Union gets legal threat over boycott
THE UNIVERSITY and College Union has been warned of legal repercussions if it passes a motion calling on members to review links with Israel at its congress in Manchester next week.
Lawyers advising the Stop the Boycott Campaign say that the resolution — backed by the union’s own executive — is tantamount to support for boycott action already deemed unlawful.
But Sally Hunt, the union’s general secretary, denied that there was any call for a boycott.
A copy of the 21-page legal opinion from QCs Michael Beloff and Pushpinder Saini was sent to Ms Hunt by Jewish leaders this week, who urged the union to consider it “with care”.
The lawyers say that the motion, if passed, would “expose Jewish members of the union to indirect discrimination” under the Race Relations Act.
They argue that UCU would also breach its own rules by asking members “to undertake acts of harassment and discrimination against others on the grounds of national origins”. and four other members of the Jewish Leadership Council.
David Hirsh, editor of the anti-boycott website, Engage, said: “The leadership of the UCU is in a dream world where contempt for Israelis is normal and respectable.
“Our union needs to make the case for education in Britain and for university and college workers. It doesn’t need to be in court being found guilty of institutional racism.”
Ms Hunt said it was not for the UCU to comment on “legal advice received by other organisations”. But she added: “There is no call for a boycott: the motions to congress call for a wider debate about what is happening over there…
“I have made it quite clear on a number of occasions that my personal view is that a boycott of all Israeli academic institutions is not the best way to promote a just peace.”
The JC also understands that at least four complaints of antisemitism have been made to the UCU over comments on its internal activists’ email forum.