Monthly Archives: July 2007

Weapon of the Weak (Haaretz)


Weapon of the Weak
Photographs of the boycott’s ‘ringleaders,’ like those of wanted criminals, appeared on the front page of The Jewish Chronicle, which also carried a distressed article by Britain’s chief rabbi condemning the boycott as an anti-Semitic ‘witch hunt.’

Ghada Karmi Jul 13, 2007 12:00 AM

In conflicts, boycotts are the weapons of the weak. Their chief importance lies in their ability to raise public awareness and arouse disapproval. Yet, going by the paranoid reaction to the academic boycott of Israel, it might as well have been a declaration of nuclear war. No peaceable action in recent times has provoked so much anger and hostility as this British-based boycott.

In the wake of the British University and College Union’s vote at its annual general meeting on May 30 to initiate a national debate on a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, a wave of hysteria engulfed Israel and its friends. Articles appeared, before and after the vote, denouncing the UCU resolution and its initiators, and heated correspondence is still ongoing. Threats were made against members of the boycott group by pro-Israel organizations and individuals, and campaigns were mounted to defeat the boycott. Costly one-page advertisements appeared in The Times and The Guardian, carrying the names of scores of eminent signatories opposing the boycott.

Photographs of the boycott’s “ringleaders,” like those of wanted criminals, appeared on the front page of the major British Jewish weekly, The Jewish Chronicle, which also carried a distressed article by Britain’s chief rabbi condemning the boycott as an anti-Semitic “witch hunt.” The Daily Mail’s Jewish columnist Melanie Phillips declared “the age of reason” over. The Jewish-American lawyer and fierce warrior for Israel Alan Dershowitz has teamed up with his British counterpart, Anthony Julius, to take legal action against British supporters of the boycott. While this would not be valid in British law, its aim is clearly to intimidate.

The fuss has not abated yet, and more battles lie ahead this autumn as pressure is exerted upon the UCU to ballot its members individually, in the hope that they will reject the motion passed by the conference.

Two major misconceptions lie at the base of this response, both deliberately fostered. The first misconception is that the boycott is aimed against individual Israeli academics, and the second, and more important, is that it is anti-Semitic.
With regard to the first misconception, the boycott in fact calls for a ban on dealings with Israeli academic institutions, for example, for not participating in joint research, conferences or other collaborative activity. In a malicious misrepresentation of this position, opponents claim that the boycott will end the free exchange of ideas with individual Israelis and encourage discrimination against them within British academia. By suppressing “free speech,” goes the argument, this would end any hope of change in Israel’s policies that academics could have brought about. This is an erroneous argument, and it has galvanized opposition to the boycott in Britain .

The charge of anti-Semitism follows closely on this. The allegation is that the real reason for the boycott is hatred of Jews, a new outbreak of an old gentile affliction. Nothing is more designed to provoke and mislead than this charge, which, its authors know, antagonizes all Jews and many non-Jews.

In fact, of course, the imputation of anti-Semitism is a red herring, as so often is the case when Israel is criticized, and its aim, as always, is to deflect criticism. In the case of the British boycott committee, it is particularly inapt, since most of the members are Jewish. The campaign started in 2004 with a letter that two British scholars, Hilary and Steven Rose, published in The Guardian, calling for a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions, in support of a similar call by Palestinian civil society organizations. These, representing a majority of Palestinian academics and other professionals, had united to form a campaign for boycotting Israel because of its repressive policies against them.

The letter in The Guardian spearheaded a growing demand for Israel to be called to account for its policies, which was soon joined by many academics in Europe and beyond. Support was particularly strong in South Africa, which had lived through a similar boycott during the apartheid era, and was especially sympathetic to the boycott’s rationale and aims. Since that time, the boycott and divestment campaign against Israel has grown, resulting in the Association of University Teachers’ Union voting for a boycott against two Israeli universities at its meeting in 2005. Thanks to a vigorous pro-Israel campaign against it, the decision was overturned within a month. But the issue did not go away, and resulted in the vote for the boycott two years later by the newly formed UCU, which had absorbed the AUT.

Academic boycotts are not new to Britain. In 1965, a boycott campaign against apartheid South Africa was initiated by 34 universities in response to a call for solidarity by the African National Congress. After a prolonged British campaign, the boycott was adopted as policy by the AUT in 1988 and remained in place until the end of apartheid.

The academic boycott against Israel is no different. Israel’s well-documented repression of Palestinian academic life and victimization of Palestinian teachers and students is a scandal to be denounced by all those who claim to care about academic freedom. Rather than rushing to Israel’s defense in a situation so perverse and immoral, all efforts should be directed toward boycotting all Israeli institutions. Only when Israel is made a pariah state, as happened with South Africa, will its people understand tha they cannot trample on another people’s rights without penalty.

Ghada Karmi is the author of “Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine.”

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Passed at ICTU biennial conference, Friday 6 July 2007


This ICTU Biennial Conference is outraged at the continued human
rights abuses being suffered by the Palestinian people. We
particularly note the following:

* the continued occupation and destruction of Palestinian lands
and Palestinian homes in breach of the Geneva Convention and numerous
United Nations resolutions

* the continuation of mass arrests, of torture and of
extra-judicial killings

* the horrific assaults on the population of Gaza ‘ the frequent
killings of civilians including on a mass scale as at Beit Hanun, or
the family of Houda Galia wiped out as they sat on the beach; the
enclosure of the people of Gaza with razor wire and electrified
fences, where they are subjected to frequent invasion and constant
surveillance ‘ including the sinister unmanned drones targeting for
bombing raids, or the over-flights of ear-shattering jet fighters.

* the deliberate and illegal destruction of civilian
infra-structure including electricity and water supplies

* the imposition of collective punishment, banned under
international law, including the bulldozing of houses, the uprooting
of ancient olive groves and destruction of industrial unit

* the policy of ethnic cleansing designed to make life unbearable
for all Palestinians under both Israeli and Palestinian authority –
the on-going in-depth surveillance and control of the population
including the forced division of families, and restrictions on free
movement to deny them access to work, to education and to health-care
‘ even in emergency situations such as child-birth

* the enforced bankruptcy of the Palestinian Authority and the
impoverishment of the Palestinian People by the withholding of tax
revenues [ value? ]; the impositions on the free movement of finance;
the blocking of Palestinian exports and the blocking of international
support and grant aid

* the continued building of the Apartheid Wall in defiance of the
ruling of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, creating a
series of ‘bantustans’ in the West Bank, fracturing families and
communities, depriving Palestinians of their most productive land and
water supplies and effectively annexing East Jerusalem into Israeli

* the continued building of illegal Israeli settlements in the
West Bank, with the associated oppressive policing of the local
population, the demolishing of Palestinian homes, the theft of land
and water and the disruption of Palestinian infra-structure

Conference also notes that the British and Irish Governments and the
European Union have failed in their obligations under International
Law – in terms of the Geneva Convention, the UN and the International
Court ‘ to challenge the activities of the Israeli government. A
reasonable response would be the imposition of political and economic
sanctions. Instead it is the Palestinians who have been punished by
the withholding of grant aid, whilst the criminal actions of the
Israeli state are further appeased by continuing to grant them
preferential trading rights under Article 2 of the Euro-Mediterranean
Association Agreement. Conference notes that the European Union is
formally obligated under the human rights clause in Article 2 to
suspend the trading privileges enjoyed by Israel if it is in breach of
human rights. The litany of human rights abuses, atrocities and war
crimes should long ago have led to the ending of the agreement ‘
indeed the European Parliament has already on two separate occasions
called on the Council of Ministers to take this action.

In pursuance of ICTU policy to campaign in solidarity with the
Palestinian people, and in recognition of the depths of oppression
being suffered by them, conference authorizes the executive of ICTU to
undertake the following:

A] That the ICTU make direct representations to the European Council
of Ministers to challenge the withholding of EU funding, and
addressing the fact that the EU has failed in its obligations under
international law to oppose the actions of Israel. ICTU also demands
the ending of the preferential trading status enjoyed by Israel under
the Euro-Med. Agreement.

B] That the ICTU could seek a meeting with the Minister for Foreign
Affairs and the Irish EU Commissioner to express our grave concerns
about these issues, specifically to address the illegality of the
Israeli actions, and to call for an appropriate and effective

C] That the representatives of ICTU raise these issues at the European
TUC, and call upon concerted EU-wide trade union solidarity action to
protest at the indifference of EU governments, at the failure of the
strategy of ‘constructive engagement’ with the state of Israel, and at
what is effectively the appeasement of the Israeli aggression and
territorial expansionism.

D] To actively and vigorously promote a policy of divestment from
Israeli companies recognising that it is one of the most effective
ways to ensure that the Israeli government is made aware of the extent
of opposition to its crimes against humanity. ICTU will encourage
affiliates to apply a policy of ethical investment in terms of pension
fund holdings, and seek to ensure that investments are therefore
withdrawn from Israeli companies as well as companies such as
Catepillar and Irish Cement Roadholdings that directly support the
Israeli occupation and destruction of Palestinian land. Affiliates
will also be encouraged to use whatever influence they can bring to
bear on employers in both the private and state sector to apply such a
policy of ethical investment.

E] To actively and vigorously promote a boycott of Israeli goods and
services similar to the boycott of South African goods during the era
of apartheid. ICTU will proactively support such a boycott policy by
working with affiliates on a programme of educational activities, by a
media campaign and by working alongside human rights and humanitarian
relief organisations.

F] That the solidarity links between the Irish, Palestinian and
Israeli labour movements be strengthened by a delegation of senior
trade union leaders to the occupied areas. ICTU will also invite
Palestinian trade union representatives to visit Ireland to encourage
greater awareness of the situation in Palestine today, and to support
the call for divestment, boycott and sanctions.

G] That the implementation of ICTU policy be further strengthened by
the formation of Trade Union Friends of Palestine groups in the
Republic of Ireland to work alongside TUFP in Northern Ireland. That
ICTU hosts a TUFP conference, with invited international speakers, to
further develop trade union solidarity action.

The Transport and General Workers Union, UK, joins the Boycott Campaign

The Transport and General Workers Union, UK, joins the Boycott Campaign

Worldwide Activism, Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall
Campaign, July 6th, 2007

On July 4th, the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) has passed
a motion at its biennial conference in support of a customer boycott
against Apartheid Israel.

Following in the footsteps of other unions around the world who have
taken up the boycott, the biggest general union in the UK, with over
800,000 members, also vowed to take part in the lobby of British
parliament on November 2nd and demanding the UK government take a
stronger stand against Israel. It condemned Israeli violence against
the Palestinian people.

TGWU has a long history of campaigning on issues such as ethical
trading and workers rights within a global context.

TGWU Motion – Composite 31

Conference notes that Enough! is a coalition of charities, trade
unions, faith and other campaign groups who are committed to peace for
Israelis and Palestinians alike. This can only be built on justice,
equality and freedom.

In order to achieve this goal governments like the British Government
must stand up for international law and human rights.

This conference welcomes the TGWU’s decision to support the Enough!
campaign and calls upon conference to mandate the GEC to play a full
role by:

1. Actively participate in the events planned throughout 2007 such as
the national lobby of parliament in November 2. Build partnerships
with other campaigning organisations such as War on Want who are
actively supporting the Palestinian people.

This conference deplores the actions of the Israeli government in its
treatment and attitude towards the Palestinian people in failing to
recognise their legitimate aspiration of a Palestinian state.

We therefore call upon conference to support a boycott of Israeli
products and goods and calls upon the government to take a stronger
stance in support of the Palestinian people.