Anti-Is­rael views on the fringe

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY JONATHAN KAL­MUS

UCU ACA­DEMICS called for a boy­cott of Is­rael’s univer­si­ties at an un­of­fi­cial fringe meet­ing on Tues­day de­spite the union’s of­fi­cial re­jec­tion of an out­right boy­cott.

The meet­ing, held by pro-boy­cott groupBRICUPon­theeve­oftheUCU­congress, saw Is­raeli-born aca­demic Pro­fes­sor Haim Bresheeth and Birm­ing­ham Univer­sity’s Kamel Hawwash state the case for cut­ting ties with Is­raeli univer­si­ties whose aca­demics are “com­plicit in the oc­cu­pa­tion of Pales­tini­ans”.

A strong dis­tinc­tion was made be­tween call­ing for a boy­cott and the of­fi­cial mo­tion ask­ing union mem­bers to “con­sider the moral and po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions of ed­u­ca­tional links with Is­raeli in­sti­tu­tions”.

LSE re­search fel­low Mike Cush­man, who chaired the event, at­tempted to de­flect crit­i­cism that BRICUP sup­port­ers were try­ing to get a boy­cott adopted by the back door.

In the run-up to the congress, the UCU has been warned by Jewish com­mu­nity lead­er­sofle­ga­lop­po­si­tion­toIs­raeli­in­sti­tu­tions be­ing sin­gled out in any form.

Chal­leng­ing the meet­ing’s speak­ers, two mem­bers of the anti-boy­cott group En­gage con­tended that an­tisemitic aca­demics were among those be­hind the boy­cott call.

“There are an­ti­semites in our union,” said Jon Pike from the Open Univer­sity. He fur­ther ar­gued that it was “dan­ger­ous” to hold aca­demics re­spon­si­ble for the ac­tions of their gov­ern­ment sim­ply be­cause they had not spo­ken against oc­cu­pa­tion.

Mr Pike heck­led Pro­fes­sor Bresheeth as he at­tempted to re­spond — a tac­tic that won lit­tle favour for En­gage’s case.

“En­gage should be called ‘Dis­en­gage’ and dis­en­gage from Pales­tine,” Pro­fes­sor Bresheeth de­clared. “All this rub­bish about an­tisemitism is just re­ally an­noy­ing and I dis­agree that a boy­cott adds to an­tisemitism.”

Mr Hawwash de­nied that he was sin­gling out Is­rael.

“If Pales­tine was oc­cu­pied by the Ja­panese, we would be call­ing for a boy­cott of Ja­panese in­sti­tu­tions. This is about the oc­cu­pier re­gard­less of who they are.”

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