CAMPAIGN: Coalition stops boycott of Israeli universities

In May 2007, the University and College Union (UCU) congress asked its members to ‘consider the moral implications of links with Israeli academic institutions'.

Campaign Stop the Boycott
Clients British Israel Communications & Research Centre, and the Jewish Leadership Council
PR team Champollion and Populus
Timescale June–October 2007
Budget Undisclosed

After a vote, which resulted in 158 in favour of a boycott and 99 against, the union agreed to a year-long debate, in which it would consider a bar on Israeli universities.

In response to the development, the British Israel Communications & Research Centre and the Jewish Leadership Council formed the ‘Stop the Boycott’ coalition.

Objectives
To pressure the UCU into calling off the proposed boycott. To create a better understanding of Israel among UK academics.

Strategy and plan
The message of the campaign was that the proposed boycott of Israeli universities was bad for Britain, academic freedom, Palestinians and peace in the Middle East. The campaign involved working with UCU grassroots members and forming a coalition of groups and individuals from within higher education and the Jewish community. Organisations such as research university association the Russell Group and Jewish representative body the Board of Deputies joined Stop the Boycott to apply pressure on the UCU.

The plan was to make a reasonable case for active engagement with Israel to encourage the country to bring about peace in the region and statehood for Palestinians. Stop the Boycott argued that if the UCU enacted its boycott proposal, it would damage the peace process and academic freedom. The campaign was supported by high-profile figures such as Lord Melvyn Bragg and Professor Lord Robert Winston.

Measurement and evaluation
The campaign received extensive coverage, including an article in The Times that featured comments from Bragg and Winston under the headline ‘Scant support for Israel boycott plan’.

Results
Stop the Boycott won the argument before the union’s proposal went to a final vote. In September, the UCU announced that it had accepted legal advice that an academic boycott of Israel would be unlawful and could not be implemented.

 

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