Thursday, March 27, 2008

Not Another Academic Boycott of Israel!

Thursday 27th March 2008

Here we go again

The University College Union (UCU) is once again set to debate a motion supporting an academic boycott of Israel, even though a similar resolution last year was dropped after being deemed unlawful.

The National Executive voted last Friday to submit the proposal at the UCU annual congress meeting in Manchester in May.

The motion, put forward by Tom Hickey, a Socialist Workers Party activist, and seconded by the Union’s President Linda Newman, claims there is “apparent complicity of the Israeli academy” in Israeli government policies towards the Palestinians, and that UCU should “promote a wide discussion by colleagues of the appropriateness of continued education links with Israeli academic institutions”.

A similar motion last year sparked a storm of controversy and was slammed by senior politicians, academics and activists both in the UK and overseas. It was ultimately abandoned after the union’s own lawyers deemed it discriminatory. However, the UCU has rejected calls to make the legal advice they received public.

Campaigners from Stop the Boycott (1) are now looking to raise awareness amongst union members of last year’s ruling and offering support to union members who want to challenge the NEC’s decisions through the courts.

Lorna Fitzsimons, Chief Executive of BICOM and Co-chair of Stop the Boycott said: “This is farcical; have the UCU not learnt anything? Their own legal advice said that this was illegal and discriminatory, so much so that they kicked the other motion out. Why they suddenly think that the law has changed I don’t know. What I do know is that the last time we ran a campaign that defeated the boycotters politically with an admission that they would have lost a ballot of all members if it had gone to ordinary UCU members.

“It is stunning that the Union still hasn’t published their own legal advice that was paid for by the Union. In the face of the UCU’s steadfast refusal to now publish their legal advice, we are seeking our own legal advice to do what the union refuses to do which is to empower its own individual members. It is imperative for the future credibility for the UCU itself, as well as all British Academia, that this nonsense is stopped immediately.”

Jeremy Newmark, Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council and Co-chair of STB, said: “By bringing this motion to Congress, UCU's Executive is once again relying on an unrepresentative, factionally dominated conference to foist a discriminatory boycott policy on their membership.”

Henry Grunwald, President of the Board of Deputies, added, “Last year’s successful campaign to defeat the previous boycott proposal demonstrated that our community is committed and able to deliver an effective and hard-hitting response to boycotts wherever they come from. STB will once again co-ordinate the community’s efforts with those partners inside the UCU to overturn these flawed proposals.”

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “Motions to be debated at UCU Congress will be considered, amended and decided in the coming weeks. Delegates will then have the opportunity to debate those motions, as is their right.” (TotallyJewish)

(1) From Stop the Boycott:
  • At its last meeting on Friday 14th March, The University and College Union (UCU)’s National Executive Committee (NEC) voted to submit a motion to the Union’s annual Congress in May. The motion is an attempt to reintroduce a boycott of Israeli academics.
  • This NEC motion was proposed to the poorly-attended meeting by Tom Hickey, a Socialist Workers Party activist, and was seconded by Linda Newman, UCU’s president.
  • All of this is despite the UCU accepting advice from its own lawyers, under pressure from the Union’s Trustees, that a boycott would be unlawful. This brought to an end 2007’s UCU policy promoting a boycott of Israeli academics, which dominated the Union’s business for eight months.
  • The new motion is similar to the 2007 motion – both call on UCU members to reconsider academic links to Israeli institutions.
  • Stop the Boycott originally supported the call by UCU members to ballot the entire membership on the question of a boycott - the Socialist Workers’ Party, which promoted the 2007 policy, admitted that in a democratic ballot “the boycott would almost certainly be heavily defeated"
Learn more from Stop the Boycott Org.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home