BRICUP Condemns UCU Ban on Discussion of Israeli Academic Boycott

September 29, 2007

BRICUP Condemns UCU Ban on Discussion of Israeli Academic Boycott

BRICUP (British Committee for the Universities of Palestine) today condemned the decision of the University and College Union (UCU) to cancel the tour of UK campuses by Palestinian academics. UCU was specifically instructed to organise this tour by the UCU Congress last May. The tour was intended to raise debate within the union about an academic boycott of Israeli universities. The UCU leadership under General Secretary Sally Hunt is hiding behind ‘legal advice’ which they have not disclosed to their members in order to sabotage a decision with which they disagree.In May 2007 in Bournemouth, UCU Annual Congress voted by 158 to 99 in favour of a resolution which instructed the National Executive Committee to

circulate the full text of the Palestinian boycott call to all branches/LAs for information and discussion;
encourage members to consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions;
organise a UK-wide campus tour for Palestinian academic/educational trade unionists;
issue guidance to members on appropriate forms of action.
actively encourage and support branches to create direct links with Palestinian educational institutions and to help set up nationally sponsored programmes for teacher exchanges, sabbatical placements, and research

The UCU senior office holders led by General Secretary Sally Hunt argued fiercely against this motion. The motion’s effect was to initiate a year-long debate about boycotting Israeli universities. Having lost the argument they are now finding other means to subvert the democratic vote of the union’s highest decision-making body.

This use of the law to interfere with democratic freedoms is a deeply worrying tendency – witness the 2005 Serious and Organized Crimes Act preventing protests around Parliament and Downing Street, and the decision last week to ban the march in Central London planned by the Stop the War Coalition.

BRICUP has the deepest doubts about the validity of the ‘legal advice’ which UCU is claiming as the reason for its cancellation of the tour by Palestinians, and the effective banning of discussion of the boycott topic in union branches. BRICUP demands answers to the following questions:

who provided the legal advice?
what was the verbatim advice received? It needs to be published so that it can be open to critical scrutiny
was any previous advice sought from other sources, and if so what was its content?

According to BRICUP co-chair Professor Jonathan Rosenhead “It is all too common for governments and other bodies to go to a lawyer who will give them the advice they want to hear. This is how the then Attorney General Lord Goldsmith got the advice that the invasion of Iraq was ‘legal’”.

Further information: Mike Cushman 07736 705294



Posted on 30-09-2007

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