Sunday, June 10, 2007

I felt ashamed to be British

Last week I was visiting Israel as part of the Adam Science Leadership Group.

This visit was 40 years since the beginning of the 6 day war. In 1967 Israel a new country of only 19 years old and at some points less than 10 miles wide was under threat of extinction from its Arab neighbours who were threatening to wipe it out, Israeli’s and the Jewish people around the world were fearful for the future of the country worried that Israel would be wiped out. Thank G-d, Israel was able to win the war and in defeating its attackers was able to strengthen itself and the size of the country.

Visiting Israel last week I realised that again after 40 years Israelis were worried about their country existing into the future and I recognized that the Jews of the world and even the rest of the world should have this same fear.

A fear that Israel will again be attacked by its Arab neighbours but also a fear that the rest of the world no longer believes that Israel should have a right to exist.

This was highlighted while I was in the Israel when the British Universities and Colleges Union voted for an academic boycott of Israel. Through voting for this policy the academic union of British Universities decided that Israeli educational institutions, Israeli Professors and Israeli students should not have a right to exist and should not gain any support from British academic institutions.

As a British person in Israel, Israeli’s were asking me how the British people could have a view that their country should not have any rights. Yet as a British person I was not able to justify the vote and it made me feel ashamed to be British.

Why has this union chosen to vilify Israel, only one side of a dispute lasting decades that will not be solved by supporting one side over the other?
Why Israel, when it is a democratic state, when there are many more countries with much worse civil rights offences?

I do not know the answer to these questions. Yet I can tell you why this academic boycott of Israel is wrong.

I am not going to concentrate on the diplomatic and legal reasons why these questions are wrong, which are fully explored in many places elsewhere and which I believe in as well. Instead I want to tell you about how these boycotts will destroy Israeli society.

During my visit to Israel I saw many excellent projects of voluntary organisations and support groups that are helping to build a better society in Israel. Many of these charities and organisations are made up of young Israeli’s either still at university or just out of university.

We saw young Israeli groups trying to build communities where young people that were excluded from mainstream society were helped to reinvigorate their lives, we saw university students living in deprived towns in order to help re-build and reinvest in these towns to assist in developing these areas to make them more prosperous. We also saw ways in which Israeli Jewish citizens and Israeli Arab citizens were working together. We even heard that the Dean of Haifa University is an Israeli Arab who proudly believes in the State of Israel.

All these groups and different projects made me proud of the country that Israel has become and is continuing to develop into. However, boycotts such as by the UCU are putting all this under threat and threatening of the future of the State of Israel, a state for the Jewish people that should continue have the right to exist peacefully and safely.

I therefore call on the UCU to end there boycott of Israel.

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