U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-District 8) introduced a congressional resolution rebuking the University and College Union of the United Kingdom, which represents more than 120,000 educators, for voting in favor of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
Filed by the freshman lawmaker on June 6, House Resolution 467 urges the international scholarly community, individual members of the UCU, as well as the European Union to reject the boycott, which was approved by the UCU in a May 30 vote.
According to the resolution, "the senseless boycotting of Israeli academics contributes to the delegitimization and demonization of the State of Israel."
If passed, the congressional resolution would obviously have no legal bearing on the policies of the British union, whose decision has already been criticized by outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other members of the British government.
But Murphy, as well as officials of a number of Jewish organizations supporting his resolution, argue that its passage would send a strong message to the international community.
"We have no greater ally in the Middle East than the State of Israel, and they deserve the support of this nation and the full academic community," said Murphy in a press release.
The British boycott petition must now be circulated among union members before any policy changes take effect, but the measure could potentially sever ties between British and Israeli institutions of higher learning.
The UCU vote came just two months after a decision by the Britain's National Union of Journalists to boycott Israeli goods.
Murphy's office called the congressional resolution a bipartisan effort. In truth, only three of the original 30 co-sponsors happened to hail from the GOP. Since then, the overall number of co-sponsors has climbed to 50, including nine Republicans.
Locally, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D-District 1) and U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak (D-District 7) have signed on. U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-District 2), U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-District 13) and U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-District 6) have not.
Does the larger number of Democrats backing the motion serve as a signal that the resolution has little chance of passage?
Not according to Murphy's spokesman, Adam Abrams.
"I actually think it will help its chances," said Abrams, adding that since more than half-a-dozen Republicans had in effect broken ranks and backed a bill introduced by a freshman Democrat, more GOP members were sure to follow their lead.
Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said that the organization was encouraging GOP House members to support the resolution.
"This is a nonpartisan issue," said Brooks. "The reality is that what's going on in Britain is indefensible and unacceptable. Anybody with real leadership in Great Britain has been speaking out against this."
A number of national Jewish organizations, including Hadassah, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Anti-Defamation League, are pushing for the resolution's passage. JCPA sent off a letter to its members, asking them to contact their Representatives and urge them to support the bill.
Along similar lines, Hadassah sent out an e-mail action alert.
Before introducing the measure, Murphy's office consulted with officials from several Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
"We are pleased that [he took] the initiative on this," said Robin Schatz, director of government affairs for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. "We did not go to him."