by Daniel Sacker | Student Direct | 30 September 2002
As Jewish students at Manchester, our initial concern is to where such actions will lead, and what effect they will have on Jewish students not only on the UMIST campus, but across all four Manchester campuses as well as nationally. Will the pursuit of lecturers for simply being Israeli lead to a pursuit of Jewish students who are openly Zionist? And will certain university lecturers who have put their names to this academic boycott treat Jewish students around the world any differently?
On a more practical level, the real question is: what is the `Boycott Israeli Goods' campaign really all about? Initially, the boycott was aimed at products made in the disputed territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip being labelled as Israeli products.
However, with the escalation of violence in the Middle East the boycott widened, now aimed at any company that has any connection whatsoever to Israel. And now, with the sacking of Israeli professors by Professor Baker, the boycott has spread into the international academic field. The question now is, where will the seemingly acceptable boundaries of the boycott be placed next?
Will we see a call or a boycott of books made in Israel or written by Israelis or her supports? Or what about any Israelis employed worldwide outside Israel? How about a call to boycott our own university computers as the majority of them contain Intel Pentium processor chips which are partly produced in Israel?
With no clear rejection of this boycott, or a condemnation of the sacking of the Israeli professors by UMIST who have merely described Professor Baker's actions as being 'unacceptable' and have launched an investigation (which has still not reached any conclusions), does this give legitimacy to student protesters outside our Students' Union who attack Israel and intimidate Jewish students?
The Constitution of the University of Manchester Union, says, in section 1.4 on discrimination, that `…It is a fundamental principle of the Union that it is opposed to discrimination on the grounds of political opinion, religion, racism sex, or sexuality and that it shall not practise such discrimination. This clause shall not compel the Union to provide a platform for advocating such discrimination. This Union shall not give a platform to fascists and those the Union believes will incite racial hatred.'
Anyone who knows even the barest facts of the situation in Israel and the territories will know there is clearly no legitimate reason for a boycott of Israel. The fact that the boycott focuses solely on Israel and accuses no other nation of discrimination (there are many nations whose human rights abuses have been proven and are far worse that those accused of Israel), shows that the `Boycott Israeli goods' campaign is simply an attempt to single out the Jewish state and is therefore Anti-Semitic.
This campaign and the actions of Professor Baker provide a, seemingly, legitimate source of ammunition for extremist groups, such as al-Muhajiroun and Hizb-ut-Tahrir, to threaten all minority students on campus.
It is well known that Anti-Zionism is a thinly veiled clock for Anti-Semitism, and in the 1930s the Nazis were boycotting people for being Jewish. Is this a further way of achieving the same aim?
Having witnessed scenes, such as we saw at Manchester University last year, and the divide that was created on campus, shouldn't this be a time to build bridges between groups on campus and not burn them behind us?
Daniel Sacker, Chairman of Manchester Jewish Students