The University and College Union (UCU), the largest trade union and professional for professors and lecturers in the United Kingdom, voted overwhelmingly this week to support a motion that calls for union members to consider an academic boycott of Israeli universities. The Union represents over 120,000 academics. At the group's annual conference in Manchester this week, they voted to “consider the moral and political implications of education links with Israeli institutions”, noting the “continuation of illegal settlement, killing of civilians and the impossibility of civil life, including education” brought on by the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
Three years ago, the two academic unions that later merged to become the UCU sparked a massive backlash by Zionist interests when they called for a boycott of Israel. After both legal and political challenges, as well as a public campaign labeling the unions 'Anti-Semitic' for even considering a resolution challenging the military policies of the state of Israel, the resolutions were eventually overturned.
The new resolution does not directly call for a boycott of Israeli institutions, but notes that academics should consider the moral implications of working with Israeli universities and other institutions before deciding to work with them. Tom Hickey, who proposed the motion, said, “We are urging people to reflect on whether it is appropriate for them to maintain their links with Israeli institutions. It is one step short of urging people to consider a boycott.” There was a group at the conference, however, led by Israeli-born academic Professor Haim Bresheeth and Birmingham University’s Kamel Hawwash, that did call for a full boycott of Israeli academic institutions — due to the complicity of these institutions in the violation of human rights of the Palestinian people.
The resolution also preempts potential accusations of 'Anti-Semitism', noting that “ legal attempts to prevent UCU debating boycott of Israeli academic institutions; and legal advice that such debates are lawful Congress affirms that criticism of Israel or Israeli policy are not, as such, anti-semitic”. This clause was thought necessary due to the stifling of debate that took place three years ago when a similar measure was passed.
The following is the full text of the resolutions passed by the UCU this week:
25 – Composite: Palestine and the occupation University of Brighton –
Eastbourne, University of Brighton – Grand Parade, University of East London Docklands, National Executive Committee
Congress notes the
1. continuation of illegal settlement, killing of civilians and the impossibility of civil life, including education
2. humanitarian catastrophe imposed on Gaza by Israel and the EU
3. apparent complicity of most of the Israeli academy
4. legal attempts to prevent UCU debating boycott of Israeli academic institutions; and legal advice that such debates are lawful Congress affirms that
5. criticism of Israel or Israeli policy are not, as such, anti-semitic;
6. pursuit and dissemination of knowledge are not uniquely immune from their moral and political consequences;
Congress resolves that
7. colleagues be asked to consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions, and to discuss the occupation with individuals and institutions concerned, including Israeli colleagues with whom they are collaborating;
8. UCU widely disseminate the personal testimonies of UCU and PFUUPE delegations to Palestine and the UK, respectively;
9. the testimonies will be used to promote a wide discussion by colleagues of the appropriateness of continued educational links with Israeli academic institutions;
10. UCU facilitate and encourage twinning arrangements and other direct solidarity with Palestinian institutions;
11. Ariel College, an explicitly colonising institution in the West Bank, be investigated under the formal Greylisting Procedure.
26 – Gaza emergency University College London
1. The humanitarian catastrophe that developed in Gaza in March 2008, following a long siege and military bombardment, during which over 100 people died.
2. The call by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) to international trade unions to put pressure on their own governments to take action to stop the escalation of violence and relieve the humanitarian crisis.
3. Students and academics have been among those trapped in Gaza.
To organise a fact-finding delegation to Gaza after the bombing stops and to send delegates on future TUC-sponsored visits.
27 – Palestine National Executive Committee Congress notes the report of the Trade Union Delegation to Palestine in January 2008, facilitated by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, in which 4 representatives of UCU took part.
Congress notes that the delegation was generously hosted in Nablus by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions.
Congress deplores the failure of the Israeli Histadrut to pay the approximately 2.5 million Euros owed to the PGFTU since 1995, representing 50% of the official organisational dues of Palestinian workers working in Israel, under the terms of the Framework Agreement of March 1995 following the Oslo Accords of 1993.
Congress calls on the Histadrut to pay the dues owed to the PGFTU; to call for an end to the siege of Gaza; and to call for an end to the occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territory.