What a boycott would have cost

A leading economist has said that the UK economy and employment in Britain would suffer badly in the event of an academic boycott of Israel.

Commenting on a new report highlighting the financial impact on Britain if last year’s aborted academic boycott against Israel had gone ahead, Jonathan Hoffman, who has worked for the Bank of England and other major financial institutions, said: “The UK economy would suffer in the event of a hypothetical academic boycott.

“There would be third party repercussions — for example, from US foundations and companies pulling out of Britain, perhaps with legal encouragement from Congress, which would magnify the impact.”

The report, which has been issued as a new boycott is threatened by the University and College Union, concentrates on figures for 2006 and shows that Israel contributed directly about £1.7 billion towards Britain’s gross domestic product on a per capita basis. This made Israel the UK’s 26th most important trading partner per capita, ahead of the USA, Japan and South Africa.

It reveals that there were more than 200 academics and almost 1,000 Israeli students working here. It also examined the jobs Israelis take as well as tourism and cultural and sporting links. The report estimates that there were roughly 14,000 Israelis living in Britain, who contributed around £600 million to GDP in 2006.

The report was commissioned by the Britain-Israel Communications and Research Centre (Bicom) and was written by business analysis organisation Oxford Economics. The JC understands that Bicom commissioned it last year to highlight the effect that a full academic boycott could have had, not just on academia but on economic links between the two countries.

Bicom decided to go ahead with the study despite UCU dropping, on legal advice, its boycott plans. The UCU is reviving the boycott issue at its conference at the end of this month.

Commenting on the report, Mr Hoffman said: “The UK’s population is more than eight times that of Israel, so it is not surprising that the proportion of UK GDP accounted for by economic links with Israel is small — £1.7 billion is just 0.1 per cent of UK GDP. But this grossly underestimates the loss that the UK economy would suffer.

“Institutions from other countries — for example, Canada, Australia and the European Union — would quickly get drawn in. All in all, I believe there would be a significant loss to UK GDP and to employment if the UCU was foolish enough to try again to introduce a boycott of Israeli academics.”

Apart from economic information, the report reveals that the vast majority of Israelis live in London and the South-East.

It further reveals that in 2006, more than 40 per cent of British-based Israelis were employed as managers and senior officials and 24 per cent in professional occupations.

The report also offered a comprehensive list of joint Anglo-Israeli projects in a number of fields, notably science.

    Last updated: 11:39am, May 16 2008