Chal­lenge to re­newed boy­cott bid

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS -

THE UNIVER­SITY and Col­lege Union’s at­tempt to launch a new aca­demic boy­cott of Is­rael could be scup­pered by le­gal chal­lenges from the anti-boy­cott move­ment.

The lead­ers of the Stop The Boy­cott cam­paign have con­firmed that they will in­struct lawyers to ex­am­ine the le­gal­ity of a mo­tion to be put to the UCU’s an­nual con­fer­ence next month.

Last year’s mo­tion was halted by the union it­self, but only af­ter it had been warned by its own lawyers that it would have been il­le­gal to pro­ceed. The union has re­fused re­peated re­quests to make pub­lic the ad­vice it was given.

The UCU’s latest at­tempt to iso­late Is­rael’s aca­demics and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions gained m o m e n t u m this week when it pub­lished the draft mo­tions for its con­fer­ence. While the mo­tion on Pales­tine does not specif­i­cally re­fer to a boy­cott, it calls for mem­bers “to be asked to con­sider the moral and po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions of ed­u­ca­tional links with Is­raeli in­sti­tu­tions and to dis­cuss the oc­cu­pa­tion with in­di­vid­u­als and in­sti­tu­tions con­cerned, in­clud­ing Is­raeli col­leagues with whom they are col­lab­o­rat­ing”.

It also calls for “per­sonal tes­ti­monies” from mem­bers who vis­ited Pales­tine on a trades-union del­e­ga­tion in Jan­uary “to pro­mote a wide dis­cus­sion by col­leagues of the ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of con­tin­ued ed­u­ca­tional links with Is­raeli aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions”.

The mo­tion has been tabled in the name of Tom Hickey of the So­cial­ist Work­ers’ Party, who works at the Univer­sity of Brighton.

Jeremy New­mark, of the Stop The Boy­cott cam­paign, said: “The at­ti­tude of the UCU lead­er­ship is ut­terly ir­re­spon­si­ble. The pres­i­dent and gen­eral sec­re­tary have al­lowed a sit­u­a­tion to emerge in which UCU’s pol­icy is de­cided by the cen­tral com­mit­tee of the So­cial­ist Work­ers’ Party. In the face of its own le­gal ad­vice, it is shame­ful that UCU would press ahead with a dis­cred­ited and dis­crim­i­na­tory pol­icy.

“We are now seek­ing le­gal ad­vice on this new boy­cott move, to em­power reg­u­lar UCU mem­bers in their at­tempt to force the union to aban­don this de­struc­tive course of ac­tion. This is some­thing that many UCU mem­bers have asked us to do.”

Lorna Fitzsi­mons, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Bicom, said: “Boy­cotts are ob­vi­ously dis­crim­i­na­tory. This boy­cott move puts new ob­sta­cles be­tween Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans and hurts the cause of peace.”

The JC un­der­stands that a num­ber of le­gal av­enues could be avail­able for UCU mem­bers op­posed to a boy­cott, rang­ing from an in­junc­tion to stop a de­bate tak­ing place through to su­ing the union’s trustees if the pol­icy is passed and the UCU im­ple­ments it.

A union spokesman said: “UCU del­e­gates at our con­fer­ence will have the op­por­tu­nity to de­bate and set pol­icy for the union on a host of is­sues. The Pales­tine mo­tion does not call for a boy­cott, but a wider de­bate about what is hap­pen­ing there. Both the gen­eral sec­re­tary and the pres­i­dent have made it quite clear on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions that they are against an aca­demic boy­cott.”

Mean­while, the UCU has also an­nounced a lec­ture tour by four mem­bers of the Pales­tinian Fed­er­a­tion of Unions of Univer­sity Pro­fes­sors and Em­ploy­ees. The tour starts on Mon­day — the sec­ond day of Pe­sach.

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