Academic Friends of Israel Prepare for Boycott

In an article in the Haaretz titled It’s ‘Boycott Israel’ Season Again in the UK, Ronnie Fraser reveals that Academic Friends of Israel are preparing to hamstring what he considers a popular boycott proposal through false legal claims of discrimination.  There’s nothing like doing things democratically — Academic Friends of Israel seem to believe that if you can’t win the debate you should stifle it.

UCU activists are up against it; challenged by the internal academic lobby and externally by the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), a rather slick PR and media lobbying organisation, that created a group Stop the Boycott which has been effective at dominating main stream media debate on the topic.

Next month will be critical for the fight against academic boycotts of Israel in the U.K., according to the founder of Academic Friends of Israel, Ronnie Fraser. March is the month boycott proposals will be submitted to the academic organizations, making time of the essence, says Fraser – whose organization played a part in the 2007 shelving of a planned academic boycott of Israel by the University and College Union.

“The critical phase is the deliberation phase over the various proposals, because after an anti-Israel proposal reaches the plenum for voting it has an excellent chance of passing,” Fraser said. He noted that voting takes place in May. Noting that Israel’s invasion of Gaza in December greatly motivated boycott-advocates, Fraser – who lives in the U.K. – nonetheless adds that he believes they will ultimately fail.

Indeed, in late 2007 the union undid an earlier pro-boycott vote by announcing that after seeking legal advice, it had come to the conclusion that a boycott would be unlawful.

“Personally, I do not think the Lecturer’s union will approve proposals for a boycott because they know they would be sued them for discrimination,” Fraser added.

Fraser, who researches the relationship between British trade unions and Israel dismissed Irish trade unionists who said this week that they plan to launch a boycott of Israeli goods in 2009.

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