Israel boycotters launch European grouping

Fresh attempts to promote academic and cultural boycotts of Israel will be spearheaded by a newly-established pan-European organisation.

The European Platform for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (EPACBI) includes representatives from Britain, France, Germany, Spain and five other countries with the aim of streamlining action against the Jewish state.

Members of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (Bricup), and its French equivalent AURDIP, joined forces to set up the new group and campaign against European Union funding of Israeli academic research.

The move comes as anti-Israel groups promote their boycott, divestment and sanctions week of action, which runs until November 16.

Professor Ahmed Abbes, AURDIP secretary, said: "European decision-makers find it convenient to forget that Israel practises systematic discrimination against its Palestinian citizens.

"Europeans who participate in academic exchanges with Israel can expect to suffer harassment or worse if they happen to have Middle Eastern or Islamic-sounding names.

"Integrating Israel into the European research environment amounts to importing Israel's discriminatory policies back into Europe. For me that's unacceptable."

A spokesman for the Fair Play Campaign, which opposes anti-Zionist activity and boycotts, said: "The same small group of hard-core anti-Israel activists has set up yet another front organisation to push their discriminatory agenda. UK universities continue to oppose an academic boycott of Israel, and even the University and College Union admit that it's illegal."

As part of BDS Week of Action, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign encouraged supporters to focus on four areas that it claimed were "complicit in the [Israeli] occupation" and launch action through "street protests, e-lobbying, phone-ins and social networking sites".

It said the four-pronged attack should be aimed at: Israeli cosmetics company Ahava, supermarkets which sell produce from Israeli West Bank settlements, BT for its support of Israeli telecommunications provider Bezeq, and construction group Veolia, a leading partner in Jerusalem's light-railway.

The "buycott" campaign, which was launched in November last year to directly challenge the PSC boycott, continues to support the sale of Israeli goods in the UK.

No specific buycott events were planned for this week, with supporters instead encouraged to continue their purchasing of goods throughout the year.

Last updated: 3:23pm, November 11 2010