The Jewish Chronicle
Named: boycott ringleaders
14 June 2007
By By Bernard Josephs and Nicole Hazan
The JC today identifies the key players in the escalating British campaign to boycott Israel. Our investigation shows that many are Jewish or Israeli, and that they justify their stance as part of the struggle for Palestinian rights and ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian
A high proportion are deeply involved in UCU, the University and College Union, which last month sparked an international outcry by voting to facilitate a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
Anti-boycott figures suggest that the campaign has been fuelled by a well-organised mix of far-left activists and Islamic organisations. In reality, the main proponents are a loosely knit collection of academics and trade unionists linked to groups such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jews for the Boycotting of Israeli Goods, and Bricup, the British Committee for Universities of Palestine.
Israeli Haim Bresheeth, professor of media and culture at the University of East London, seconded the UCU motion, which called for consideration of the morality of ties with Israeli academia and for discussions on
Prof Bresheeth told the JC that a boycott was not an easy decision. “I am Jewish and an Israeli, and I don’t wish harm on either side. But how long can this occupation go on?”
Characterising opposition to a boycott as insincere, he added : “What we are asking for is not violent. It is civil action against a military occupation.”
The proposer of the UCU motion was Brighton University philosophy lecturer Tom Hickey, who stressed that should the boycott go ahead, its target would be Israeli universities rather than individual academics. Another speaker for the UCU motion was Richard Seaford, professor of classics and ancient history at Exeter University, whose former pupils include JK Rowling. In 1990, he was a signatory to a campaign against Israel’s law of return. Last year, he refused to review a book for an Israeli journal because of “outrage” at Israel’s “brutal and illegal expansionism”.
Bricup has a large number of Jewish supporters, among them husband and wife Hilary and Steven Rose. Hilary, a professor of social policy at Bradford University, is Bricup’s co-convenor alongside Prof Jonathan Rosenhead. Her husband, an Open University biology professor, is the organisation’s secretary. They have been active in the boycott movement since 2002.
In an online article, Steven Rose wrote: “It really isn’t good enough to attack the messenger as antisemitic or a self-hating Jew rather than deal with the message that Israel’s conduct is unacceptable.”
Prof Rosenhead, of the London School of Economics, hails from a “solid Zionist and Jewish background”. Bricup, he said, had been involved in the discussions about the writing of the UCU motion. “The reaction from the community was what you would expect, but we are looking forward to the debate. It was a triumph that Israel came into existence —but not this Israel.”
Birmingham University lecturer Sue Blackwell, the figurehead of an unsuccessful attempt by UCU’s predecessor, the Association of University Teachers, to force a boycott, pushed through a UCU motion calling for a moratorium on European Union research grants to Israel. In her view, the UCU had put the boycott “back on the agenda”.