Israel Concerned over British Boycott Bids

Israeli ministers on Sunday voiced concern over two initiatives in Britain to boycott Israeli universities and sanction trade with the Jewish state because of its policies towards Palestinians.

"This is an extremely worrying issue," Trade and Industry Minister Eli Yishai said.

Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog said there was “an active Muslim minority joining forces with left-wing elements in the British public”.

Last Wednesday, Britain’s University and College Union (UCU) passed a motion at its annual congress urging lecturers to "consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions."

Under the terms of the motion, which was condemned by both the British and Israeli governments, the union must now circulate calls from Palestinians for a boycott of Israeli universities to all of its branches for discussion.

If passed, the boycott could include academics refusing to write for journals published by Israeli universities and prevent travel to Israel for conferences.

Following the lecturers’ move, Britain’s largest trade union Unison was reported to be weighing a vote on a resolution at its annual conference later this month calling for a boycott of Israel.

No reaction from the Unison could be immediately obtained on Sunday.

While the academics’ boycott is of mostly symbolic importance, trade sanctions could have a significant impact on economic ties between Britain and Israel, ministers said.

Yishai said he would hold a special meeting to discuss the implication of such a boycott on Israeli industry and trade agreements, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that she had called for a ministerial meeting to weigh Israel’s response.

"Even if we are dealing with marginal academic elements and ideas that repeat themselves, Israel must act decisively," she said.

In April, Britain’s National Union of Journalists voted in favour of a boycott of Israeli goods and demanded government and UN sanctions against Israel, a move blasted by the governments of both Britain and Israel.

Meanwhile, more than 100 British doctors have called for a boycott of the Israeli Medical Association.

The suggestion of boycotting Israel is backed by many who believe that Palestinian land could be liberated from Israeli occupation through non-military means.

The idea also draws support from many who are optimistic that the move would work inside Israel the way it had worked before with South Africa’s apartheid regime, as comparison between the two cases have recently surfaced to the public, analysts say.  

(Middle East Online –, June 03, 2007)

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