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Why Boycott Israeli Universities?

Why Boycott Israeli Universities?
British Committee for the Universities of Palestine 2007
35 pages. £2.50
Available from BRICUP, London, WC1N 3XX, UK

REVIEW BY ALEX MILLER

Following a motion passed at the annual conference of the 120,000 strong University and College Union (UCU), the June 8 Times Higher Education Supplement reported that leading US lawyer Alan Dershowitz has “pledged to lead a campaign to visit financial and legal ruin on any UK academic backing a boycott of Israeli academe”.

However, a glance at the motion actually passed at the UCU conference suggests that Dershowitz’s pledge is (amongst other things) somewhat premature. In 2004, a call for a boycott of Israeli universities was issued by a group of more than 50 Palestinian trade unions, NGOs, and community organisations. The motion passed by UCU does not actually call for a boycott. Rather, it merely asks for the full text of the Palestinian call for a boycott to be circulated to all local UCU branches for information and discussion. The motion also encourages UCU members to consider the moral implications of links with Israeli academic institutions, calls for the organisation of a UK-wide campus tour for Palestinian academic trade unionists, and actively encourages UCU branches to create direct links with Palestinian educational institutions.

So the UCU motion merely initiates debate and discussion of an academic boycott of Israeli higher education institutions, not an academic boycott itself. That the mere call for a discussion of an academic boycott of Israel should precipitate such an extreme reaction from the US pro-Israel lobby is an indication of how many raw nerves would be inflamed if a boycott went ahead.

This brief pamphlet, produced by BRICUP, an organisation of UK academics set up in response to the Palestinian call, sets out the case in favour of a boycott. It spells out the similarities between the present call for a boycott of Israel and the boycott adopted by the AUT (one of UCU’s two predecessor unions) against apartheid South Africa in the 1980s. It details the human rights violations committed by Israel against Palestinians, from house demolitions, to legalised discrimination, to torture and murder, and spells out the dire conditions suffered by Palestinian academics and students, for whom the idea of academic freedom (much vaunted by the pro-Israel lobby) is but a distant dream. It explains the tactics behind the boycott call, and responds to several of the most common arguments raised against the boycott.

As the debate unfolds in the months to come, the arguments in favour of the boycott are likely to get drowned out as the corporate media whips up anti-Palestinian hysteria and further threats of intimidation emanate from the pro-Israel lobby. In stark contrast, all those seeking a sober assessment of the case for a boycott will appreciate the rational and measured approach adopted in this pamphlet.

[For more information, visit www.bricup.org.uk]

1 Com:

Joe | June 21, 2007

Boycotting is not the only pro-Palestinian agenda in town.

Buying Palestinian products is likely to have a better chance of success than boycotting Israeli ones - particularly as many 'Israeli' products are actually Palestinian.

GIRLcott Palestine - buy Palestinian products!

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