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New Israel boycott

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2008-05-29



The reintroduction of a motion by the University and College Union (UCU) to boycott Israeli academia has been slammed by campaigners.

At its annual conference in Manchester, the Union which represents more than 120,000 members passed without any debate, a motion which stated the "appropriateness of continued educational links with Israeli academic institutions".

According to Stop The Boycott, last year's planned boycott was eventually halted on legal grounds and a new one would also be fought against.

"UCU has again demonstrated how out of touch the it is with the vast majority of its membership and with the wider academic community. This motion does nothing to help the Palestinians," said Jeremy Newmark, joint head of the Stop the Boycott Campaign. "Trade Unions exist to defend their members in the workplace. Our legal opinion, produced at the request of UCU members, shows that this motion promotes discrimination. It runs counter to all that a Trade Union should stand for, discriminating against some of its members instead of defending all of them."

In a statement, Sally Hunt, general secrtary of the Union said: "We have passed a motion to provide solidarity with the Palestinians, not to boycott Israel or any other country's academic institutions. I made clear to delegates that the union will defend their right to debate this and other issues. Implementation of the motion within the law will now fall to the national executive committee."

Lorna Fitzsimons, joint Head of the Stop the Boycott campaign added: "This motion in effect gives license to harassment and discrimination within academic institutions – the very thing the UCU is supposed to protect its members from. As a trade unionist myself I find it astounding that the Union is prepared to contradict its founding principles of protection in the workplace. Ferocious and free debate is of course vital within all aspects of society – but only if there is no threat attached to individuals."

Also slamming the move is the Trade Union Friends of Israel.

"The UCU should be following the example of other UK unions who have shown support for both Israeli and Palestinian counterparts through international efforts to sign joint agreements and declarations of cooperation most recently in the transport and manufacturing industries," said Roger Lyons, chair of the group.