Campaign starts to head off Israeli academic ban

A campaign to head off a proposed UK ban on Israeli academics is to concentrate on mobilising its grassroots support before beginning major activities aimed at ­students in September.

The campaign, under the banner of the Fair Play Campaign Group (FPCG), is run by the Britain and Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), and the Jewish Activities Committee (JAC).

It is ­fighting a proposal by the University and College Union (UCU) conference to consider a boycott of Israeli universities and academics.

FPCG supporters will be asked to persuade their MPs to meet with universities and colleges to enlist support.

The campaign aims to alter public perception of Israel. Lorna Fitzsimons, CEO of BICOM, said: ‘Guardian or Independent readers, or on the left, see it as de rigueur to criticise Israel. But Zionism was initially a cause célèbre for the left and The Guardian was pivotal in the Zionist movement and the creation of Israel.

‘There is a tradition on the left of being ­anti-boycotts, and this campaign is a great opportunity to get people to ­rethink their associations.’

The UCU has asked its branches to consider a ban on Israeli academics. Stop The Boycott believes this is unrepresentative of UCU’s membership, and is urging it to call a ballot of its members.

The campaign launched this month and has already got 102 MPs to sign an Early Day Motion calling the proposed boycott ‘repugnant’.

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