Sunday, May 29, 2011

UPDATE: UCU academic boycott of Israel motion passes


It appears I jumped the gun - the motion on antisemitism was not up for a vote today, but rather the boycott motion. The antisemitism motion will apparently be discussed tomorrow. This is the wording of the motion which passed UCU Congress today, and which David Hirsch was live-blogging for Engage. See: Live Blogging from UCU Congress.

International, paragraph 30
SFC8 Composite: Threats to academic freedom in Israel and Palestine

National Executive Committee, LSE

Congress notes:

1. Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestine and daily oppression of Palestinian teachers and students

2. the restrictions on the free movement of Palestinian Academics within the Occupied Territories and crossing between the Territories and Israel and on foreign travel

3. Israel’s ongoing construction of settlements

4. the current witch-hunting of Israeli academics, civil rights campaigners and NGOs who
are deemed to be damaging Israel’s economic interests by their political activities

5. the recent alarming moves in the Israeli Knesset to penalise Israeli academics who support boycott action or even just provide information which may assist boycotts; this law will lay academics open to fines of £5000 with ‘no need to demonstrate that injury was done’ and to unlimited damages if losses are caused.

6. the petition from 155 Israeli academics expressing their “unwillingness to take part in any type of academic activity taking place in the college operating in the settlement of Ariel”, calling Ariel an illegal settlement whose existence contravenes international law and the Geneva Convention.

Congress deplores these attacks on the academic freedom of our Palestinian and Israeli colleagues.

Congress instructs NEC to:

a. circulate to all members
  • the call by the Israeli academics
  • the PACBI call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel
  • information about the current legislation passing through the Knesset threatening heavy fines and other penalties on Israelis taking non-violent action against the occupation.
b. seek a delegation to meet the Israeli Ambassador to raise our concerns

c. press the Foreign Office to protest to the Israeli Government

d. raise the issue with Education International and press them to seek similar action by all affiliates

e. publicise these threats and our actions in response.
Note that legal counsel to the UCU several years ago already notified them that supporting the academic boycott is illegal under the UK's Race Relations Law. Yet they persist in disobeying the law. 

Original Post

The UCU Congress (University and College Union is the trade union for UK academics) is once again debating an anti-Israel motion (actually, in this case, an anti-Jewish motion), which refuses to admit that the EUMC working definition of antisemitism is relevant to the UCU. David Hirsh is live-blogging the meeting, and the motion has just passed. See: Live Blogging from UCU Congress.

For the text of the UCU motion, see UCU proposes to change the definition of antisemitism:
Congress notes with concern that the so-called ‘EUMC working definition of antisemitism’, while not adopted by the EU or the UK government and having no official status, is being used by bodies such as the NUS and local student unions in relation to activities on campus.

Congress believes that the EUMC definition confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine antisemitism, and is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus.

Congress resolves:

1) that UCU will make no use of the EUMC definition (e.g. in educating members or dealing with internal complaints)

2) that UCU will dissociate itself from the EUMC definition in any public discussion on the matter in which UCU is involved

3) that UCU will campaign for open debate on campus concerning Israel’s past history and current policy, while continuing to combat all forms of racial or religious discrimination.
Note that UCU doesn't propose any other definition of antisemitism, nor does it propose to deal with the many charges that UCU itself has engaged in antisemitic actions in the past few years, when it has been so obsessed with trying to take part in the academic boycott of Israel. Note also that this motion does not even openly oppose antisemitism, subsuming it under the umbrella phrase "all forms of racial or religious discrimination." Disgusting.

Eve Gerrard is now advocating that Jewish members of the union resign because it does not represent them and in fact operates directly against their interests.
The UCU (the academics' union) is now trying to change the definition of anti-Semitism in order to maintain a policy which discriminates against Jews, without having to acknowledge that it is indeed discriminatory. The policy in question is the proposed boycott of Israel: the UCU singles out Israel, and Israel alone, for special condemnation and punitive treatment. The Union has form in this matter: I resigned from it three years ago when it displayed that same intense desire to select Israel, and no other country in the world, for boycott, even in the face of legal advice that such a practice would fall foul of anti-discrimination law in this country. Now it is so determined to maintain its stance, and so cocksure about its own moral and political superiority, that its Executive proposes to reject the EU definition of anti-Semitism, since according to that definition the UCU's singular and selective hostility to Israel may indeed be anti-Semitic.

1 comment:

  1. The situation within UCU is appalling.

    A small minority manipulate the democratic structures of the union to their advantage, and in doing so ride their constant hobbyhorse, boycotting Israelis.

    This has gone on for years with NATFHE & AUT, the preceding unions, and has seriously weakened UCU.

    Activists who would normally be concerned with the bread-and-butter of bolstering the pay and conditions of staff within academia have simply walked away.

    UCU won't even release total membership figures which suggest that as a percentage they don't have the level of participation within academia that they should.

    They bring trade unionism into disrepute, and potentially leave the union open to legal redress on grounds of discrimination, not only UK but EU legislation.

    It is an appalling situation for an academic union to find itself in.

    In terms of motions, I think the pro- Boycotters are taking a pincer approach, several motions instead of one.

    The motion today on the boycott was bad enough, but intellectually tomorrow is the pits, how can an academic want to redefine antisemitism out of existence, to play games with words and ignore racism as a result, that's what the motion on Monday 15:00+ UK time effectively means.