British college teachers decided to boycott Israeli academic institutions and pressure the European Union to curtail educational and cultural programs with Israel in a vote last night in the seaside town of Bournemouth, UK during the first conference of the British University and College Union (UCU). The delegates of the union ignored their leader Sally Hunt who urged them to drop their boycott intentions, and passed the resolution with 158 in favor and 99 against.
Union members deplored Israel’s 40-year occupation of Palestine and the violation of Palestinian educational rights by curfews, checkpoints, and other restrictions of movement, reports said. Shootings and arrests of Palestinian students and professors have gravely damaged the educational environment in the region, according to delegates.

UCU officials said that the vote yesterday would not enforce an immediate boycott because of union bureaucracy that manages implementation of such resolutions. All union members, totaling some120, 000 British college educators, will be briefed on the issue and will have the opportunity to take a stand, according to UCU rules.

Similar academic boycotts against Israel have been attempted twice before. The Association of University Teachers (AUT) and the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) passed resolutions in 2005 and in 2006, respectively. Later, the two organizations formed the UCU.

While Jewish organizations in Britain and Israel have ardently protested possible boycott since yesterday, support for Palestinian education came from presidents of four Israeli universities and three Israeli authors who appealed to Israel’s defense minister, Amir Peretz, to allow Palestinian students to travel from Gaza to the West Bank for their studies.