BDS activities continued throughout November. Of particular note were developments in the political relationship between Israel and the European Union and an important series of incidents in academia.
The latest reports indicate that negotiations regarding Israeli participation in the European Union (EU) Horizon 2020 research project have reached a compromise. EU regulations issued during the summer would forbid European institutions from supporting or interacting with Israeli counterparts located across the “Green Line.” The compromise reportedly comes in the form of a clause that permits the EU to reserve the right to boycott Israeli institutions located across the “Green Line.” A similar clause exists in the agreement between Israel and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Previous reports suggested that European and Israeli negotiators were seeking creative means to circumvent the new regulations. A letter from 30 European parliament members had also urged the EU to rethink the impending regulations.
The current compromise was reached after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a cabinet meeting to discuss the stalemated talks, that was followed by direct negotiations between cabinet ministers and European officials. The compromise indicates the extent to which both the EU and Israel were anxious to ensure Israeli participation in Horizon 2020.
There were a number of BDS-related developments in academia. In Australia, a lawsuit will be heard in Federal Court of Australia regarding the case of Jake Lynch, the director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney. The lawsuit, brought by the private Israeli organization Shurat HaDin, the Israeli Law Center, alleges that Lynch breached Australia’s anti-racism laws when he refused to sponsor a fellowship application from an Israeli academic.
While the University of Sydney is a public institution, Lynch is a noted supporter of BDS and alleges that the lawsuit is an attack on his freedom of expression. The university has disavowed BDS but will not take action against Lynch, who is receiving pro bono legal support. The suit seeks an apology from Lynch and a promise not to boycott Israelis in the future.
Two incidents of BDS resolutions presented to American academic organizations show the continued pressure in that area. In the first, the American Public Health Association overwhelming rejected a BDS proposal. The resolution had been circulated for several months, allowing opponents to present counterarguments and gather support.
In another incident, however, an Israel boycott resolution has been presented to the National Council of the American Studies Association. The resolution was proposed by the association’s “Caucus on Academic and Community Activism,” which includes several well-known BDS supporters, many of whom are Arab-American. A key supporter includes at least one individual who had recently contributed to the American Association of University Professor’s controversial Journal of Academic Freedom issue promoting BDS.
Should the National Council approve the resolution, as appears likely, it will be forwarded to the general membership. The ASA has over 5000 individual and 2200 library and institutional members.
In the ASA case, while a statement of support from the “Caucus on Academic and Community Activism” in favor of the Association of Asian American Scholars BDS proposal had been issued several months ago, opponents complained that the current resolution was made only at the last minute, denying them the opportunity to study it. A report further indicated that “Speakers on Saturday overwhelmingly urged the council to immediately act and approve the resolution — any delay, they argued, was a tactic for defeat.”
The tactic of submitting BDS resolutions at the last minute in an attempt to push them through with minimal opposition is commonplace. The ASA was also criticized for only making pro-BDS materials available on its web site, a charge that the association’s director disputed. An examination of the web site, however, shows this is false and that the materials available are dramatically skewed towards supporting BDS.
The ASA case demonstrates that many of the same BDS supporters are relentlessly active in multiple contexts, including journals and academic organizations, and that the same tactics are employed repeatedly.
In cultural news, singer Cyndi Lauper has announced plans to perform in Israel, which has elicited attacks from BDS supporters. In other European and African news, France’s “Left Party” has formally announced its support for BDS. The party controls one seat in the National Assembly. Concerns emerged in Britain that the government’s plans to issue “Islamic Bonds” as investment vehicles would discriminate against Israel. In Ireland, BDS activists placed yellow boycott stickers on Israeli products in stores. The Tunisian Tennis Federation was barred from Davis Cup tennis for one year after refusing to play Israel.
Finally, a former leader of Britain Co-operative Group, a British consumer cooperative whose food retail branch boycotted Israeli products from 2009 to 2012, was arrested after being caught on camera attempting to buy crystal meth and cocaine. Paul Flowers, is also a minister in the Methodist Church, which has suspended him, as has the Labour Party. He became chairman of the Co-op Bank in 2010. He had previously stepped down from the town of Bradford council in 2011 after “adult content” was found on a computer he used.