On the first day of the UCU congress, delegates voted by 158 to 99 in favour of a motion that instructed the union to facilitate discussion on Palestine and open the possibility of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
There has been much furore in the press about the motion.
A number of British papers misreported that the union had passed a motion to boycott Israel. The New York Times referred to “malicious boycotts”, while Leo McKinstry’s column in the Daily Mail was headlined, “Shame on the left and its vicious hatred of Israel.”
In actual fact, the motion called for an open debate on Palestine. Tom Hickey, who proposed the motion, told Socialist Worker, “After a protracted run up to congress, 61 percent of elected delegates voted – not for a boycott – but for a debate.”
Tom explained that the motion offers a good opportunity to organise debates in the colleges. He said, “Members of UCU need to be organising meetings in regions and branches.
“The union should bring over Palestinian academics to speak to members and also invite Israeli academics who are against the idea of a boycott, so that members can hear the issues.
“It is then up to branches to decide what to do. The motion is about giving information and allowing discussion.”
Malcolm Povey, an NEC member and delegate from Leeds university, added, “It is only by ensuring that we attend to the ABC of trade union activism that we can effectively carry forward campaigns such as that around the academic boycott.”
For a report of the debate and full text of the motions go to » Lecturers' union conference backs Palestinian rights