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No academic boycott

by: Hagit Klaiman, - Last updated: 2007-09-28



The British University and College Union (UCU) has said that after seeking legal advice, it had come to conclusion that an academic boycott of Israel would be unlawful and could not be implemented.

Four months ago, the union passed a motion at its congress calling for the circulation and debate of a call to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Since then, according to union officials, the UCU had sought extensive advice in order to try to implement the congress policy.

In a statement released Friday, the UCU said that "legal advice made it clear that making a call to boycott Israeli institutions would run a serious risk of infringing discrimination legislation. The call to boycott is also considered to be outside the aims and objects of the UCU."

The organisation added in the statement that "while UCU is at liberty to debate the pros and cons and Israeli policies, it cannot spend members' resources on seeking to test opinion on something which is in itself unlawful and cannot be implemented. The union will now explore the best ways to implement the non-boycott elements of the motion passed at the congress."

"Since congress our first priority has always been to keep the union, and its members, safe during what has been a very difficult time," said UCU general secretary Sally Hunt. "I hope this decision will allow all to move forward and focus on what is our primary objective, the representation of our members. I believe that if we do this we may also, where possible, play a positive role in supporting Palestinian and Israeli educators and in promoting a just peace in the Middle East."
The UCU the largest post-school union in the world and was formed by the amalgamation of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) and NATFHE (National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education).

Israel has warned in the past of a "silent boycott" in Britain against Israeli institutions of higher education.

The International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom said that Israeli researchers wishing to publish articles in Britain were asked to remove the name of which ever Israeli academic institute they belonged to as a condition for publishing their articles.

Lorna Fitzsimons, CEO of BICOM and Chair of Stop the Boycott welcomed the move. "The community should be emboldened by this victory and should see that we can successfully fight back and can have a real impact defending Israel’s reputation."

She added: "The boycott is like a cancer at the heart of labour movements and we will try and cut it out wherever we find it. We will continue to win the intellectual argument, showing why any boycott of Israel is unbalanced, unfair and ignores the difficult complexities of the Middle East."

Reproduced with permission: Ynet