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Britain’s Largest Trade Union Calls For Boycott of Israel

July 2, 2012

Saturday, June 2. 2007
University lecturers today backed calls for an academic boycott of Israel at their inaugural national conference.

Delegates at the University and College Union conference voted 158 to 99 to circulate its branches with the boycott call from Palestinian trade unions for “information and discussion”.

The general secretary of the UCU, Sally Hunt, said she believes “every member should have the opportunity to have their say”.

Opponents of the boycott have already called for a national ballot of all the union’s members.

In the wake of the controversial vote, it was still unclear when or how a boycott could be introduced. However, it was clear the union leadership was attempting to minimise the expected international backlash over the decision.

The decision followed a plea earlier today from Ms Hunt that the Israeli issue should not be a major priority for the union and that a boycott would be unlikely to win majority support from members.

Just hours before the debate at the union’s first national conference in Bournemouth, Ms Hunt told delegates that most UCU members would prefer to “retain dialogue” with trade unionists on all sides “not just those we agree with”.

The motion calling for an Israeli academic boycott came jointly from the University of Brighton and the University of East London.

They asked members to rally to the call from Palestinian trade unions “for a comprehensive and consistent international boycott of all Israeli institutions”.

Their motion also called on university lecturers to condemn the “complicity of Israeli academia in the [Palestinian] occupation”.

It went on: “Passivity or neutrality is unacceptable and criticism of Israel cannot be construed as anti-semitic”. Lecturers were told to consider the “moral implications” of existing and proposed academic links with Israeli institutions.

The Israel and Palestinian issue has a history of controversy at past annual conferences of both Nafthe and the Association of University Teachers (AUT), which merged last year to form the UCU.

An AUT boycott motion was passed in 2005, but it caused such controversy around the world that the union had to hold another special meeting at which it was rejected.

Natfhe has supported boycotts in the past. Last year, members agreed to continue the boycott, but the policy was dissolved when the union merged to form the UCU only hours later.

The latest Israeli boycott decision comes just days after American Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg cancelled an academic visit to the UK because of what he perceived to be a “widespread anti-Israel and anti-semitic current in British opinion”.

Source: guardian.co.uk

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