The UCU lecturers’ conference passed a series of motions on Wednesday supporting Palestinian rights, calling for discussions about solidarity, and supporting debate around a possible boycott of Israeli academic institutions
On the main motion (Motion 30, see below) Tom Hickey spoke about the reality facing Palestinians. He said, “The situation is barbaric, 70 percent of Palestinians are dependent on food aid. If we look away then we make ourselves complicit.”
Seconding the motion, Phil Marfleet said, “The more that this debate is had in the open the better.
“I am a convert to the idea of a boycott after visiting Israeli and Palestinian campuses in 2002, and seeing the reality of the situation for myself.”
Speaking against the motion Mark Osborn from Lewisham College told congress, “This motion is not about whether or not you support the Palestinians. It is a motion that will do you all damage – it will drag the union into conflict.”
He said that, “Much criticism of Israel is in fact antisemitic”, but this was sharply contested by several speakers.
Delegate Ian Donald said, “We have to challenge the notion that criticism of Israel is the same as antisemitism. The discussion must be situated in the reality facing Palestinians. Why are we so scared of debate?”
Delegate Camila Bassi said, “This motion continues a tradition that equates all Israelis with the Israeli state. Palestinians and Israelis must work together – and we must support workers solidarity.”
Mike Cushman from LSE told congress that, “According to the Israeli state I have the right to return. How can I return somewhere I have never been? My friend who was kicked out in 1948 cannot return.
“Israel is not a normal democratic state. The academic insitutions are a symbol used to say that they are. That is why I support the motion.”
Motion 30 was passed by 158 votes to 99.
What was passed
30 – Composite: Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions (University of Brighton, Grand Parade; University of East London, Docklands)
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
30A.3 – College of North East London
At the end, add the following last bullet point, “actively encourage and support branches to create direct links with Palestinian educational institutions and to help set up nationally sponsored programmes for teacher exchanges, sabbatical placements, and research”
31 – European Union and Israel (University of Birmingham)
- That since the Palestinian elections in January 2006 the Israeli government has suspended revenue payments to the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the EU and US have suspended aid, leaving public-sector salaries unpaid and earning the condemnation of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions;
- That Israel is seeking to upgrade its relations with the EU to the same level as Norway and Switzerland, permitting free passage of goods, people and capital, while denying these freedoms to Palestinians.
Congress resolves to campaign for:
- The restoration of all international aid to the PA and all revenues rightfully belonging to it;
- No upgrade of Israel’s EU status until it ends the occupation of Palestinian land and fully complies with EU Human Rights law.
carried as amended
31A.1 – University of Birmingham
Under “Congress resolves to campaign for:”, add new clause 3 at end:
“3. A moratorium on research and cultural collaborations with Israel via EU and European Science Foundation funding until Israel abides by UN resolutions.”
31A.2 – University of Brighton Eastbourne
Add new clause at end:
“Congress instructs the NEC to encourage branches/associations to
- raise these campaigns in their Institutions and
- investigate the possibilities of twinning their Institution with a Palestinian University or College.”