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Friday, July 20, 2007

Israel Boycotts: Comfort ye, comfort ye my people

Journals are filled with "good cheer" stories about overcoming the effects of anti-Israel boycotts. Shall we overcome? According to the Guardian, Israeli universities signed a new European Union agreement that allows the nation's scientists to take part in the next six-year research program. The Guardian notes:
Israel's participation in European research programmes was called into question in 2002 when two British academics had a letter published in the Guardian advocating a moratorium on all grants and contracts to Israel from European cultural and research institutions.
Janze Potocnik, the EU's research commissioner, said: "Israel's association to the framework programme has proved to be of mutual benefit for both sides over the last couple of years. Whereas the European research area will benefit from the renowned excellence of the Israeli research community, Israel will gain full access to the biggest research programme in the world.

Of course, that doesn't prevent journals from boycotting articles by Israeli scientists and other academics, and it doesn't force researchers to treat Israeli post-doctoral applicants equally. There have been cases of discrimination in both areas and many others, even without the boycott initiatives.
The Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has been accepted to a presitigious international consortium of such institutes. According to a Hebrew University announcement:
Membership for the Hebrew University's IAS was voted by the consortium's existing members -- considered the Ivy League of advanced institutes. These include the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford; Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard; the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study; and Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin Institute for Advanced Study at Berlin. The Hebrew University is the tenth member to join the consortium.
The IAS in Jerusalem was accepted for its unique approach in hosting collaborative research groups and its academic achievements. It hopes that membership will open doors to further academic exchange and collaborative projects.
"We are looking forward to sharing experiences with these distinguished institutes for the benefit of all," said director of the IAS in Jerusalem, Prof. Eliezer Rabinovici. "Science should move forward by the tradition of openness and sharing and not by the ill winds of exclusion. Membership status in the SIAS consortium is a testament to the high caliber, innovative and collaborative research Israel engages in."
The IAS is the only one of its kind in the Middle East and was the fifth in the world to be established in 1975 – the first one being at Princeton. Twelve Nobel Laureates are associated with the Institute in the fields of chemistry, physics, medicine and economics.
And in the United States, labor unions roundly condemned the British boycott initiatives. An initiative begun by the Jewish Labor Committee was endorsed by a host of unions and union leaders, including the presidents of the AFL-CIO; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; American Federation of Teachers; United Food and Commercial Workers; Communications Workers of America; Masters, Mates and Pilots / ILA; American Postal Workers Union; International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; UAW; American Federation of School Administrators; Office and Professional Employees International Union; American Federation of Government Employees; UNITE-HERE; United Mine Workers of America; Sheet Metal Workers International Association; International Union of Painters and Allied Trades; Transportation Communications Union; American Federation Musicians; Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union; International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers; and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the presidents of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the A. Philip Randolph Institute. 
Others may join the initiative as well.
They signed the statement appended below. It is comforting and heartening to know that Israel still has friends who will speak up for fair play, but the ignorance and hate demonstrated by the boycotters is nonetheless unnerving, and the trend seems to be growing, despite the rise of the Hamas, and despite the Israeli disengagement from Gaza. The boycotts and divestment initiateves are a well organized and well financed pseudo-grass-roots campaign, conceived by people who are experts in organizing "spontaneous" movements and demonstrations. It has been been planned for years, and Jewish organizations were caught napping. (See Israel Boycotts and Divestment )
It really would have been better if we did not need this show of support.
Ami Isseroff
Statement of Opposition to Divestment from or Boycotts of Israel
July 18, 2007
We view with increasing concern the phenomenon of trade unions in a number of countries, including, most recently, the United Kingdom, issuing resolutions that either directly or indirectly call for divestment from and boycotts of Israel.
With the large number of local, regional and international conflicts, with the diverse range of oppressive regimes around the world about which there is almost universal silence, we have to question the motives of these resolutions that single out one country in one conflict.
We note with increasing concern that virtually all of these resolutions focus solely on objections to actions or policies of the Israeli government, and never on actions or policies of Palestinian or other Arab governments, parties or movements. We notice with increasing concern that characterization of the Palestinians as victims and Israel as victimizer is a staple of such resolutions. That there are victims and victimizers on all sides, and that many if not most of the victims of violence and repression on all sides are civilians, are essential items often not mentioned in these resolutions.
Any just and fair resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be brought about through meaningful negotiations between their elected representatives. We believe strongly in a two-state solution, brought about through meaningful negotiations, with the involvement and encouragement of the world community.
Trade unionists and their organizations seeking such a just and fair resolution should be assisting those working to bring the two sides together in direct talks and then negotiations. In this regard, we call for increased engagement of trade unions with their counterparts on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We support efforts of Palestinian and Israeli trade unionists and their organizations to maintain contact and cooperative and mutually supportive activities, even in the midst of tumult and political change within their respective communities and polities.
Calls for academic boycotts of Israel are inimical to and counter to the principles of academic freedom and freedom of association, key principles for which academics and educational unions have struggled over many years. Rather than limiting interactions with Israeli educators, academics and educational institutions, we see the importance of maximizing, rather than proscribing, the free flow of ideas and academic interaction between peoples, cultures, religions and countries.
Similarly, calls for journalistic boycotts of Israel are inimical to the free flow of information and journalistic objectivity, and must be opposed.
Rather than divestment from Israel, we believe that investment of time, energy and material aid is the best means to alleviate the ongoing suffering of Palestinians and Israelis. Engagement, rather than disengagement, with the Israeli people and the Palestinian people is needed, so that a just and fair resolution of this conflict may be pursued, and so that meaningful progress towards achieving the legitimate needs of Palestinians and Israelis can be made.
We offer our support to assist trade unionists as well as interested members of the community-at-large who are grappling with these matters, and who share our concern over simplistic and non-constructive approaches, whether in the form of misguided resolutions or other statements on the tragic conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
    Stuart Appelbaum
    President, Jewish Labor Committee
    President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union / UFCW
    Edward J. McElroy
    Secretary, Jewish Labor Committee
    President, American Federation of Teachers
    Morton Bahr
    Treasurer, Jewish Labor Committee
    John J. Sweeney
    President, AFL-CIO
    Clayola Brown
    President, A. Philip Randolph Institute
    Timothy A. Brown
    International President, International Organization of Masters, Mates &
    Pilots / ILA
    R. Thomas Buffenbarger
    International President,
    International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
    William Burrus
    President, American Postal Workers Union
    Larry Cohen
    President, Communications Workers of America
    Barbara J. Easterling
    Secretary-Treasurer, Communications Workers of America
    John J. Flynn
    President, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers
    John Gage
    President, American Federation of Government Employees
    Ron Gettelfinger
    United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America
    International Union
    Michael Goodwin
    President, Office and Professional Employees International Union
    Joseph T. Hansen
    International President, United Food and Commercial Workers International
    Edwin D. Hill
    International President, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
    James P. Hoffa
    General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
    Frank Hurt
    International President
    Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International
    Thomas F. Lee
    President, American Federation of Musicians
    Jill S. Levy
    President, American Federation of School Administrators
    William Lucy
    President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
    Gerald W. McEntee
    President, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
    Bruce S. Raynor
    General President, UNITE HERE
    Cecil E. Roberts
    President, United Mine Workers of America
    Robert Scardelletti
    International President, Transportation Communications Union / IAM
    Michael J. Sullivan
    General President, Sheet Metal Workers International Association
    George Tedeschi
    President, Graphic Communications International Union / IBT
    James A. Williams
    General President, International Union of Printers and Allied Trades

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