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UCU academic boycott against Israel 2008

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Union committee to reconsider Israeli academics boycott

Anthea Lipsett, Education Guardian, Thursday March 27, 2008
Source: Education Guardian

The University and College Union (UCU)'s national executive committee (NEC) has agreed to reconsider a boycott of Israeli academics at its annual congress in May.

An internal motion to discuss the possibility of a boycott of Israeli academics was put to the NEC meeting on March 14.

It notes the "apparent complicity of the Israeli academy" in Israeli government policies towards the Palestinians, and states the UCU should "promote a wide discussion by colleagues of the appropriateness of continued education links with Israeli academic institutions".

According to the Stop the Boycott Coalition (STB) - academics and Jewish and non-Jewish groups who are against a boycott - Tom Hickey, Brighton University academic and Socialist Workers Party activist, put forward the motion, which was seconded by Linda Newman, UCU's president.

A similar motion at UCU's inaugural annual congress in May last year sparked prolonged international outrage after members agreed to take steps towards a vote on introducing an academic boycott of Israeli universities.

However, in September, the UCU cancelled regional meetings organised for members to discuss the "moral implications" of existing links with Israel after taking legal advice that a boycott call ran the risk of infringing discrimination legislation and was also considered to be outside the aims and objectives of the union.

Lorna Fitzsimons, co-chairwoman of the STB, said: "It is ludicrous that a few individuals in the UCU are seeking to resurrect this again.

"Late last year the union was forced, at great expense, to seek legal advice to make a similar motion go away because of the pressure from ordinary union members.

"The members made it clear that they thought that this sort of motion should be decided by all members through a ballot and not the congress [as has been proposed].

"The fact that the NEC have ignored that and sought to put a motion for congress again is showing a flagrant disregard for their members' wishes."

She said the coalition was seeking legal advice to show UCU members that any boycott would be illegal.

"It is imperative for the future credibility of the UCU itself, as well as all British academia, that this nonsense is stopped immediately," she said.

UCU's 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."

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