Thursday, June 14, 2007

UCU Boycott of Israel

The boycott that the UCU has endorsed is utterly disgusting. It it an attack on academic values and freedom. It has deeply unpleasant undertones of anti-semitism in singling out a state which is defending itself against gross acts of terrorism and which would not rank among the top hundred states in terms of the volume of human rights abuses but does happen to be Jewish. In this it is rather similar to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. The UCU's behaviour has wider repercussions as it speaks for staff at public institutions, many of whom are not anti-semitic, and tarnishes the reputation of the United Kingdom as an honest broker in the conflict.

In this Channel 4 video you can see Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz tearing apart the Brighton University academic who proposed the motion. Attempts by our man from Brighton to retreat to the idea that all he has done is propose a debate are facile. If you want a debate you don't pass a motion to distribute campaign literature from one side.

There is a fine, if very moderate, Early Day Motion on the issue:

"That this House regrets the motion passed at the congress of the University and College Union (UCU) on 30th May, which promotes a boycott of Israeli universities and a moratorium on research and cultural collaboration with Israel; agrees with Sally Hunt, General Secretary of UCU, who has said previously that `I simply do not believe that the majority of UCU members support an academic boycott of Israel; most want us to retain dialogue with trade unionists on all sides-not just those we agree with'; supports the Government's response to the parliamentary inquiry into anti-semitism which concludes that `calls to boycott contact with academics working in Israel are an assault on academic freedom and intellectual exchange'; believes that boycotting Israeli education institutions and academics is damaging to the UK's reputation worldwide and does nothing to promote a settlement in the Middle East; and urges the UCU to conduct a full ballot of its 120,000 members before adopting the terms of the resolution as policy."

Write or e-mail your MP if they haven't signed it yet. Well worth your time.

Update: As he mentions in the comments Gracchi has a very good article on this subject over at Bits of News.


Tony said...

I now eagerly await a motion for the UCU to boycott Palestinian seats of learning over the murderous civil conflict initiated by Hamas to wipe out its Fatah opposition in Gaza.

Somehow I have a feeling such a wait will outlast my lifespan.

Gracchi said...

Could it be- yes it is we are in complete agreement- ah well I know it won't happen again!

Ruthie said...

I'm so glad you wrote about this, I've been wondering what this boycott is all about. The U.S. press doesn't cover it.