishment and development of the College which does not seem to be in dispute. It simply means that the argument against Bar Ilan would have been sronger at any point in the last decade or more than it would appear to be now. In any event, the facts here must be established clearly first.

So what is clearly need here is for the AUT to establish a fact-finding mission with a view to adopting a position with regard to Bar Ilan

The situation is further complicated now that Prime Minister Sharon and his cabinet, apparently in direct response to the AUT decision, have resolved to make the College of Judea and Samaria a fully-fledged university! In the light of this, it is self-evident that the fact-finding mission will also include reporting fully on this new development.

In the meantime, pending such a report, the AUT should:
a) call on all genuine Israeli universities to come out clearly against this decision and to refuse to have anything to do with a university created as a political act in an illegal settlement and
b) call on British universities to refuse to recognise as degrees any awards made by this so-called university.
c) Act in full cooperation with Natfhe wherever possible.

Materials relevant to the situation at Haifa University

Apart from the detailed study of the Pappe case by Meron Rappoport (no 2 below) the following items, all distributed in the FFIPP-UK mailing no 2 (available at http://www.jfjfp.org/BackgroundR/FFIPP2.htm ) are directly relevant:
1. Letter from Ron Kuzar, Haifa University
2. Letter from Avraham Oz, Haifa University
3. Letter to the Guardian from Dr Uri Bar-Joseph on Haifa University and the Pappe case
4. Haifa University president calls on dissident academic to resign
5. Alone on the barricades, a detailed (4,000-word) study of the Pappe case by Meron Rappoport, Ha’aretz, 6th May 2005

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  1. Alone on the Barricades

A detailed study of the Pappe case by Meron Rappoport, Ha’aretz, 6th May 2005


Alone on the barricades
By Meron Rapoport

The shock wave that hit Israeli academia last week, in wake of the boycott declared by Britain’s Association of University Teachers (AUT) against Haifa and Bar-Ilan Universities, found Dr. Ilan Pappe, the Israeli protagonist in the whole uproar, on a trip to Thailand. With his wife and two children, Pappe was climbing mountains, riding elephants and whitewater rafting. Only when he returned to his quiet home in Tivon on the weekend did he begin to understand the magnitude of the fuss. On his answering machine, he found at least a dozen death threats. “We’re from the Russian mafia,” said one voice. “We’ll come to whack you.” “We’ll get Yigal Amir out on furlough – and not so he can be with Larisa,” promised another.

But despite the trip to Thailand (“People were sure that I’d run away. They didn’t believe that I’d planned the trip a year before,” he says), the AUT’s decision didn’t really catch Pappe by surprise. In fact, he had been in continuous contact with the association and regularly updated his friends in it about his confrontations with Haifa University (its harassment of him, according to Pappe; Pappe’s lies, according to the university’s president), and knew that they were about to make a decision.

Pappe actually supported a sweeping boycott of Israeli academia, as he wrote in an article in the British daily The Guardian a few days before the AUT made its decision. In the end, the organization decided to call upon its 40,000 members to boycott Bar-Ilan University because of its ties with Ariel College and Haifa University because of its harassment of Pappe and Teddy Katz, a master’s student who wrote a thesis containing testimonies about a massacre in Tantura in May 1948. Pappe – unlike what has been written in many places – was not Katz’s thesis adviser, but he came to his aid after veterans of the Alexandroni Brigade filed a libel suit against Katz.

Pappe wasn’t very popular among the Haifa University faculty before the AUT decision, and now that’s all the more true. The university’s president, Prof. Aharon Ben-Ze’ev, has called on him to leave the university and “to implement the boycott” that he supports himself. Members of the faculty are organizing to boycott him in the hallways and not to speak to him.

Even among the faculty members affiliated with leftist circles, it’s hard to find anyone ready to defend Pappe. “He’s spitting in the well from which he drinks,” was the reaction of several lecturers. The head of his department, Dr. Uri Bar-Yosef, who describes himself as a personal friend of Pappe’s, wrote to The Guardian that “there is no basis” for Pappe’s claims against the university.

Outside the university walls, some have even called Pappe a real traitor, a public enemy. In Maariv, Ben-Dror Yemini called him “one of the biggest new anti-Semites,” no less. “If he’s coming toward you on the street, cross to the other sidewalk. Don’t sit next to him on public transportation. Don’t exchange a word with him, good or bad. Treat him as Jews throughout the generations treated those who removed themselves from the community,” wrote Erel Segal, also in Maariv. “Just do not do him any physical harm, heaven forbid.”

In an interview at his home in Tivon, Pappe says that he is “perplexed” as to why the British professors used him as a reason to impose a boycott on Haifa University, since he would have preferred a more general declaration. Perplexed, but unapologetic. Pappe thinks that a boycott should be imposed on Israeli academia, but not because of him; he’s just an excuse, a tactical ploy on the part of the British professors (“a legitimate ploy,” he says). A general boycott is necessary because there is a moral imperative to end the occupation and only outside pressure, like the pressure that was exerted on the apartheid regime in South Africa, can perhaps achieve this. And why academia? Because Israeli academia, in Pappe’s view, is also a mouthpiece of the establishment and is used to enable Israel to present itself abroad as “the only democracy in the Middle East.” Therefore, he believes, it is both permissible and ethical to impose a boycott on it.

Beyond the basic struggle, Pappe’s personal battle with Haifa University could be called “the battle for Tantura.” Teddy Katz, a master’s degree student in the university’s Middle East Studies department, submitted a thesis on “The Exodus of the Arabs from Villages at the Foot of Southern Mount Carmel” and received a grade of 97 on it. In this paper, Katz described the battle for Tantura, a coastal village of 1,500. In the battle, Katz wrote, 10 to 20 villagers were killed, but “by the end of that day, no less than 200-250 men had been killed, in circumstances in which the villagers were without weapons and totally defenseless.”

Katz did not use the word “massacre,” though this word was used in an article published in Maariv in January 2000. Veterans of the Alexandroni Brigade, which had conquered Tantura, filed a libel suit against Katz; the university refused to defend him and then Pappe rallied to his side, even though he’d had nothing to do with Katz’s work. But Katz, after he was questioned in court and presented with contradictions between what was said to him in recordings and the written material, agreed to retract the assertion that a massacre was committed in Tantura. The next day, Katz changed his mind again and sought to retract his retraction, but it was too late. The court refused to consider the matter again and left his denial of the massacre intact.

Following the court ruling, and after a careful inquiry of its own, a Haifa University committee determined that Katz’s work “failed at the stage of presenting the raw material for the reader’s judgment, both in terms of its organization according to strict criteria of classification and criticism, and in terms of the apparent instances of disregard for the interviewees’ testimony” and asked him to resubmit it. Katz submitted a second version, but this, too, was rejected by the reviewers.

Throughout this time, Pappe was almost the only one who stood by Katz. He said that despite its inaccuracies, Katz’s work proved that there was a massacre in Tantura and therefore the university should approve his thesis. Now the Alexandroni Brigade veterans directed their criticism at Pappe. They maintained that he was spreading lies by supporting a fundamentally false piece of work and demanded his dismissal from the university.

The clashes grew increasingly harsh until eventually, in May 2002, Prof. Yossi Ben-Artzi, then the dean of the faculty of the humanities and today the rector of Haifa University, submitted a request to the university’s disciplinary committee that it throw Pappe out of the university. Nothing of the sort had ever occurred in the history of Israeli academia. The committee chairman found flaws in Ben-Artzi’s request and no discussion of the request ever took place, but ever since, Pappe’s relations with the university haven’t known a moment of peace.

People who can be called “sympathetic to the matter” read Katz’s thesis and said it truly was done on a low level and poorly written, regardless of any inaccuracies in it.

Pappe: “The first thesis was without blemish. They gave it a grade of 97. I would have given it 100 – even though I wasn’t involved in the first thesis. I wasn’t the adviser on it, as people are always writing. But in the second version that he submitted he was so cautious. They compelled him to quote entire testimonies to the point where it became not a good work. Teddy showed me the second version before he submitted it and I told him that I’d let him write it again.

“True, in the first work they found six instances of discrepancies” (according to the committee’s report, there were actually nine cases of “highly serious discrepancies”). Pappe continues to minimize greatly the seriousness of the committee’s findings: “Out of these six instances, two are significant. In one place, he quotes a soldier as using the word `Nazis’ instead of `Germans.’ In another place, he wrote that a Palestinian witness saw the incident and didn’t hear about it. In other words, he turned a hearsay witness into an eyewitness. It was an innocent mistake. I heard all 60 hours of those recordings and that part was in a village dialect of Arabic and it was very hard to understand, though that doesn’t make it okay. If he were to publish the thesis as a book, I would definitely tell him to fix it, but that doesn’t change the essence.”

And what is the essence as you see it?

“For me, as a historian, what the Jews said, what the Arabs said and what the hints in the IDF archive said – are enough for me to be able to say with deep conviction that there was a massacre in Tantura. Not everyone has to accept it, but that’s true in regard to every historic event.

“By the way, when the whole affair blew up, I proposed that the university convene a panel of experts to say what they would conclude from Teddy Katz’s materials, to discuss the question of whether it is possible to conclude from them whether or not there was a massacre. Instead of an affair that brought a boycott upon them, they could have turned it into an affair that would have burnished their reputation in the world.

“But Ben-Artzi, and Yoav Gelber especially, saw themselves as defending Zionism and they weren’t interested in questions of history. And by disqualifying Teddy’s thesis, they sent a message to every research student, to every professor without tenure, that if they research the 1948 story in a way that contradicts the Zionist narrative, they will not be able to advance. I had an Arab student who wanted to research `48 and told me: Look what they did to a Jewish student. Imagine what they’ll do to me. He dropped the research topic.”

The AUT decision says that the harassment directed at you has continued since then. The university president says that there is no harassment, that it’s all your lies and that the complaint against you is of no importance because the disciplinary proceeding was canceled. So what has happened since 2002?

“The trial against me was an attempt to use a legal proceeding to get rid of me, and it failed because of the international support that I recruited from the same group of lecturers that has now issued the boycott request. Since then I have been subjected to a de facto boycott. Anyone who wanted to invite me to a conference or seminar received a phone call from the rector or the president telling them it was better not to invite me, given my views and opinions.”

You know this from first-hand testimony?

“I know it from first-hand testimony. Still, there were two or three brave people who invited me despite everything, but they had some very, very tough experiences. It reached the point where people were questioned about having been seen having a cup of coffee with me in the teachers’ lounge. To break the boycott atmosphere, I tried to arrange several conferences. A year ago, I tried to arrange a conference on Arab and Israeli historiography about `48. I was told that I couldn’t hold the conference but I still tried to do it. And then, using physical force, they sent 10 security men to prevent me from entering the auditorium and the university’s chief security officer grabbed me by the hand and told the president over his walkie-talkie – the president was Yehuda Hayot then – `I got him,’ as if they’d caught Osama bin Laden. I stirred up an international outcry and then they approved the conference.

“Look, persecution in academia isn’t a terrible thing. You don’t die from it and you don’t get physically injured from it. But within the academic world, if that’s the world you live in, then you suffer. Suffer in the academic sense, of course.”

And you reported about all of these things to the people abroad?

“I reported to the people abroad on every such incident. They asked me to and I reported. You have to understand that in these people’s eyes, after the death of Edward Said, I’m considered one of the main people putting forward the Palestinian cry. Therefore, shutting me up isn’t any ordinary shutting up of a professor, but a shutting up of one of the most effective voices in this struggle. I’ve always made clear that my personal situation is not difficult – I’m not in the Shin Bet cellars – but shutting me up has significance because I’m the only one in Israel who teaches a course on a subject that the Israelis don’t want to deal with, on the ethnic cleansing of 1948. It’s my most popular course: Unfortunately, many students write to me that they can’t take it because there’s no room left. That’s why I think that what I’m doing is important.”

The only one in Israel?

“Yes, who else is there? In Israel today there are two professional historians who are considered new historians – Benny Morris and myself. I’m not talking about a psychologist, like Benny Beit-Hallahmi, or about a chemist, like Yisrael Shahak, who wrote about `48. I’m talking about people whose profession is history, who are skilled in working with records and documents and oral history, who are considered for advancement based on the research they’ve done on `48. That’s the significance of a book of mine on `48, which is only accepted for publication after it has been examined as a professional work of history, compared to a publicity-type article.”

The option of silence

Ilan Pappe, 50, was born in Haifa, concentrated on Middle Eastern studies in high school and then served in intelligence in the army. He earned his doctorate from Oxford University, where he studied international relations and Middle Eastern studies. He has been teaching at Haifa University since 1984, first in the Middle Eastern Studies Department and then in the Political Science Department. Pappe is one of the founders of the “new history” in Israel, together with Benny Morris and Avi Shlaim, and is considered the theoretician of this group, which reexamined the history of the state’s birth, relying on new documents discovered in the archives, among other things.

Pappe, who now calls himself an “anti-Zionist,” has written many books, including “Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict” and “A History of Modern Palestine,” some of which were published by prestigious houses like Cambridge University Press. In 2002, he published a political biography of the Husseini family in Hebrew.

The British decision to call for the boycott, which is linked to you personally and mentions you personally, doesn’t embarrass you? You don’t ask yourself: Should this whole university be dumped on just because of me?

“It’s not just about me. They wanted to add other things – harassment of Arab students, the closing of the theater department because of political plays. You’ll have to ask them why they narrowed it down to just my issue. Yes, on the one hand, it does embarrass me. But on the other hand, I can’t complain. In 2002, I first appealed to Israeli academia to help me, to not have me thrown out, and especially to not have Katz be thrown out. No one in Israeli academia came to my aid. So then I turned to the outside. I can’t complain if a respected academic body has come to my aid.”

No one came to Katz’s aid?

“No one came to his aid. Why should they? He’s a master’s student. They’re professors. What do they care? After I sat here and transcribed the tapes – I sat here for 60 hours transcribing, and I know Arabic – two or three colleagues changed their mind and helped. But they didn’t endanger their careers. I knew that when I went to help Katz, I would get it in return. But I didn’t know how much.”

You’ve been left almost completely alone. Not just from the right, which sees you as a traitor, but also from what could be called the “peace camp” at the university. Hardly a voice is heard in support of you.

“I don’t see any drastic change. I’ve been in this position since `Operation Defensive Shield,’ ever since my break with the Israeli left. I had six supporters in the university. Now I’ll have two. But you’ll also see that the responses on the Internet, on y-net and nrg, show 20 percent support, which is very interesting, fascinating support that I didn’t receive before. At the university, there are also at least two professors who, even if they don’t support the boycott, support my right to support a boycott. I receive many letters of support. The question is if there is any debate about the issue among this left, and I think there is. You should know, I also wrestled with myself a great deal over the boycott. I agonized.”

It’s also said on the left that you fly solo, that you’re conducting Ilan Pappe’s foreign policy.

“The Zionist left is not my milieu. My milieu is the Palestinian milieu. My milieu is the progressive and leftist international milieu. I’ve reached the conclusion, though I could be wrong, that there is no chance that a significant movement that would end the occupation will arise from within the State of Israel. There isn’t, and it doesn’t matter how many good people there are in Israel. If we wait for an effective movement to end the occupation, what will happen in the end is the total destruction of the Palestinian people. Not today, not tomorrow. After the third or the fourth intifada.

“The Palestinian armed struggle has also failed. It has no chance. I also cannot support it because I am a pacifist. It may be that my way has no chance either. It may be that the Palestinians are doomed to extinction, but I don’t want to live as someone who didn’t do all he could to stop this. And the only thing that can stop Israel is outside pressure.

“The mechanism of the boycott on South Africa began with solo actions. It’s not just me. You could say the same thing about Prof. Tanya Reinhart. There are some more people whose adamant positions are considered problematic by the Israeli left. It’s the price that I pay. You want me to tell you that it’s fun? Do I sound calm to you? Inside I’m not calm. I’m not enjoying this. I very much want to be relevant in my society. I’m a person who loves people. I want to be loved. It’s not easy for me with this position, with the hatred that is directed at me. There are people who live just fine with it. I don’t. And it may be that one day I’ll decide that the price is too steep and then I’ll choose the option of silence or the option of leaving, which everyone wishes I would choose. Perhaps I will leave. But for now, I’m holding on.”

In the classroom, I’m king

Why a boycott on academia? Prof. Baruch Kimmerling wrote that Israeli academia is under attack and weakening it will only increase its dependence on the government. And besides, of all the social entities in Israel, academia has been the one to raise a critical voice.

“The boycott on academia is part of a growing boycott that isn’t reported on – of Israeli products, Israeli singers. The boycott reached academia because academia in Israel chose to be official, national. Prof. Yehuda Shenhav checked into it and found that out of 9,000 members of academia in Israel, only 30-40 are actively engaged in reading significant criticism, and a smaller number, just three or four, are teaching their students in a critical manner about Zionism and so on. Academia has chosen to be the official Israeli propaganda.”

Is the situation really that extreme?

“Certainly. Academia is Israel’s most important ambassador in making the claim that we are the only democracy in the Middle East. And there’s another thing – which might make the Israeli elite think differently about its self-image as a Western society. If wherever an Israeli goes, he is told officially: `You aren’t really part of the West. You’re not part of enlightened society. You really belong to the unenlightened world’ – This is an important message to Israelis. They established this Western, or pseudo-Western, island in the midst of the Middle East, and it is very much dependent on what the Europeans, not just the Americans, think of us.

“Furthermore, I don’t think that an academic can come and say, `Impose a boycott on Polgat, or on the Israeli diamond industry.’ Israeli laborers would suffer, factory owners would suffer. I think that it is fair when I say I’m ready to pay the price and I’m not demanding that anyone else pay it. If the academic boycott becomes sweeping, and I’m told by people from abroad, `Ilan, we won’t invite you to a conference, either’ – to me, that’s a very small price.”

So you do feel some sort of vengefulness.

“Yes, especially because of Katz. I didn’t suffer. Teddy Katz suffered a stroke because of this university. He almost died. And a master’s degree student shouldn’t almost die because of a university. So it will be a little uncomfortable for the university. So what?”

One of the most common reactions to your move has been to say that you can’t spit in the well you drink from, that it’s real chutzpah that you continue to work at the university. President Ben-Ze’ev told you that you cannot work at Haifa University because you are calling for it to be boycotted.

“Ben-Ze’ev has no idea what academia is. My master’s students went and asked him why he doesn’t understand that his job is to protect my right to criticize him. Then he told them that my job is to be loyal to the institution.”

So you’re deeply disappointed with Israeli academia?

“Very deeply – with academia and with the media. I think that academia and the media are supposed to be the most sensitive organs in the society, the parts with the most conscience. In secular society, they fill the role that belonged to the rabbis, to the clergy, in religious society. But in Israel, these are the people with the least conscience – I’m generalizing, of course. Instead of being the watchdogs of democracy they’re turning into the rubber stamps of the ruling ideology. I travel a lot in the territories and I’m appalled by what I see. How is it possible to live with the horror of guard towers around cities like Tul Karm and Qalqilyah? How is it possible to see a soldier giving elderly Palestinian women a hard time day in and day out, sometimes the same old woman? How is it possible to ignore this when it’s being done in your name? Can you just keep teaching about France in the Middle Ages when your job is to be an intellectual?

“I’m paid to be critical. They give you tenure so you won’t be pressured. People here have forgotten what the universities were founded for. They gave a person tenure just so he would be able to come and say to Haifa University – I’m not afraid to tell you that you’re taking an unacceptable stand on the matter of Teddy Katz. So what did the university do? It said: We’ll take away your tenure so you won’t be able to say that.”

Still, how can you stay in a place that you’re calling to boycott?

“Do you think that Haifa University can get rid of me now? The intention isn’t for people in Haifa to start to love me. The intention is for it to be impossible to touch me anymore. If I still think that Haifa University is an important platform, I’ll stay, because Haifa University doesn’t belong to the rector. It doesn’t belong to the president. It also belongs to the 20 percent of the Arab students who are about to send a petition calling on me not to resign.”

So then, you’re staying at Haifa University?

“I’m staying for the students. My classes are full to bursting. I’m not staying for my colleagues. It’s unpleasant for me in the hallways. People look at me askance, as at a traitor, and now it will surely be worse. But in class I’m king. I’ll leave when I feel that the students don’t want me. There are also more of them. There are 13,000 students and 900 faculty.”

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  1. Bar Ilan University – what role does it actually play in relation to the College (now University) of Judea and Samaria?

The situation is not clear. it appears that Bar Ilan was responsible for (helping?) establish the College of Judea and Samaria in 1982. It how has around eight thousand students of which You can visit its website (in English) at http://www.yosh.ac.il/About.asp
But it would appear now that Bar Ilan’s role is now confined to validating some teacher training courses, is being phased out and will disappear at the end of the academic year (Ha’aretz, 29th April 2005, http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasen/spages/570334.html ). This obviously complicates any policy with regard to Bar Ilan which is why the draft resolusion above calls on the AUT to set up a fact-finding mission on the subject.

(a) Some information and commentary from Reuven Kaminer from Jerusalem

From: rkaminer@netvision.net.il
Subject: Bar Ilan University and Academic Freedom
Date: 29 April 2005 18:34:28 BST

Letter from Jerusalem

Bar Ilan University in the Defense of Academic Freedom

Bar Ilan University and the College of Judea and Samaria (CJS) are in the news. So here is some additional information for those interested in the subject. The CJS has recently submitted a request to have its research Master of Arts degree recognized by the Council of Higher Education (CHE) in Israel. Such a step is necessary if a student who completes his MA at the CJS plans to go on to doctoral studies in an Israeli university.

The relationship between the CJS and the Council of Higher Education in Israel is a bit complicated. If you check out the accreditation situation, it becomes clear that the CJS is not accredited by the CHE. However, the CHE does note on its website that the CJS is accredited by a separate body which is called the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria (CHE-JS). This Council is situated at Bar Ilan University. The CHE-JS does not have a website and does not reveal to the public its composition. So we do not know the identity of the people who work out of an Israeli institution and consider themselves qualified to confer accreditation for BA studies and MA studies (non-research trend up to this point).

On the other hand, the CHE-JS is quite candid about the source of its jurisdiction and states that it operates on the basis of a decree issued by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). In my translation, the decree is for the ‘Administration of Local Authorities (Judea and Samaria) [tsav b’dvar nihul moatsot mikomiut] Number 892 from the year 1981, article 3 (h), addendum 4 – Orders regarding Education.’

Thus, the relevant IDF commander created a council for higher education in the West Bank. Some hard questions: Can an army officer create either directly or indirectly a council for higher education? Who defined the function and the goals of this CHE-JS? The IDF? The Council itself? Who are the members of the CHE-JS and who appointed them. Who in Israel decided and when was it decided to recognize the degrees granted by the CHE-JS? What is the past, present and future relationship between Bar Ilan and CJS?

It would be stretching the concept of academic freedom a bit to include the right to set up and sponsor an ‘institution of higher learning’ in occupied territory.

Reuven Kaminer

POBox 9013 Jerusalem, Israel 91090 Tel 972 2 6414632 Fx 972 2 6421979

From: Reuven Kaminer <rkaminer@netvision.net.il>
Date: 1 May 2005 20:42:28 BST
To: Reuven Kaminer <rkaminer@netvision.net.il>
Subject: Settlement College to Become Full Fledged University
Letter from Jerusalem

In our very first lessons on the British constitution we were impressed
with the most salient of facts to the effect that the British Parliament
can turn a man into a woman (or vice versa). This, it turns out, was
excellent intellectual and psychological preparation for understanding
what is happening in the Israeli settlement of Ariel, before our very

Today’s issue of the Israeli daily, Ma’ariv, informs us that the next
meeting on the Israeli cabinet is going to turn the College of Judea and
Samaria into a university. It appears that the initiative is coming from
the Minister for Education, Limor Livnat. Ms. Livnat, it transpires, has
granted her acquiescence to Sharon’s Gaza Disengagement Plan
The condition – you guessed it – is to intensify settlement in the West
Bank. Livnat figures that the ‘new university’ will attract additional
population to the Ariel area. She is also certain, according to the same
source, that there will not be any difficulty concerning her initiative
which has reportedly received the backing of Ariel Sharon, with the
United States, which has given its blessing to the settlement blocs,
Ariel included. Thus if all goes well, the Israeli government will turn
a college previously established by fiat of a military officer in the
occupation, into a full fledged university. Livan claims that there is
no financial problem involved since the College is already funded by the
Israeli Council of Higher Education.

Those who follow the vagaries of Israeli internal politics must
appreciate that Livnat’s gambit is also a brilliant counter-maneuver
against Shimon Peres’ initiative to establish a new, ninth Israeli
university in the Galilee. Peres’s initiative has received the
enthusiastic backing of the Labor Party’ especially as he is going
around brandishing a $100,000,000. check from former Israeli mogul,
Arnon Milchen. The Council for Higher Education is against the Galilee
plan because it has learned the hard lesson that philanthropists like to
fork out sums for buildings named after them or their dear ones. But
this doesn’t mean a hill of beans when it comes to paying salaries and
keeping the floors clean.

Even so, the CJS might well become a university by virtue of a cabinet
decision. There will be no difficulty in finding a name for the new
university: the George W. Bush University (OT). .

Stay posted for further developments. You may have discerned that your
correspondent is a bit obsessed by this story.

Yours Reuven Kaminer
(b) You brought the boycott upon yourselves

Open letter to the President of Bar Ilan University from former member of Knesset, Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom (the Israeli Peace Bloc)

Tel-Aviv, April 26, 2005

Professor Moshe Kaveh
Bar Ilan University

Dear Sir

In various media interviews today you expressed anger at the decision of British university lecturers to declare a boycott against the Bar-Ilan University, calling it “an unacceptable mixing of politics into academic life”. When asked about the “Judea and Samaria College” which your university maintains at the settlement of Ariel, you stated that this was “an entirely non-political issue” and that said college was nothing more than “the largest of five colleges which Bar Ilan maintains at different locations in Israel”. Indeed, you declared yourself and your colleagues to be proud of the decision to establish the Ariel college, and you felt no contradiction between continuing to maintain that college, at the investment of a considerable part of Bar Ilan’s total resources, and the maintenance of extensive ties with universities worldwide, including in Britain.

As an example you mentioned your own ties as a physicist with Cambridge University and your plans to spend some time at Cambridge this summer – plans which, as you stated, remain unchanged also in the wake of the British lecturers’ decision.

Surely, a person of your intelligence and experience can be expected to note the obvious contradictions in the above position. As you well know, Ariel is not “a location in Israel”. Rather, Ariel is a location in a territory under military occupation, a territory which is not and has never been part of the state of Israel. Moreover, Ariel is a special kind of location: it is an armed enclave, created by armed force and dependent for its continued existence on force, and force alone.

The creation of Ariel is a severe violation of international law, specifically of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which specifically forbids an occupying power from transferring and settling its own citizens in the occupied territory. On the ground, the creation and maintenance of Ariel entailed and continues to entail untold hardships to the Palestinians who happen to live in the nearby town of Salfit and in numerous villages a long distance all around. Palestinian inhabitants are exposed to ongoing confiscation of their land so as to feed the land hunger of the ever-expending Ariel settlement, and their daily life are subjected to increasingly stringent travel limitations in the name of “preserving the settlers’ security”.

The government-approved plans to extend the “Separation Fence” so as to create a corridor linking Ariel to the Israeli border necessitate the confiscation of yet more vast tracts of Palestinian land, depriving thousands of villagers of their sole source of livelihood. Moreover, should the Ariel corridor be completed, it would cut deeply through the territory which the international community earmarked for creation of a Palestinian state, depriving that state of territorial continuity and viability. For that reason, the plan aroused widespread international opposition, not least from the United States, our main ally on the international arena.

In all of this the Bar Ilan University, of which you are president, made itself a major partner – indeed,since a violation of international law is involved, the term “accomplice” may well be used. The “Judea and Samaria College” which you and your colleagues established and nurtured has a central role in the settlement of Ariel, increasing its population and its economic clout. The college’s faculty and students are prime users of the “Trans-Samaria Road”, the four-lane highway which was created on confiscated Palestinian land in order to provide quick transportation to Ariel. The Palestinian villagers on whose land this highway was built are excluded from using it. They are relegated to a rugged, bumpy mountain trail.

It is you and your colleagues, Professor Kaveh, who started mixing academics with politics. A very heavy mixture, such as few universities anywhere ever engaged in. You cannot really complain when people in Britain, who have different standards for what is the proper moral behavior of academics (or for human beings in general) take action which you do not like. In fact, if you are truly proud of establishing and maintaining the “Judea and Samaria College”, you must have the courage of your convictions and take the consequences. Much better, of course, would be for you and your colleagues to sever your connection with the ill-conceived settlement project – and than you can quite rightly demand that the boycott be removed from your university.


Uri Avnery
Gush Shalom (The Israeli Peace Bloc)

(c) Academics, left-wing activists hold protest in Ariel College


By Lily Galili and Tamara Traubman, Haaretz Correspondents

Ha’aretz, 4 May 2005

A group of some 60 Tel Aviv academics and left-wing activists gathered Wednesday morning in front of the Judea and Samaria College of Ariel in the West Bank, to protest a government decision to confer university status on the college.

The protestors spoke to local students, who expressed their surprise at the demonstration. They said they believed Ariel was viewed by the country’s majority as being part of Israel in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians.

The members of Tel Aviv University staff spoke of the crisis the country’s academic world is experiencing, and of the injustice of the decision to invest money in a new university while existing ones are facing grave financial difficulties and budgets cuts.

The left-wing protestors, members of Courage to Refuse, a group whose members refuse to do military service in the territories, spoke of the difficulty in the creation of a university in Ariel on the political level, arguing that the West Bank settlement town is situated on occupied land and surrounded by millions of Palestinians.

The protestors also included student union activist Daniel Safron-Hon, one of those who led the last student struggle against budget cuts.

On Monday, the cabinet voted 13-7 to confer university status on the Ariel college, less than two weeks after a major British lecturers union sparked wide controversy by declaring a boycott against Bar-Ilan University for its links to the West Bank institution.

The Council for Higher Education has also expressed its displeasure with the government’s decision, defining it as “an unacceptable and flawed political intervention.”

“The problem with the entire higher education system is that research universities are falling apart,” Haifa University President Aharon Ben Ze’ev said. “There aren’t enough funds nowadays, and with the founding of two new universities [in Ariel as well as in the Galilee], the blow could be fatal.”

(d) Arik’s game

By Aluf Benn

Ha’aretz, 8 May 2005

Monday’s cabinet decision to turn the College of Judea and Samaria into a university was a turning point for the national unity government. The vote was split exactly along party lines: All the Likud ministers voted in favor, all the Labor Party ministers voted against. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon explained for the record that he “attributes great importance” to the upgrading of the college’s status, which conforms with the government’s policy of “strengthening settlement blocs.”

None of those present was surprised by the the vote. The game was fixed. A senior Labor minister’s aide called the Prime Minister’s Office before the cabinet session to ask why the Ariel university had suddenly been placed on the agenda. “The more you oppose it, the better it will be,” responsed a Sharon aide. It suited both sides in the cabinet to demonstrate their differences and sharpen their message with a view to upcoming internal races in the Labor and Likud parties. It was another sign that ideological agendas were spilling over from foreign policy to internal matters, even before the first settler has been evacuated from Gush Katif.

Education Minister Limor Livnat’s proposal to promote the Ariel college provided Sharon with an excellent opportunity to take a right-wing line and unite his party behind the settlement blocs. Keeping the blocs in Israel’s hands has already become Sharon’s campaign slogan. “Look, Sharon is fighting Labor, defeating them by a large majority about the settlement blocs. No Likud minister would dare oppose such a proposal,” was the explanation coming from the Prime Minister’s Office.

(e) Panel blasts Ariel university decision
By Tamara Traubman

Ha’aretz, 9 May 2004

The Knesset Education Committee yesterday denounced the cabinet’s decision to establish a university in the Ariel settlement.

“The cabinet did not act within the bounds of its authority and made a partisan decision, without acting in the interest of higher education,” the committee members wrote in their statement.

The cabinet’s decision last week to turn the Judea and Samaria college in Ariel into a university and to merge the colleges of the north into a new university drew fire from both inside and outside the higher education establishment.

“It is not possible to run another university in Israel with the present budget without prejudicing its quality,” said committee chair MK Melli Polishuk-Bloch (Shinui). The MKs blasted the way in which the cabinet exerted pressure on the Council for Higher Education, the body exclusively authorized to set up new institutions of higher education, to ratify the new universities.

“Setting up a university in Ariel is a political decision, bypassing the authorized institutions,” said MK Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash).

MK Yossi Sarid (Yahad) called on the Council for Higher Education not to serve as a rubber stamp for the cabinet’s decision. “If the council agrees, every college would be able to call itself a university,” Sarid said.

Indeed, three other colleges hastened to demand to become universities immediately after the cabinet’s decision. Presumably, in time, other colleges will echo this demand, including several private colleges – the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, the Tel Aviv Management College and the Netanya College.


FFIPP-UK Newsletter, 6 June 2005 – draft?


This mailout contains a number of items about the boycott and the AUT. They are to keep FFIPP-UK sympathisers informed about the state of debates and the range of opinions expressed. Their selection obviously does not represent an endorsement of the opinions contained in them.

The mailout also contains a section detailing the evolution of the position of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (Natfhe), the other higher education trade union in Britain.

A: Before the AUT recall conference
1. Tanya Reinhart, Why us? – 4th May 2005
2. Gideon Levy, What can Israeli Arabs learn at Ariel?, 8th May 2005
3. An exchange between Lisa Taraki of Bir Zeit University and John Strawson, UEL, 22nd May
4. Poll: Birzeit University Faculty and Employees Say No to Joint Palestinian-Israeli Academic Schemes

B: The AUT decisions
* I have been unable to find any detailed reports of any of the speeches against the boycott.
1. Guardian report: Academics vote against Israeli boycott
2. Speech by Steven Rose to AUT conference in favour of maintaining the boycott
3. Israeli boycotts revoked – AUT statement

C: After the AUT recall conference
1. Guardian review a few days later (31st May)
2. Adalah, One Hand Clapping: Applauding Tolerance and Pluralism in Israeli Academia
3. BRICUP, We give notice – the boycott continues!

D: The position of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (Natfhe), the other higher education trade union in Britain.
1. 2005 conference resolutions
2. NATFHE policy on Israel/Palestine:
a. NEC resolution 30 April 2005
b. NATFHE’s policy on Palestine/Israel and relations with Israeli academic institutions (2003)
c. General Secretary’s report on international work to Annual National Conference 2003
d. NEC statement on NATFHE’s position on Israel/Palestine (2002)


A: Before the AUT recall conference

  1. Why us? (On the academic boycott)

Tanya Reinhart

Yediot Aharonot, May 4, 2005. Translated from Hebrew by Mark Marshall.

A boycott decision, like that passed by Britain’s Association of University Teachers to boycott two Israeli universities, naturally raises a hue and cry among Israelis. Why us? And why now, ‘just when negotiations with the Palestinians might be renewed’?

It may be worthwhile, however, to consider how the world perceives us. In July 2004, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that Israel must immediately dismantle those parts of the wall that were built on Palestinian lands. We disregarded the ruling. We are turning the West Bank into a prison for Palestinians, as we have already done in Gaza in the course of 38 years of occupation, every one of which is a violation of UN resolutions. Since 1993 we have been engaged in negotiations with the Palestinians, and in the meantime we continued expanding settlements. In its judgement, the Court recommended to the UN that sanctions be imposed on Israel if its ruling is not obeyed. The Israeli reply – no need to worry! As long as the United States is behind us, the UN will do nothing.

In the eyes of the world, the question is what can be done when the relevant institutions do not succeed in enforcing international law? The boycott model is drawn from the past: South Africa also disregarded UN resolutions. At that time as well, the UN (under U.S. pressure), was reluctant to impose immediate sanctions. The South African boycott began as a grass roots movement initiated by individuals and independent organizations. It grew slowly but steadily until it finally became an absolute boycott of products, sport, culture, academia and tourism. South Africa was gradually forced to abrogate apartheid.

The international community is beginning to apply the same model to Israel in all domains, from the Caterpillar bulldozers that demolish Palestinian homes, to sports and culture. In the eyes of the international community, the relevant question is whether the Israeli Academy is entitled, on the basis of its actions, to be exempt from this general boycott. Many in the Israeli Academy oppose the occupation as individuals. But in practice, no Israeli university senate has ever passed a resolution condemning, for example, the closure of Palestinian universities. Even now, when the wall cuts off students and lecturers from their universities, the protest of the Academy is not heard. The British boycott is selective two universities were selected to signal to the Israeli Academy that it is being watched. But the Israeli Academy still has the option of removing itself from the cycle of passive support of the occupation.

One puzzle still remains Why just us? Why is Israel being singled out? What about Russia in Chechnya? What about the United States? What the U.S. did in Falluja, no Israeli general has yet dared to try. Indeed, the logic behind a boycott of Israel dictates that a boycott of the great powers is fully justified. It is only because at the moment there is a greater likelihood of success in stopping a small state, that Israel became the focus. Still, if an effort is made to save first the Palestinians and at least stop the wall, can we condemn that effort as unethical? Is it more ethical to refrain from trying to save anyone until it is possible to save everyone?

As usual, we believe that the solution lies in the realm of force. When the Valencia basketball team tried to boycott Israel in March 2004, and announced that it would not participate in the League Championship if it took place in Israel, the steamroller was set in motion; there were threats, there were mutterings about contracts, until Valencia was forced to relent and play here. Similarly, in the case of the academic boycott, the global Israeli lobby has tracked down, one by one, those who have declared support of the boycott, and have tried to make their lives miserable. The attempt by Haifa University to dismiss Dr. Ilan Pappe in 2002 was not instigated because of the Teddy Katz affair, but because Dr. Pappe openly supported the boycott and signed the original British petition calling for it.

It is possible that the bulldozer, which has come to symbolize Israel, will succeed in reversing the decision of the AUT in England. But will this prevent researchers from boycotting us quietly, without involving the media? Perhaps it would be more worthwhile for the Israeli Academy to direct its anger at the government and demand that it finally put a stop to this wall.

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  1. Gideon Levy, What can Israeli Arabs learn at Ariel?


Ha’aretz, 8th May 2005

Three important Arab mayors decided to publish prominent advertisements congratulating the Judea and Samaria Academic College in Ariel after the government of Israel, including the Labor Party, made one of its most disgraceful decisions – to upgrade the college, located in the occupied territories, to the status of a university. As public leaders, the mayors of Tira, Kafr Qasem and Jaljulya not only shamed themselves in their public messages of congratulations, but also the Arab citizens they represent.

In a state that respects the law, this college would never have been founded in the first place. Its establishment constitutes a blatant violation of the Geneva Convention, which Israel tries to ignore. Any decent student, Jew or Arab, who studies there should at least feel uncomfortable. On the way to this college, one travels on a road built on lands of Palestinian villagers, which is mostly intended to serve only Jews, though a few of its roadblocks have been opened during the past six months. The Tel Aviv-Ariel highway was built in a way that makes it impossible to see the poor and humiliated people who live below it.

Upon reaching the college, which takes pride in its “supportive learning environment,” the student enters a magnificent campus that was almost all constructed on stolen land. Students should remember this as they sit in the air-conditioned halls and listen to lectures on the philosophy of morality. Teachers and students who teach and study on stolen land are accomplices to the crime. An academic institution, which is in fact nothing more than part of a system based on rules of apartheid, whose teachers and students enjoy civil rights and freedom of movement denied to residents living on the land where it is located – cannot be considered an educational institution.

The fact that thousands of Jewish Israeli students chose to study at the college in Ariel, while heartlessly ignoring the injustice inherent in its existence, is already no longer surprising. It is part of the general indifference that characterizes Jewish Israeli society’s attitude toward the occupied territories. It is much more difficult to understand why about 320 Arab Israeli students chose to study there. Do they look out the windows during breaks between lectures at the villages around them, where their brethren are confined because of this college and the settlements it is a part of?

It is true that the situation of these students, like that of all Arab Israelis, is not simple. There is no university that teaches in their language, as would be appropriate considering the fact that it is the state’s second official language. So, in light of the limited options they face, these students chose to study in Ariel because of the price and the proximity to their homes in the Triangle.

Torn between their people and their state, they chose the more comfortable alternative. There is no reason for them to be proud of themselves. There are indeed Arab figures, such as MK Ahmed Tibi, who have rejected invitations by Arab students to come and lecture in Ariel, but it does not seem that this has decreased the number of Arab students or heightened their feelings of guilt.

And if the decision to study in Ariel means moral bankruptcy, the congratulatory messages the Arab mayors sent to the college already reflect a total loss of shame. The congratulators represent nearly the entire political spectrum: Qasem Khalil, the mayor of Tira, is associated with the Labor Party; Ouda Fayek, head of the Jaljulya council, is close to Meretz, and Sami Isa, the mayor of Kafr Qasem, is affiliated with the southern branch of the Islamic Movement.

They told Haaretz in stuttering language that they did not know their congratulatory messages would be published. But they did not deny them. The mayor of Jaljulya even added that he supports the decision to turn the college into a university because “it will help the young people in Jaljulya to study.”

In their battle for equal rights and improvement of their economic situation, many Israeli Arabs have long ago abandoned solidarity with their brethren who live across the Green Line. Feeling like they have a lot to lose, and contrary to what we tend to attribute to them, they preferred allegiance to the state to loyalty to their people.

They could actually learn a lesson in solidarity from us – about the struggle the Jewish people waged for its brethren in the Soviet Union and the solidarity that exists between the Jewish people in the Diaspora and Israel, especially during times of distress. Most Arab Israelis have chosen to act otherwise. However, there is still a great distance between indifference and complacency with what their state is inflicting upon their people, versus actively participating in the occupation.

What exactly will the young people from Jaljulya learn from their mayor and what will they learn at their college, or university? They will learn that there is no limit to opportunism, that there is no place for concepts like solidarity and morality, and that the days of vote contractors in the Arab sector have not passed.

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  1. An exchange between Lisa Taraki of Bir Zeit university and John Strawson

A: From: Lisa Taraki [mailto:ltaraki@birzeit.edu]

Sent: 22 May 2005 19:28

To: ‘john strawson’

Subject: a letter from Birzeit to John Strawson

Dear John Strawson,

I am coming into this a little late, but please allow me to clarify a few points. I am not qualified to comment on your relationship to BRICUP, nor do I want to give an opinion about your opposition to the boycott.

I am writing to you as a faculty member at Birzeit to clarify to you that while I appreciate your non-cooperation with Israeli universities, I do not think that the reason you give for such non-involvement with Israeli institutions is likely to meet with the approval of most Birzeit academics. You say you do not accept invitations to Israeli universities “in solidarity with [your Birzeit] colleagues who would encounter the system of passes, checkpoints and other harassments.” (Just Peace UK). I think it should be clear by now that our objection to collaboration with Israeli universities is not based on practical considerations such as the difficulty of obtaining permits to enter Israel or the obstacles and harassment we may encounter on the roads. The majority of Birzeit academics support the academic boycott and do not approve of normal academic relations with Israeli universities out of principle, as long as the relation between oppressor and oppressed is maintained (a recent poll conducted at Birzeit University, the results of which were released two days ago, supports this). I should also note that the boycott movement is gaining momentum in Palestine. The academic boycott is now endorsed by most Palestinian federations (of teachers and other professionals) and many other civil society organizations.

May I also point out that those colleagues of mine at Birzeit (including some at the Law Institute) who saw the announcement for your talk today found it particularly objectionable. You are entitled to your views, of course, but we are surprised that you (identified in the announcement as working with the Law Institute at Birzeit) would give a talk under the auspices of (or hosted by) an Israeli group/movement, and would use that platform not only to urge British academics not to support the boycott but also to argue that “anti-zionism [is] an obstacle to solidarity with the Palestinians.” I think most of your colleagues at Birzeit would not appreciate this.

Lisa Taraki

B: John Strawson’s reply

Dear Liza

I understand your concerns and very much appreciate you putting them to me. I would like to clarify several of the issues that you have raised.

First let me dispose of one question that you raise at the end suggesting that I gave a talk at “under the auspices of (or hosted by) an Israeli group/movement.” This is quite inaccurate. I did speak at a British organization Yachad-Meretz UK. It has a very long record of working with Palestinian organizations, promoting Jewish-Palestinian dialogue and arguing against the occupation and for a Palestinian State. I have given talks there before and on one occasion shared a platform with Afif Safir the PLO representative in London. In 1997 I also went with the same group to a meeting (which I chaired) with the Frei Abu Median, then Minister of Justice held in Gaza at the invitation of the Palestinian National Authority. I think you may have been under a misapprehension about this organization and links with Palestinians including the PLO. It is also inaccurate so say that this was a meeting to urge “British academics not to support the boycott.” You may be unaware but the voting on resolutions by local chapters of the AUT had to be over last week, long before the meeting. Nothing said at the meeting could have any effect on those decisions. Nor indeed was that the purpose of the meeting to campaign on the issue but to reflect on the implications of the affair for building solidarity with Palestine. The exception taken to the title of the talk I find bemusing. The anti-Zionism I am referring to, is calls for the destruction of the state of Israel, which has been one of the main published and repeated calls of the leading British proponents of the boycott. However, this is not the position of the PLO which quite to the contrary has been campaigning and negotiating for a Palestine state in the West Bank and Gaza with its capital in East Jerusalem. The advocates of the boycott have in my view done great damage to the Palestinian cause in Britain by repeatedly using crude anti-Zionist rhetoric which plays directly into the hands of the Israeli right-wing. Our failure to build a broad and effective movement amongst the British public against the occupation and for a Palestinian state is in some measure attributable to this type of politics.

Second I know that most Palestinian academics do support a boycott and I made that clear in the position paper that I wrote for the engage web-site. I wrote, “I am very aware that there are a range of views on whether an academic boycott against Israel is correct. I think is likely that the majority do favor some sort of boycott.” As you raise with me the question on my attitude to calls from trade unions and other Palestinian organizations for a boycott let me just say that it is not the position of the Palestine Liberation Organization which remains the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”

The third issue is the suggestion that I have some how used a relationship with Birzeit in the current debate in Britain. Again I would draw your attention to what I actually wrote in the Engage piece which was “Although I am privileged to be associated with the Institute of Law at Birzeit, I want to make it clear that my views on the boycott are not to have any special authority as a result, not meant to imply that they are in accord with the university or members of its staff.” You are correct that in one advance notice for the meeting referred to above the phrase was use “who works with the Institute of Law at Birzeit.” It would be an extremely peculiar reading to suggest that this statement of a well known fact has the implication you suggest. Even if it were not stated it is well known certainly with the Jewish community who was the audience for the talk – as it is amongst the academic community.

The boycott affair will be over this week when the special council of the AUT votes on the resolutions before it. There was no support amongst the local branches for the resolutions adopted at the last meeting. The debate has been had and now it is important that all supporters of Palestine join together to work for positive action against the occupation, for academic freedom and for sovereign Palestinian state.

With all good wishes

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  1. Poll: Birzeit University Faculty and Employees Say No to Joint Palestinian-Israeli Academic Schemes

From: MR760@aol.com

To: alef@list.haifa.ac.il

Sent: Saturday, May 21, 2005 2:23 PM

Subject: [alef] Birzeit U. poll of faculty on the boycott

Poll: Birzeit University Faculty and Employees Say No to Joint Palestinian-Israeli Academic Schemes

In a poll conducted by the Birzeit University Union of Faculty and Employees in May of 2005, approximately two thirds of the University_s academics, researchers and administrative staff objected to joint Palestinian-Israeli academic cooperation projects. The poll shows that a large majority believes that such projects benefit the Israeli side far more than the Palestinian side. Most staff members polled also believe that such projects harm Palestinian interests.

A representative sample of 188 staff members (excluding a non response-rate of 4.8%) participated in this study. Participants were chosen systematically (every third name) from a complete list of personnel organized in alphabetical order. Volunteer University students completed the fieldwork — after receiving adequate training — during the first part of May 2005. The results of this survey are generalizable to all those working at the University.

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B: The AUT recall conference

I have been unable to find any detailed reports of any of the speeches against the boycott.

  1. Guardian report: Academics vote against Israeli boycott

Staff and agencies

Thursday May 26, 2005

Academics voted today to overturn their controversial boycott of Israeli universities, sources said.

Delegates were said to have voted overwhelmingly in favour of abandoning the boycott at a special meeting of the Association of University Teachers in London.

The AUT said it would now base its policy on providing “practical solidarity to Palestinian and Israeli trade unionists and academics” by agreeing a motion committing the union to having a full review of international policy, working alongside the lecturers’ union Natfhe and the Trades Union Congress.

Sally Hunt, the AUT’s general secretary, said: “It is now time to build bridges between those with opposing views here in the UK and to commit to supporting trade unionists in Israel and Palestine working for peace.” The union provoked international outrage after backing the boycott of Bar-Ilan and Haifa universities at its annual conference last month.

Delegates had alleged the two institutions were complicit in the oppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories – claims that both universities have denied.

Today’s meeting was triggered by intense lobbying by AUT members opposed to the boycott, which they described as an “outrageous” assault on academic freedom.

Speaking before attending today’s private meeting, Jon Pike, a senior lecturer at the Open University and one of the key members responsible for reopening the debate, described the action as “an assault on the values of dialogue and co-operation”.

“The boycotts contradict principles of academic freedom,” he said.

“They are counter-productive in terms of securing peace and reconciliation between Israel and Palestine.

“It’s clear that the majority of AUT members are strongly opposed to this boycott.

“Israeli academics are being singled out for treatment not applied anywhere else in the world,” he said.

Dr Pike stressed that he was not in favour of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

“The people who have been opposing the boycott also oppose the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

“We are critical of Israel activities in the occupied territories and the way that impacts in particular on teachers and students.”

The Academic Friends of Israel (AFI) said it was delighted with the result. It said the original motions were based on “false or highly misleading evidence”. The AFI “strongly” recommended that all future suggestions for boycott were recognised as damaging and discriminatory and not brought forward again to the AUT.

Its chairman, Ronnie Fraser, said: “Fortunately the attempt of a few extremists to subvert AUT policy has failed. We hope the unambiguous results will put paid to any further misleading and destructive manoeuvres, and allow British scholars to build bridges and promote peace in the Middle East. This applies not only to the AUT but to the forthcoming meeting of Natfhe. Let us remember that this boycott attempt was never about academic freedom but the delegitimisation of the State of Israel.”

Meanwhile, the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Zvi Heifetz, said: “I welcome the AUT decision to finally overturn a deeply flawed and biased vote to boycott Israeli academia. The academic world must play a constructive role in building bridges and encouraging cooperation, rather than taking retrograde steps that can only sabotage progress. Let this decision today send an unequivocal message that baseless and overtly discriminatory boycotts do nothing to further steps towards peace and reconciliation in our region.”

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  1. Speech by Steven Rose to AUT conference in favour of maintaining the boycott

Speech in support of boycott given by Steven Rose to the AUT Special Council, May 26th 2005

Ms President,

I am Steven Rose, AUT delegate from the Open University, member of the AUT since 1969, born and bred an orthodox Jew, from a family whose members died in the holocaust , from a Zionist household, a would  –  be volunteer for Israel in the 1967 war, and I move the rejection of these motions.

Ms President, academics, and the AUT, have a proud record of opposing injustice nationally and internationally. We have traditionally used the boycott as a way of non violent protest against injustice and in support of the oppressed. The call for a boycott of Israeli universities comes from our sister trade unions, the academic trades unions of Palestine. It is supported by Palestinian NGOs, by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, by polls carried out at Al-Quds and Bir Zeit universities, by Palestinian civil society at large. And it is increasingly supported by brave Israeli intellectuals themselves. The vote by AUT on April 20th reverberated round the world, and gave heart to the emergent Palestinian civil society. How can we not now support it? In what other context would such an appeal be rejected by a British trade union? The AUT welcomed the support of Canadian and European academic unions in its boycotts of Nottingham and LMU, and no-one thought to accuse us of defamation when we boycotted Fiji last year.

So what is going on here? Proposers of the boycott are accused of being or opening the door to anti-semitism. I have spent my life as an anti-racist and fighting against anti-semitism and I reject the charge as contemptible. Some of us are accused of being self-hating Jews. Tell that to Avram Oz, or Baruch Kimmerling, or Tanya Reinhardt, brave Israelis who support the boycott. They say why pick on Israel amongst many other states in breach of human rights. How dare they argue that we are silent on other injustices. I say in this context Israel picks on itself. We are accused of denying academic freedom  –  an odd charge not used when earlier AUT boycotts were called. But tell that to the Palestinians whose academic freedom, whose rights to education, whose very human rights, are every day trampled on by the occupying regime, with its check points, walls, curfews,.arbitrary closures, house demolitions, collective punishments. I urge you to see for yourselves the day to day restrictions on our fellow Palestinian academics, who cannot receive academic journals, whose access to research equipment is restricted and who often are even blocked from going to give their scheduled lectures by an all-powerful Israeli soldier at a check point.

And when did you hear the Israeli academic community  –  any university vice-chancellor, any senate, any collective – protest? I’ll tell you  –  never. The Israeli academic community, so careful of its own academic freedom, is silent, complicit. As for the three universities we have been called upon to boycott, the case of Bar-Ilan is clear. It is illegal under the EU directive of March of this year to have any dealings with it whilst it maintains its links with its subsidiaries in the occupied west bank. You cannot repeal the boycott of Bar-Ilan and remain within the law. In the case of Haifa its practices, amply documented, come very close to institutional racism. And the Hebrew university squats on occupied Palestinian land. How much more evidence do you need?

Not to boycott is to equate the oppressor with the oppressed. Please listen very carefully to my next words. In the 1930s, Jewish academics in Germany were being expelled from their universities and fleeing the country. Of course, many German academics  –  decent ordinary people – may have disapproved. But they were silent. And British academics continued to deal ‘normally’ with them as if what was happening was something not to be spoken about in polite society. Do you not see the parallels? You  –  we  –  have no right to remain silent, to treat Israel as if it were a normal state. Those who argue for it are guilty of what they charge the boycotters with  –  an Israeli exceptionalism.

Prevent the crime of silence. Retain the boycott and reject these motions. For I give notice  –  the boycott will not go away  –  however we vote today, it will grow and become ever more powerful until there are real moves towards a just peace in Israel/Palestine.

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  1. Israeli boycotts revoked – AUT statement


26 May 2005

After a lengthy debate involving deeply held views on both sides of the argument, AUT’s special council has today voted to revoke all existing boycotts of Israeli institutions.

AUT council has decided to base its policy on providing practical solidarity to Palestinian and Israeli trade unionists and academics, by agreeing a motion committing the union to having a full review of international policy, working alongside NATFHE and the TUC.

UK higher education has a long and proud tradition of defending academic freedom. The struggle to maintain academic freedom whenever it is under threat is one that AUT will always support and this principle will continue to guide our work.

Sally Hunt, AUT general secretary, said: ‘It is now time to build bridges between those with opposing views here in the UK and to commit to supporting trade unionists in Israel and Palestine working for peace.’

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C: After the AUT recall conference

  1. Guardian review a few days later (31st May)


Storm blows union off course

Can lecturers unite now the vote to isolate Israeli universities has been overturned? By Matthew Taylor

Tuesday May 31, 2005

The Guardian

On the pavement outside Friends Meeting House in central London, a furious debate rages about the rights and wrongs of a boycott of two Israeli universities accused of being complicit in the abuse of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

As a leftwing newspaper seller throws up his hands in despair, his student opponent turns and walks away, shaking his head in disbelief. Inside, members of the Association of University Teachers are carrying out their own version of this stalemate.

In Eastbourne last month, the union voted in favour of severing links with two Israeli universities. The move provoked a storm of protest around the world and delegates were called to a special conference on Thursday to reconsider the divisive issue.

Outside the Quaker meeting house campaigners from both sides maintained an uneasy stand-off as pro-boycott delegates inside called for the union to hold its nerve in the face of what they describe as “unbelievable pressure” from those opposed to the original decision.

Other academics, vehemently opposed to the notion of a boycott, claimed that there was a “whiff of anti-semitism in the air” and that the union’s existence was being threatened by a small group of “leftwing extremists”.

After more than four hours of “passionate debate”, union officials emerged from the private meeting to announce that the boycott has been overturned.

Delegates had voted in favour of a resolution calling on the AUT to give practical support to Palestinian and Israeli trade unionists, and committed the union to a full review of its international policy.

The sigh of relief from the AUT leadership was almost audible. At last, it seemed, there was an end in sight to the exhausting and debilitating boycott debate that has consumed the AUT for the past month.

In a brief statement the union’s general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “It is now time to build bridges between those with opposing views here in the UK, and to commit to supporting trade unionists in Israel and Palestine working for peace.”

The AUT, which is in the middle of delicate merger negotiations with fellow higher education union Natfhe, has been blown off course since the academic boycott hit front pages around the world. Instead of focusing its attention on the merger deal, with all the political energy and wheeling and dealing that should have entailed, the executive found itself in the middle of a political firestorm, fending off criticism from legions of international academics, as well as defamation cases from two Israeli universities, and a seemingly relentless interest from the world’s media.

The outside pressure arguably reached a peak in a letter to the Guardian from 21 Nobel prizewinners, including Shimon Peres and Elie Wiesel, arguing that “academic freedom has never been the property of a few and must not be manipulated by them … mixing science with politics, and limiting academic freedom by boycotts, is wrong”. There have also been grumblings from rank-and-file members that the union was turning its back on bread-and-butter issues like pay and conditions, while being absorbed in the boycott row.

But despite the executive’s hopeful call for unity and reconciliation, the mood in the rival camps in the aftermath of vote seems to be hardening. On the pavement outside the meeting Sue Blackwell, from Birmingham University, who put forward the original boycott motion, stated bluntly: “This is the beginning of the fight, not the end.”

She added: “We have put this issue firmly on the map and have shown that people in British academia do care about what is happening in the occupied territories .”

The sense that this issue was not going to melt quietly away was reinforced by Steven Rose, professor of biology at the Open University, who started the AUT campaign three years ago with a letter to the Guardian calling for a moratorium on European funding of Israeli research.

He said he had received a standing ovation for his conference speech which finished: “You – we – have no right to remain silent, to treat Israel as if it were a normal state. Those who argue for it are guilty of what they charge the boycotters with – an Israeli exceptionalism.”

Outside, despite the defeat, Rose remained defiant: “Our campaign now will be to take the argument for the boycott into every university, on to every campus where we can have a debate and discuss the issues, and the more that we do that the more the boycott will grow. The genie is out of the bottle.”

This is bad news for the AUT executive. The fault lines that emerged during the debate have caused real friction within the organisation and if the debate resurfaces there are those who believe the union may struggle to survive.

David Hirsch, from Goldsmiths, who helped organise the anti-boycott campaign said: “This [vote] has rescued the AUT. The AUT was in serious trouble. It had a smell of anti-semitism about it, both in the UK and internationally. Members were leaving in disgust and more members would have left today if the vote had gone the wrong way. The AUT was open to law suits and legal action. We were in serious trouble.”

But in a sign that neither camp was prepared to back down, Rose dismissed the accusations of anti-semitism.

“Any statement against Israel is seen as a statement denying the legitimacy of Israel. The state of Israel is a fact on the ground. I might regret the fact that it is a theocratic state, I don’t like theocratic states of any sort, but the state of Israel is a legitimate fact on the ground. The paranoia displayed by the Zionists in this respect is an attempt to turn the oppressor into the victim and something which I find repugnant. And I say this as someone brought up as a Jew and someone brought up in a Zionist household, as someone who has fought racism and anti-semitism all of my life and indeed from a family of Holocaust survivors.”

The explosive claims and counter-claims cast doubt on the executive’s hope that the debate can finally be put to rest. They must now keep their fingers crossed that normal service can be resumed, and the AUT can slip from the spotlight and concentrate on rebuilding unity in its ranks, before turning its attention to its future, including its likely merger with Natfhe.

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  1. Adalah, One Hand Clapping: Applauding Tolerance and Pluralism in Israeli Academia


Adalah’s Newsletter, Volume 13, May 2005

By Sharif Hamadeh [a Human Rights Advocacy and Development Fellow with Adalah]

International support for Israel turns on the uncritical acceptance of the Jewish state as bravely fulfilling the obligations of a Western-style democracy in an otherwise hostile region. In reality, this is simply a PR-friendly re-branding of an old Herzlian notion. In The Jewish State, Theodor Herzl, the premier Zionist ideologue, envisioned that the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine would form, “part of a wall of defense for Europe in Asia, an outpost of civilization against barbarism.”

Now, however, as the walls and outposts of the Zionist enterprise are becoming ever more conspicuous, so too are the contradictions inherent in the 57-year-old experiment of establishing a state that is both “Jewish” and “democratic” in pluralistic Palestine. The recent, albeit short-lived, decision of Britain’s Association of University Teachers (AUT) to impose an academic boycott on Bar-Ilan and Haifa Universities attests to the growing realization abroad that Israel’s policies adversely affect Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line.

The AUT’s decision, which was taken on 22 April 2005, and then, following enormous pressure, revoked at a special council meeting on 26 May 2005, was made in response to the call from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). PACBI called for the implementation of a boycott in protest against the Israeli academy’s contribution to the maintenance of the state’s policies toward Palestinians; most notably, the continuing “military occupation and colonization of the West Bank and Gaza,” and “the entrenched system of racial discrimination and segregation against the Palestinian citizens of Israel.”

In the ultimately successful counter-campaign waged in the English language press against the boycott, most arguments focused on the affront to the principles of academic freedom that such a boycott was said to constitute. Beyond these arguments, however, a more subtle defense-strategy emerged. Of the two claims made by PACBI cited above, it is the second that provoked the sharpest rebuttals from Israel’s domestic intelligentsia and its loyal supporters abroad. The occupation is only denied by a few right-wingers, but it is the liberals in Israel who take exception to accusations of domestic state-sponsored ethnic discrimination and segregation. Moreover, the notion that Israeli academia could be tainted with such illiberal practices is anathema to Israel’s selfpromotion as a mature democracy.

In the pages of The Guardian, the hip Israeli author Etgar Keret protested that Israeli institutions of higher learning were, “one of the few remaining bastions of the liberal left.” Israel’s Council of Higher Education (CHE) issued a statement stressing that the Arab population in Israel, “has full access to all institutes of higher learning.” In The Wall Street Journal, Fania Oz-Salzberger, a senior lecturer at Haifa University, described her university as, “a model Jewish-Arab institution,” whilst Prof. Mina Teicher of Bar-Ilan insisted, “[T]here is no discrimination in the Israeli universities whatsoever,” in an online Q & A session hosted by the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. In short, a beautiful picture was painted of Israeli universities as, “havens of political and racial tolerance,” as a Times editorial lavishly described them.

This picture is, of course, a distortion. Notable by their absence in these avowals of the political, “racial” and religious tolerance said to reign in the campuses of Israeli universities were the voices with the greatest credibility: those of Palestinian students and scholars themselves. The result is the commentary equivalent of one hand clapping.

There are good reasons why Palestinians at Israeli universities have not been heard applauding the tolerance and liberalism of these institutions. For a start, there aren’t many of them. Although Palestinian citizens of Israel comprise approximately 20% of the population in Israel, according to official data, “non-Jews” comprise 9.5 percent of undergraduates, 4.8 percent of students in Masters’ programs, and 3.2 percent of students in doctoral degree programs. Moreover, as the civic-equality group Sikkuy has acknowledged, a “non-Jewish” applicant is three times more likely to be rejected from university than a Jewish candidate. As for the number of Palestinian academic staff in Israeli universities, at the last count, that figure was found to be a paltry one percent.

More disturbing still is the reluctance to improve accessibility for aspiring Arab students. When, in 2003, the psychometric examination requirement known to be the principle barrier to entry for Palestinians was dropped, Palestinian university applicants benefited in significant numbers. In direct consequence, the decision was overturned and the requirement reinstated. But the discrimination against Palestinians in Israel’s higher education system does not end there, as the experience of Arab students at Haifa University exemplifies. Two weeks ago, the university administration attended a court hearing in which it defended its decision to refuse to place a Christmas tree in the university’s Main Building during the Christmas period, despite repeated requests from the Arab Students’ Committee, and despite the fact that a Jewish menorah is placed there during the celebration of Hannukah. The administration preferred to ghettoize Christmas in another building, far from the center of campus.

In the same week, the University Rector, Prof. Yossi Ben-Artzi, attended a conference hosted at the university titled, “Israel’s Demographic Problem and Policy,” discussing the pet-subject of racists everywhere: the demographic “threat” posed to a state by a particular ethnic group. In Israel’s case, this means the Palestinians.

In addition, the proliferation of indictments filed against successive leaders of the Arab Students’ Committee testifies to the harassment that Palestinian students expressing dissenting views on campus can expect to attract from the university’s administration.

All of this occurs at an institution described by its President, Aaron Ben Ze’ev, to an Independent journalist as, “the most pluralistic and most tolerant university in Israel.”

Which brings us to our last point. For the past five years, the CHE has ostensibly been considering the establishment of a new, Arab, institute of higher education in the Galilee, where a clear majority of the population is Palestinian. But, since Likud MK Limor Livnat assumed the post of Education Minister, the plan has been shelved. In response to renewed calls from the Arab community for its implementation, MK Livnat explained that he plan had been rejected because the concept of an Arab university is “racist.” Instead, a decision was made by the cabinet to recommend the transformation of several Galilee colleges and the College of Judea and Samaria, situated in the illegal Jewish settlement of Ariel in the occupied West Bank, into two new Israeli universities.

Like its counterparts across the Green Line, the College of Judea and Samaria boasts of its commitment to pluralism and ethnic tolerance. On its English website the college proudly advertises that its students represent, “the full spectrum of Israeli society: secular and observant, new immigrant and veteran Israeli, Jew and Arab.”

After all, in an outpost of civilization, discrimination is considered an affront to academic freedom.

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  1. We give notice – the boycott continues!

British University Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)



We give notice – the boycott continues!

The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine regrets the decision of AUT Special Council Meeting to rescind its support for the boycott of Haifa and Bar-Ilan Universities Since the initial boycott vote at Council on 22nd April the Union and its members have been under unprecedented pressure. Legal threats, interventions by the Israeli government, expensive advertisements in UK newspapers, forged signatures on petitions, systematic disinformation and abusive emails have deluged the Union and its members.

BRICUP welcomes the continuing policy of the AUT in calling for a moratorium on European research collaboration with Israeli universities until such time as a just peace is well on the way to being achieved. The call by PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) is supported by the Federation of Unions of Palestinian Universities’ Professors and Employees, the Palestinian NGO Network in the West Bank, and dozens of Palestinian trades unions, professional associations, and grassroots organizations in the occupied territories. It is also supported by the Palestinian General Federation of Trades Unions and a growing number of Israeli academics driven to despair by the illegal and racist policies of their government.

Noting its parallel with the boycott of South Africa under apartheid, the boycott call has been endorsed by the South African Council of Churches, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, members of the ANC government and many S. African academics.

BRICUP reaffirms its commitment to the Palestinian call, and like PABCI supports those Israeli academics who work with their Palestinian colleagues towards a just peace. We reject the contemptible suggestion that such a boycott is anti-semitic or that it singles out Israel for special treatment. Rather it is those who oppose the boycott who defend Israeli exceptionalism and resort to special pleading. Bar-Ilan University maintains close links with the ©¯College of Judea and Samaria©˜ in the illegal settlement of Ariel, and the EU directive of March 2005 requires Member states to have no dealings with illegally produced goods and services. The AUT’s failure to acknowledge the illegality for any British university to ‘trade’ with the illegal college/university risks prosecution of its members. At Haifa, not only was the treatment of Dr Pappé close to a McCarthyite witch hunt, but published articles and websites from Haifa academics resemble institutional racism .resemble

Academics, both as individuals of conscience and through our associations and trades unions, have a long tradition of internationalism, including the use of boycott as a weapon of non-violent protest against abuse. The overwhelming evidence of the denial of human and educational rights of our Palestinian colleagues and their students demands our solidarity. Lastly, we demand the support of our Israeli colleagues. In the words of the Israeli academic Nurit Peled-Elhan, whose teenage daughter was killed by a suicide bomb attack,

Maybe it is time to realise that if people of science and the humanities in a state sunk up to the neck in racist discourse and the blood of innocents do not condemn this leader, who incites and instigates, do not call for him to be brought to justice, do not demand that he withdraw his racist words. such people deserve every condemnation and boycott that the enlightened world can impose on them.

We give notice. This is not some simple short term battle to be decided by a vote at one meeting or another. People of conscience world wide, in their families, in their communities, in their trade unions will ensure that the boycott movement will grow and continue until a just peace is secured.

Contact BRICUP  –  0207 713 1709

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D: National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (Natfhe)

There are two trade unions that organize in British universities the Association of Univeristy Teachers (AUT) based largely in the traditional universities and Natfhe, which traditionally organised the technical colleges out of which grew the polytechnics which in turn acquired full university status in 1992 (or thereabouts). The divide between the two unions was strong (largely based on the AUT’s appalling elitism) but in recent years the traditional universities have largely been brought to a similar level of penury and punitive working conditions as the newer ones. Talks are underway to merge the two trade unions (and at the Natfhe conference last weekend it was agreed to ballot members on the topic). It is likely there will be a single trade union in the sector within a year.

While the AUT boycott resolutions got major publicity it is important to take Natfhe and the evolution of its position on Israel-Palestine into account. At its recent conference an emergency motion on the boycott issue was adopted essentially affirming the right of the AUT to have taken up the position it did. This was not  –  as some hostile commentators are already presenting it  –  a coded support for the boycott. Other motions put forward as emergency resolutions on the topic of the boycott were ruled out of order as not emergency resolutions (it is worth noting that no motion on the topic had been submitted up to the closing date for such motions). Another motion on the topic of antisemitism was also passed virtually unanimously.

Below are the texts of the two resolution passed, as well as four Natfhe statements on the conflict issues over the last couple of years. The current position is best summed up I think by the NEC statement issues at the end of April in response to the AUT boycott resolution viz: In the light of AUT Council decisions on Palestine and Israel, the NEC confirms its policy of working to support the building of civil society in Palestine, including cooperation with AUT where appropriate, to build positive relations with Palestinian and Israeli institutions and organisations which share our goals, and the consideration of sanctions where they are targeted and deliverable in respect of institutions which are creating obstacles to a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Palestine.

It is a sound and balanced position and should give FFIPP-UK ample opportunity to work constructively with Natfhe (whose general orientation I would hope to see adopted by the merged union in the not too distant future).


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  1. 2005 conference resolutions

Morning Session of Annual National Conference, Monday 30 May 2005


Emergency motion 25 on AUT Israeli University Boycott was moved by South East’s Tom Hickey, and CARRIED:

Conference notes:

* the AUT Council’s previous decision to boycott two Israeli universities and the resulting attacks on, and misleading and insulting claims about, the AUT;

* a number of NATFHE Branches’ and CoComs’ declarations expressing solidarity with AUT’s opposition to oppression in the Middle east, and affirming AUT’s right to act.

Conference affirms that:

* to criticise Israel policy or institutions is not anti-Semitic;

* it is the duty of educationalists and their organisations, to speak out and act against oppression and discrimination;

* it supports the AUT’s right to make this decision.

Following this motion, general secretary Paul Mackney made a brief statement clarifying the meaning of ‘Israel policy’ in the motion as referring to Israeli government policy, drawing delegates’ attention to NATFHE’s existing policy on Israel/Palestine, and to speeches he had made based on that policy, and committing NATFHE to work with the AUT and the TUC to develop this based on a debate involving all of the union’s membership.

President Sam Allen then moved Motion 193 ANTI-SEMITISM; seconded by Ronnie Fraser of London Region, this was CARRIED.

This union notes the:

increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the UK and Europe confirmed by:

– letter to all Vice-Chancellors from Universities UK;

– 2004 UN conference and OSCE ‘Berlin Declaration’.

Believes that:

– anti-Semitism is becoming acceptable in the UK including on university campuses;

– universities and colleges must ensure that staff and students work in an atmosphere free from discrimination and intimidation.

Resolves to:

– produce guidelines on anti-Semitism as part of its anti-racism campaigning;

– develop programmes with the CRE and The Board of Deputies of British Jews to educate academics and students about the dangers of anti-Semitism.

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  1. NATFHE policy on Israel/Palestine as it has evolved since 2002

Four documents:

  1. NEC resolution 30 April 2005;
  2. NATFHE’s policy on Palestine/Israel and relations with Israeli academic institutions (2003);
  3. General Secretary’s report on international work to ANC 2003;
  4. NEC statement on NATFHE’s position on Israel/Palestine (2002)
  5. NEC resolution 30 April 2005

6 May 2005


At the NEC on 30 April 2005, the following resolution was carried overwhelmingly: In the light of AUT Council decisions on Palestine and Israel, the NEC confirms its policy of working to support the building of civil society in Palestine, including cooperation with AUT where appropriate, to build positive relations with Palestinian and Israeli institutions and organisations which share our goals, and the consideration of sanctions where they are targeted and deliverable in respect of institutions which are creating obstacles to a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Palestine.

The NEC further resolved to support the Palestine Solidarity Campaign demonstration in London on 21 May.

  1. NATFHE’s policy on Palestine/Israel and relations with Israeli academic institutions (2003)

Regional Secretaries


11 May 2003

Dear colleague

NATFHE’s policy on Palestine / Israel and relations with Israeli academic institutions

I am writing to you concerning the evolution of NATFHE’s position in regard to Palestine and Israel, following decisions taken by the NEC meeting on 2 May and at our Annual National Conference lat the end of May.

On 13 April 2002, in the wake of the Israeli incursions into the Palestinian West Bank towns, the NATFHE NEC passed a resolution which concluded, ‘NATFHE NEC further resolves that all UK institutions of Higher and Further Education be urged immediately to review  –  with a view to severing  –  any academic links they may have with Israel. Such links should be restored only after full withdrawal of all Israeli forces, opening of negotiations to implements UN resolutions and the restoration of full access to all Palestinian HE and FE institutions.’ This policy, which we sought to implement by asking branches to approach their institutions requesting that they review their links with Israeli academic institutions with a view to severing them, has now been reviewed by the NATFHE NEC in the light of changing circumstances.

NATFHE Head Office has had no reports of substantive take up of this policy over the last year, although it has aroused significant press interest. There have been a small number of resignations and some new recruits in response to our policy on Palestine / Israel, although ‘boycott’ has sometimes been the peg on which objections and resignations have hung. However, the debate about the rights and wrongs of ‘boycott’ (never our word, but foisted on us), has obscured the real issues of the rights and wrongs of the Israeli actions which led to the original NATFHE position.

The situation in Palestine / Israel has significantly worsened since the policy was adopted, with even greater brutality on the part of the Israeli forces, the hardening of attitudes by a re-elected Sharon government and for the first time the threat of actual starvation among sections of the Palestinian population, in the context of a much more all embracing international crisis. On the other hand, in however flawed a way, as part of their attempt to legitimise the attack on Iraq and set it within the notion of a wider settlement in the region, the US administration supported by the British government, have put forward a ‘road map’ to Palestinian statehood. Meanwhile a range of voices sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, from Education International to individuals like Naom Chomsky, have called for keeping the lines open to Israeli academics. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign distinguish between academic and economic boycott, and focus their work on the latter. An EI mission to Palestine and Israel last autumn called for unions outside the region to have dialogue with the teacher unions in Palestine and in Israel, and to promote dialogue between the two. The anti-war movement has made a strong and clear link between the Iraq crisis and justice for Palestine; has played a prominent part in the anti-war campaign, and the General Secretary spoke at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign rally on 17 May.

The NATFHE NEC believe that it is now time to move on, including making common cause with other trade unions in the UK and within EI, and supporting bodies like the Friends of Bir Zeit University (FOBZU). We are still waiting for the situation to improve sufficiently for FOBZU to engage with its ‘right to education’ work, which we have agreed to support. I reported on the possibility of a higher education trade unionists delegation to Palestine / Israel, funded by WUS, and this will be part of a process of re-focussing our work. These are not ‘soft options’: building contacts and supporting dialogue and the re-building of Palestinian education are hard and painstaking tasks, which few from outside the region have worked hard to make limited progress. Dialogue with Israeli and Palestinian academics has never been easy and attitudes generally will have hardened, and despair increased, in the last year. There is a job of work to do within EI to get it to implement its existing policies and to improve on them.

In summary, the NEC believe that NATFHE policy should be re-focussed:

1) The NEC believes we should now move on from the policy of ‘reviewing links’ enunciated in the April 2002 resolution.

2) The NEC has agreed that NATFHE should pursue a policy based on active support for Palestinian post-school education including work with FOBZU on the Palestinian ‘right to education’ campaign’; promotion of links with Palestinian and Israeli unions, and exploration of possible twinning with Palestinian and Israeli universities; work within EI, including making use of the forthcoming EI World Congress in July 2004; participation in a possible forthcoming WUS mission; work within the UK political and trade union framework to press for the ‘road map’ to the establishment of a Palestinian state is actually put into effect. (The AUT agreed similar policies at its summer Council meeting, and it is hoped that we can work closely with them on these issues.)

3) The NEC have agreed that NATFHE affiliates to the Trade Union Friends of Palestine and/or Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

In the light of the scale of the current international crisis, the General Secretary made a printed report on international developments to delegates to the Annual National Conference, which touched on some of these issues and NATFHE’s work in the Stop the War campaign (attached).

If you have any queries relating to the issues raised in this circular, or if you or your colleagues wish to help carry this work forward, please contact Paul Bennett at Head Office (pbennett@natfhe.org.uk).

Yours sincerely

Paul Mackney

General Secretary

  1. General Secretary’s report on international work to Annual National Conference 2003


The critical international situation has continued to figure very largely in the thinking and work of the NATFHE leadership, as of the trade union movement as a whole in the UK and in other countries, in the last 12 months. Often this has required us to respond quickly during the year to new challenges on the basis of principles laid down in previous Conference resolutions. Throughout the year, the TUC has sought the views of affiliates on the evolving international situation and its implications for different sectors, and there has been a special TUC General Council on the threat of war with Iraq. Therefore, following the practice adopted last year, I have prepared this brief report on our international work.

Followed by sections on Iraq and Palestine, then other issues in brief. Here is the Palestine section:


The Bush / Blair alliance has made a linkage between Iraq and wider regional questions notably the need for a just resolution of the Palestinian question. On the other hand, since the last year’s conference, the situation has significantly worsened with a strengthened Sharon government in power in Israel, making ever larger scale incursions into the Palestinian territories, and creating obstacles to the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Meanwhile suicide bombings continue, and the Israeli military are now assassinating supposed terrorist leaders with impunity, without regard to associated civilian casualties, and have moved on to killing foreign peace activists and journalists. The establishment of a new Palestinian government may give at least a theoretical possibility of progress.

Work on capacity building for a civil society among organisations working on education and civil society projects, like FOBZU, is on hold in the present dire crisis. Steve Sinnott, Deputy General Secretary of NUT reported to the NEC in December on the EI mission to Palestine and Israel; the official report is available from Paul Bennett at Head Office.

Since the NEC call for branches to review their institutions’ links with Israeli institutions in April 2002 in the wake of the Israeli military incursion into the West Bank towns, we have had very little feedback on branch or institutional action taken on this issue but a considerable amount of media interest in what has been referred to and discussed simplistically as a policy of ‘boycott’; we have taken the opportunity to explain that the policy has never been one of straightforward boycott, but that we believe UK institutions should maintain links with institutions and projects which help build a positive relationship between Israel and Palestine, contribute to the peace process or help build civil society in Palestine. In the light of changing circumstances the NEC on 2 May, decided that NATFHE should move on from the policy of ‘reviewing links’ enunciated in the April 2002 resolution, and to inform branches of this change of strategy.

The May NEC also decided to pursue a policy based on active support for Palestinian post-school education including work with FOBZU on the Palestinian ‘right to education’ campaign’; promotion of links with Palestinian and Israeli unions; work within EI, including making use of the forthcoming EI World Congress in July 2004; participation in the proposed WUS mission to look at higher education in Israel and Palestine; work within the UK political and trade union framework to press for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

It was agreed to affiliate to the Trade Union Friends of Palestine and Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and also to seek to ensure that in any emergency motion put to Conference on the international crisis, the right of Palestine to statehood and the rights of every Palestinian to education are included as key elements.

  1. NEC statement on NATFHE’s position on Israel/Palestine (2002)

NATFHE, Palestine and Israel:some questions that need answering

Since the NATFHE NEC issued its statement on recent events in Palestine and Israel, we have received a number of inquiries about the nature of our position. This note is intended to answer the key questions raised.

What business is it of NATFHE’s anyway?

NATFHE, like other unions, operates on the basis of solidarity and collective action. This has always had an international dimension, both as an individual union and as a member of the TUC and of the global teachers’ union body Education International, which last year at its World Congress adopted a careful and balanced resolution seeking a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. We support the sensitive and painstaking initiatives of EI to build links between Palestinian and Israeli teachers.

And what is NATFHE policy?

NATFHE policy is based on an emergency resolution passed at its National Conference in 2001, and the statement by the National Executive Council in April 2002. These are public statements, and are available to inquirers. NATFHE is a democratic organisation, and it is open to members to participate in debates at all levels in the organisation from their workplace branch upwards, to put into effect policies they favour, or to oppose those they don’t want. It is clear that ‘policy’ comprising brief resolutions or statements, cannot adequately address all sides of an issue, particularly in areas of complexity or rapid change, but it is reasonable for these methods to set out basic principles as the basis for further work. Any statement on international matters  –  from Afghanistan to the euro  –  tends to attract correspondence from individual members often highly committed on one or the other side of an issue, but this is no substitute for participation in the democratic process, which is open to all members through their Branches and Regions.

Is NATFHE anti-Israel?

NATFHE is not anti-Israel, but has had an interest in Palestinian education since contacts with the Friends of Bir Zeit University in the late 1980’s. It seems evident that a sound Palestinian educational system is one of the cornerstones of the civil society which is essential to the building of peace in the region. Equally, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Israel on balance has been the main aggressor in respect of the Palestinian population at large, clearing populations for settlements and for security zones, destroying the fragile infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority at the same time as accusing it of not doing more to root out terrorism. No doubt the Authority could have done more in the past, but the recent destruction in Ramallah and the other West Bank cities can only put this process back, by destroying the Authority’s capacity or motivation to cooperate. The concerns we and many others in the UK and across Europe have, are increasingly  –  and increasingly vociferously  –  shared by a growing number of officers and soldiers in the Israeli forces, who are refusing, at considerable personal cost, to take part in what they recognise to be an unjust war.

Does NATFHE condone terrorism?

NATFHE, like the rest of the UK trade union movement has been unequivocal in condemning terrorism: we expressed our horror at the events of September 11, and have condemned terrorism and fundamentalism. However, we have questioned the ‘war on terror’ in which the UK government has embroiled this country, as the junior partner of a US Presidency with a shaky, ill-informed and highly partisan grasp on geopolitics. In the wake of September 11, NATFHE has also advised its branches on the need to protect students from threats based on their ethnicity or religious beliefs, or their status in this countries for example as asylum seekers. We are clear that the ongoing war being waged between Israel and Palestine is different in kind from the global terror perpetrated by those behind September 11. NATFHE, again with a number of other unions, has been a supporter of the opposition to the war in Afghanistan, which has killed an unknown number of Afghan civilians and further destabilised the region, a war led by a US Presidency whose objectives have slowly changed as it has gone on, meanwhile drawing the UK more deeply in as the conflict is prolonged.

Is NATFHE encouraging anti-semitism by its position on Israel?

We think not: NATFHE has a long record of fighting fascism and racism including anti-semitism, reflected as recently as 3 May in an NEC motion deploring the National Front success in the French Presidential elections, and condemning the recent attacks on synagogues in London and elsewhere in the UK. However, we believe that it is unacceptable for supporters of Israel’s actions towards Palestine to invoke the argument that critics are anti-semitic or giving comfort to anti-semitic views. A just peace must be in the interests of all in the region, and the actions of the Israeli government and military have brought that peace no closer.

Is NATFHE ignoring the history of Israel and Palestine?

NATFHE, no more than any other single organisation or individual can claim a definitive view of the history of the Israel / Palestine conflict, and we do not intend to debate it with correspondents. However, we are a UK based organisation, and the UK bears some responsibility as the former Mandate power for the circumstances under which the present day problem  –  and its intractable character – arose. As with apartheid South Africa in the past, many in the UK and in NATFHE feel some moral responsibility for seeking a just and lasting solution. Given that the Israelis have a functioning state, whose prosperity and security are underwritten by the world’s only remaining superpower, and the Palestinians have no state, are economically impoverished and with their civil institutions and security structures, imperfect though these are, harassed and in recent weeks utterly crushed by the Israelis, and while a high proportion of their population are largely dispossessed from the lands they owned or occupied under the Mandate, we have a clear view that this imbalance needs to be addressed  –  as well as the violence from both sides which is a basic obstacle to a just peace.

Why has NATFHE not made pronouncements on other international controversies? Why pick on the Israel / Palestine conflict?

The answer has already been partly given, but to reiterate: NATFHE is a democratic organisation, whose policies and views reflect the expressed views of the union’s members. The members don’t express views through the union’s structures on many international issues  –  if they did, we would be bound to take these issues up. Equally, it is for the members to participate in the formation of policy on Palestine and Israel, through involvement and debate at Branch and Regional meetings. Individuals writing letters and emails may contribute to an informal debate, but that isn’t a substitute for seeking to shape actual policy.

Is NATFHE offering one-sided support for Palestine?

No, but the positions of Palestine and Israel are so different in terms of the development of their ‘civil society’ structures, economies and capacities for all forms of collective action, and these differences are so clearly a major obstacle to dialogue and a lasting peace, that NATFHE is concerned to assist Palestinian education in the ways mentioned, and this by definition is about seeking to redress the imbalance. Israel’s flouting of international opinion, most recently by setting impossible terms – including guaranteed immunity from accusations of war crimes – for a UN mission to visit the city of Jenin to see what happened there, make it difficult for outside observers to remain even-handed.

Why doesn’t NATFHE criticise the Palestinian Authority?

We have tried to limit our concern to the ‘civil society’ issues referred to. No doubt the Palestinian Authority is far from perfect, and under the circumstances of its creation, that is hardly surprising  –  but the devastation of its capacity to do anything whether it had the will to do so or not, has given it the perfect excuse for its own failings. We have condemned the suicide bombings as well as the attacks on Palestine. It must be recognised that the recent desperate actions of the suicide bombers come after more than 10 years, since the first intifada, of teenagers pitting themselves against the Israeli tanks and soldiers on their own streets armed only with stones, during which time the overwhelming number of casualties were young Palestinians  –  a pattern which continues to this day. However, we see, like most outsiders and a growing number of Israelis, that for the Israelis to use military means while effectively shutting off all dialogue with the Palestinians is not a viable  –  let alone a fair or civilised – way forward.

Isn’t it unfair and counter-productive to seek to isolate the Israeli (higher) education system?

It is clear that some academics in the Israeli higher education system have bravely stood up  –  and suffered  –  for their opposition to Israeli government and military policies towards Palestine. They are playing the critical role in society that we expect of our universities. However, the universities are a part of the establishment in a society that has condoned and supported official Israeli policy. NATFHE as an actor in the field of education, can only use the means it has at its disposal, and in calling for post school institutions in this country to review their links with Israeli institutions, we believe we have taken only a limited and measured initiative. Palestinian universities and academics are trying to play the same role in respect of Palestine. As mentioned above, a growing number of Israeli military personnel are openly challenging what they perceive as an unjust and /or unsuccessful policy  –  that opposition only highlights the continued support of the military establishment, and other elements of the Israeli establishment – for the Sharon government’s policies.



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