The Guardian has an interesting article on the Israeli Academic boycott - or more precisely how so-called pro-Israel lobby groups have over-egged their response to it - and in particular how they totally misjudge key players within the debate alienating potential supporters in the process.
The Guardian sums up the experience of Paul Mackney the General Secretary as follows:
Mackney was sent over 15,000 messages from boycott opponents. At least 50,000 more were sent to other leaders of Natfhe and the Association of University Teachers, which passed a similar motion last year. Petitions with more than 17,000 signatories were sent to the union. While much of the criticism was well formulated and respectful, there was something troubling about the massive international campaign.
Mackney's family gave shelter to Jewish refugees during the second world war. He has campaigned on behalf of Jewish members for policies for those who do not want to work on the Jewish Sabbath. He opposed the boycott, speaking out passionately against it just before the votes were counted at the conference late last month.
But, he said, a reasoned debate was made extraordinarily difficult by an aggressive campaign involving tens of thousands of activists. "The ironic thing," Mackney said despondently after the motion was passed, "is if we had put this to delegates a couple of weeks ago, before the international pro-Israeli lobby started this massive campaign emailing delegates and trying to deny us our democratic right to discuss whatever we like, it probably wouldn't have passed. People feel bullied, and what we have seen is a hardening of attitudes. All they achieved was making the delegates determined to debate and pass the motion."
It is sadly yet another example of how it is virtually impossible to offer a critical defence of Israel's political actions without being accused by a right-wing pro Israel lobby of being "anti-semitic" - often to the despair of mainstream Jewish leaders and to the devaluing of the phrase.
One of the journalists who contributed the article works for Ha'aritz the more liberal of Israeli daily papers which can be read here