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The Academic Friends of Israel

P.O. Box 360 Email: mail@academics-for-israel.org

Harrow                                                             Website: www.academics-for-israel.org

HA3 9WY

9 May 2006

Dear Colleagues

At this time last year we were in the throes of the battle to overturn the AUT decision to undertake an academic boycott of Israel . What a difference a year makes, as later this week, the AUT has its last annual council meeting and at the end of this month NATFHE meets for its final conference.

The contrast at this time between the two unions cannot be more different; The AUT will not be discussing any boycott motions but will consider instead recommendations from International committee to ensure that the Eastbourne fiasco will never happen again and that any future boycott proposals will have to consider the context of the request as well as meet several laid down criteria which have to be met before any boycott motion can be considered. NATFHE on the other hand is to go ahead and discuss a motion recommending that the 67,000 members of the union carry out a "personal" boycott of Israeli lecturers and academic institutions that do not publicly declare their opposition to Israeli policy. This affair was reported in today's Haaretz Newspaper ( http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/713716.html ),

Jon Pike from Engage has written an excellent piece on why this NATFHE motion 198C calling for a "personal boycott" should be withdrawn because it is inaccurate, dishonest, and in conflict with NATFHE's constitution by specifically advocating discrimination of one nation: Israel.  I urge everyone to read it; you can find it below or at http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=410

The Academic Friends of Israel joins with Engage in calling for NATFHE to reconsider its decision to allow a debate on this motion at conference.  

Any boycott call that is based on whether Israeli academics support their Government's government policy is like the AUT call last year discriminatory and effectively an antisemitic act. I would expect my Union NATFHE to recognise the problem and act immediately, yet as in the past they have so far failed to do anything. NATFHE has a duty of care and an obligation to ensure that the Union makes only those commitments which it is capable of pursuing according to its constitution and not to allow it to pursue policies which encourage union members to break discrimination and equal opportunities legislation as well as their own contracts of employment.

I would ask that you write to NATFHE urging them not to allow debate on this divisive and discrimatory motion to go ahead. I would also suggest that you send a copy of your email to the President and General Secretary of the AUT, so that they are also aware of the depth of feeling.

The relevant addresses are:

John Wilkin, PRESIDENT

president@natfhe.org.uk

Dennis Hayes , VICE PRESIDENT

d.hayes@canterbury.ac.uk

Paul Mackney, GENERAL SECRETARY
pmackney@natfhe.org.uk

AUT General Secretary, Sally Hunt

sally.hunt@aut.org.uk

AUT President, Steve Wharton

president@aut.org.uk

SPME has started a petition: An Appeal From Scholars WorldWide To NATFHE Not to Vote/Defeat Any Motions to Boycott Israel Scholars

http://www.spme.net/cgi-bin/display_petitions.cgi?ID=2

To Sign this petition go to -
http://www.spme.net/cgi-bin/display_petitions.cgi?ID=2&Action=Sign

What does this mean for the new Union, the UCU which is the result of NATFHE and the AUT merging and takes office from 1 st June? Not a good point to start from I would think. There is no stomach at the AUT at present for another fight over boycotts yet NATFHE can't wait to call one. It is clear that the first conference of the new union in 2007 will see a clash between the moderate AUT membership and the Left wing activists from NATFHE.

Neither of these motions if passed will have any effect on the policy of the new union as in theory they "die" with the passing of NATFHE and the AUT. The new union can only follow policies that both unions agreed on in the past and these two recommendations are so at odds with each other that neither can be adopted.

The first thing the new merged UCU union should do is to condemn this "personal boycott" call if it is passed.

Finally I have also put below the AUT Draft Policy on International Greylisting and Boycotts which is due to be debated at the AUT council later this week. It may not be perfect, but that any call for a boycott of Israeli Universities can only be accepted if they are called for by Israeli staff associations.

Regards,

Ronnie Fraser

Academic Friends of Israel

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