Friday, June 01, 2007


Lecturers vote again for Israel boycott

The lecturers' union UCU voted on Wednesday 30 May in favour of boycotting Israel. An amendment moved by Mark Osborn, to delete the boycott call from a motion on Israel/Palestine, was defeated, and the motion was passed.

The motion was carried by 159 votes to 99 with 17 abstentions. The vote on the amendment was not counted, but was similar.

The motion's wording is slippery, calling only for circulation of Palestinian calls for a boycott and "members to consider the moral implications of links with Israeli academic institutions", but the drift is clear.

UCU was formed by the merger of two unions, AUT and NATFHE. In AUT there was a major debate on this issue in 2005, and a special conference of the union on 26 May 2005 voted by an 80:20 majority to rescind the decision to boycott two Israeli universities which had been adopted on a snap vote, without debate, at its regular conference on 22 April.

In NATFHE, however, there had been much agitation for a boycott - by the SWP and others close to it - and the issue had never been fully debated out.

What's needed now is a full discussion among the membership, to do the same job in UCU as was done in AUT in May 2005.

Another sad indication on the political direction of the new, merged union was a vote to cut out from a motion on Iraq any criticism of the Islamist and neo-Ba'thist "resistance" militias.


Composite based on Brighton University motion:

Congress notes that Israel's 40-year occupation has seriously damaged the fabric of Palestinian society through annexation, illegal settlement, collective punishment and restriction of movement.

Congress deplores the denial of educational rights for Palestinians by invasions, closures, checkpoints, curfews, and shootings and arrests of teachers, lecturers and students.

Congress condemns the complicity of Israeli academia in the occupation, which has provoked a call from Palestinian trade unions for a comprehensive and consistent international boycott of all Israeli academic institutions.

Congress believes that in these circumstances passivity or neutrality is unacceptable and criticism of Israel cannot be construed as anti-semitic.

Congress instructs the NEC to

* circulate the full text of the Palestinian boycott call to all branches/LAs for information and discussion;
* encourage members to consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions;
* organise a UK-wide campus tour for Palestinian academic/educational trade unionists;
* issue guidance to members on appropriate forms of action.

Amendment moved by Mark Osborn from Community Education Lewisham

Delete third paragraph.

Fourth paragraph, after 'Congress believes that', insert 'while much criticism of Israel is anti-semitic'; after 'criticism of', replace 'Israel' with 'Israeli state policy', and after 'cannot', insert 'necessarily'.

Final paragraph, after 'Congress instructs the NEC to', delete first two bullet points

In third bullet point, after 'Palestinian', add 'and Israeli'

At end of fourth bullet point, add 'in line with Policy on International Greylisting and Boycotts, and EI policy'

Add new bullet point: 'Support direct links between education workers and UCU bodies in the UK, and Israeli and Palestinian trade union organisations.'


Clause in motion from Community Education Lewisham

The various so-called resistance forces have regularly killed trade union, women's and LGBT activists. The 'resistance' groups - various types of Ba'athist-fascist and Islamist organisation - are unremittingly hostile to the new labour movement.

Amendment from University College London:

To delete all above and replace by: The 650,000+ excess civilian deaths in Iraq since 2003 and the destruction of civil society, including the attacks on trade unionists, women and LGBT people, derive directly from the presence of occupying US and UK forces - practically, morally and legally under the Geneva Conventions.

UCU leadership reaction

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt has responded to the boycott resolution with a statement saying: "All branches now have a responsibility to consult all of their members on the issue and I believe that every member should have the opportunity to have their say. The earlier motion [passed at this UCU conference, endorsing the report of an AUT working party set up after 2005] means that any future calls for a boycott must pass key tests before a boycott can implemented" - i.e. it would have to be called for by a trade union or similar institution within Israel, a very unlikely event.

Evidently the UCU leadership want to push the issue aside as much as possible. The job for rank and file activists is to to into the branch "consultations" and make the case against boycott and for real solidarity with the Palestinians.

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