SPME Petition 17

A Petition To Condemn The 2009 British UCU's Silent Boycott of Israel Academics and Institutions


We, the undersigned faculty members, researchers, professionals, academics and students from around the world, denounce and utterly condemn the action of a majority of members attending the recent University and College Union (UCU) of the United Kingdom who voted to boycott Israeli academics and academic institutions. This action, despite the Union’s invalidation of the vote and non-acceptance as policy, has created a situation where union members have vowed to conduct a “silent boycott.” Academic boycotts are incompatible with academic freedom and “silent boycotts” are particularly insidious.

In response to this action, we the undersigned, declare that any academic participating in such an action will also be boycotting us as colleagues. We stand in solidarity against boycotts, both official and “silent” of academics in general and of our Israeli colleagues and their institutions, in particular.


For the fourth time in as many years, a small but relentless group of academic activists in the United Kingdom has managed to manipulate what is now the University and College Union (UCU) to pass a motion calling for a boycott of all Israeli academics and their institutions. The motion, as pointed out several times, not only is unenforceable, but also violates both the union’s own anti-discrimination policy and British law. In the past the UCU leadership has nullified the motion precisely on those grounds.

The small cadre of activists behind this initiative now gloat that their motion was passed “by an overwhelming majority,” because “the Zionists barely showed up.” In fact, it now appears that both Jewish and non-Jewish scholars are absenting themselves from the annual meetings and many either have resigned or are in the process of resigning from the UCU. Support for the UCU is dwindingly because the preoccupation with Israel is increasingly recognized as inappropriate and racist. Proponents of this motion have so hijacked the union’s proceedings as to prevent the UCU from carrying out its primary mission, which is to represent the interests of academics within their institutions and nation.

The relentless condemnation of all Israeli academics is creating an atmosphere of intimidation and fear, something that any academic organization must find unacceptable. The faction behind these repeated motions seeks to make it easier for university departments to reject Israeli job applicants than risk accusations of political incorrectness in hiring them; easier for journals to reject submissions from Israeli and, in some cases, to publish unscientific and unscholarly denunciations of Israel than to risk a flood of letters of protest. No other country’s academics are being punished this way for the alleged crimes of their government.

It is an embarrassment to the British academy that this level of intimidation is being promoted by one of its own unions. In the end, the boycott will not only fail to do Palestinian academics any good, but will also isolate the union from the community of scholars who pursue truth with integrity and seek to promote civil and honest discourse. The UCU faction that seeks to demonize and delegitimize Israel as a democratic, pluralistic, self-critical Jewish state and society ignores the presence, in the same region, of despotic rulers who have no regard for human rights, including those of academics and other workers.

Therefore, as more than 11,000 of our colleagues world wide, including 55 university presidents and 33 Nobel Laureates stated two years ago in SPME’s response to a similar gesture of hate, http://www.spme.net/cgi-bin/display_petitions.cgi?ID=9, we position ourselves with Israeli academics and all those members of the UCU who reject the path of academic boycotts as counter to the basic ideals of our profession. We say to our colleagues in the United Kingdom, “If you boycott Israeli academics and academic institutions, you will also be boycotting us! You are separating yourselves from the academic community and the whole world is watching. “

Adopted June 1, 2009 by the:

SPME- UK Coordinators,
Howard Kahn, Heriot Watt University

Ashley Grossman, St. Bartholomew's Hospital, University of London

SPME Board of Directors

Nobel Laureate Endorsers
To Date:

Kenneth J. Arrow
Economic Science
Stanford University

Aaron Ciechanover


Claude Cohen-Tannoudji
College of France

Val Fitch
Princeton University

Jerome I. Friedman

Sheldon Lee Glashow
Boston University

Roy Glauber
Harvard University

Paul Greengard
Physiology and Medicine
Rockefeller University

David Gross
University of California-Santa Barbara

Dudley R. Herschbach
Harvard University

Avram Hershko
Physiology or Medicine

Roald Hoffman
Cornell University

Tim Hunt
Physiology and Medicine
Cancer Research UK

Sir Aaron Klug
Cambridge University

Roger Kornberg
Stanford University

Rudolph A. Marcus
California Institute of Technology

Harry Markowitz
Economic Sciences
University of California San Diego

George A. Olah
University of Southern California

Martin Perl
Stanford University

William D. Phillips
University of Maryland

Sir Richard Roberts,
Physiology and Medicine
New England Biolabs

Andrew Schally
Physiology and Medicine
University of Miami

John Walker
Cambridge University

Steven Weinberg

University of Texas

Torsten Wiesel
Physiology and Medicine
Rockefeller University

For Further Information Contact:

Edward S. Beck, President Emeritus, SPME ScholarsforPeace@aol.com

Howard Kahn, SPME-UK Co-Coordinator, Heriot Watt University spmeuk@yahoo.com

Ashley Grossman, SPME UK Co-Coordinator, St. Bartholomews Hospital, University of

London a.b.grossman@qmul.ac.uk

Peter Haas, SPME Vice President, External Affairs, Case Western Reserve University


Sam Edelman, Executive Director, SPME sedelman@csuchico.edu


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