Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni: "We must fight the boycott on every level and with all the means at our disposal. This is an act of hypocrisy and hatred."

(Communicated by the Foreign Minister’s Bureau)

In the wake of the decision by Britain’s University and College Teachers Union (UCU) to boycott Israeli academics, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Education Minister Yuli Tamir convened a large, multi-body forum to discuss the boycott and how best to respond.

"We must fight the boycott on every level and with all the means at our disposal. This is an act of hypocrisy and hatred that must not be allowed to raise its head, even if it comes from marginal bodies," said Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni at a meeting which took place Thursday evening (7 June). "We must convince everyone who shares the values of Israel and the rest of the free world to join this struggle. Whoever supports a boycott of this type should know that there will be a price to pay. We cannot afford not to act; we have an obligation to prevent the spread of this process. Our meeting today is the beginning of a well-designed, coordinated action."

The Minister of Education, Culture and Sport, Yuli Tamir, emphasized the need to show the world that the British boycott is not a legitimate vehicle for protest. "The use of a boycott is inappropriate, and it is important that Israel states this unequivocally," Tamir said. "Our goal is to convince the British public to reject the boycott of Israel."

The meeting, called to discuss possible political and PR responses to the British call for a boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education, medical institutions and labor unions, was attended by political and academic leaders. In addition to Ministers Livni and Tamir and other senior officials of the Foreign and Education Ministries, the participants included the Chairman of the Histadrut Labor Union; heads of the Israel-Britain Parliamentary Friendship Society, the Israel Medical Association and the International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom; and the presidents of Tel Aviv University, the Technion, and the Interdisciplinary Center-Herzliya. In addition, the Students Union, various colleges and other government ministries were represented.

It was decided to form a task force composed of representatives from all the bodies that took part in the meeting, to be headed by Mr. Raphael Barak, Deputy Director General for Europe at the Foreign Ministry. Ministers Livni and Tamir charged the task force with implementing concrete recommendations for dealing with the situation, with an emphasis on the Internet, working through such voluntary bodies in Britain as friendship societies, the British Jewish community, churches, labor unions, etc. The task force will report to the ministers regularly.