May 28, 2009 – New York – AJC strongly condemned the University and College Union (UCU) of the United Kingdom for promoting a series of measures in support of boycotting Israel. Delegates to the UCU Annual Congress characterized the Hamas regime in Gaza as “democratically elected,” depicted Israel as practicing “apartheid” and urged academic and “institutional” boycotts targeting Israel.
“In what has become an annual UCU ritual, activists in the British academic union again have selected Israel for uniquely discriminatory treatment,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.
“Why all this attention to Israel, a democratic nation struggling against those who seek its destruction, and nowhere else? Why no mention of genocide in Darfur, or the Taliban terror campaign in Afghanistan, and Pakistan?” said Harris. “It is crystal clear that no matter how many millions of innocents are persecuted around the world because of their ethnicity, faith, gender or sexuality, these British boycott activists are not motivated by concern for human rights, but by a warped worldview in which Israel is the ultimate rogue state.”
Since 2005, the UCU and its predecessor unions have voted in favor of boycotting Israeli academics. In 2008, the union received legal advice that to implement such a boycott would violate UK laws to combat discrimination. The 2009 Congress commits the UCU to holding an international conference in the Fall in support of the so-called BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign against Israel.
In addition, a motion at the 2009 Congress to investigate allegations of anti-Semitism within the UCU was overwhelmingly rejected by delegates.
“Shame on the UCU for allowing hatred of Israel to trump concerns about academic freedom and human rights,” said Harris. “This obsession has fed anti-Semitism, which is why so many Jewish academics in the UK no longer feel they can remain inside the UCU.”
AJC has consistently and vocally opposed boycotts of Israeli academics. In 2007, AJC responded to the UCU oycott by publishing a full-page New York Times advertisement signed by over 300 U.S. college presidents, led by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, under the headline, “Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours, Too!”