Monthly Archives: May 2010

British UCU votes to cut ties with Histadrut

Boycott process will be initiated for college in West Bank settlement

The University and College Union, representing approximately 120,000 teaching and related staff in colleges and universities in the UK, has passed new policies supporting boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The debate took place on Sunday 30th May at the union’s Congress in Manchester.

Motion 30, proposed by the National Executive Committee, condemned “the failure of the international community to confront the Israeli government over the humanitarian disaster it is continuing to perpetrate in Gaza and the continued development of illegal settlements in the West Bank”, voted to work more closely with its Palestinian sister trade union (PFUUPE), and committed the union to working with bodies including Scottish TUC, Amnesty International and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) to support the TUC’s 2009 Congress decisions. The TUC had voted to end arms sales to Israel, seek an EU ban on settlement goods and support suspension of the the EU-Israel Association Agreement which provides preferential trade facilities to Israel.

More strongly worded motions were to come. Motion 31, from the University of Brighton Grand Parade branch, agreed to establish an annual international conference on BDS, and “to sever all relations with Histadrut, and to urge other trade unions and bodies to do likewise” as well as campaigning actively against the EU-Israel Association Agreement.

Tom Hickey, proposing the motion, pointed out that the Histadrut had supported the Israeli assault on civilians in Gaza in January 2009, and did not deserve the name of a trade union organisation. An amendment to this motion, seeking instead to “form a committee which represents all views within UCU to review relations with the Histadrut” and report back in a year’s time, was resoundingly defeated.

Motion 32 committed UCU to commencing the investigatory process associated with the imposition of a boycott of Ariel College. This is an institution in an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, also known as the “College of Judea and Samaria”, which has long drawn the wrath of human rights campaigners because such settlements are illegal under international law.

Lastly, motion 33 from Oxford University branch criticising a South African trade union official who had been invited by UCU to a BDS conference last year, was defeated. Bongani Masuku, the International Secretary of COSATU, had been accused of making anti-semitic remarks at a rally at the University of the Witwatersrand in March 2009. Mike Cushman, a BRICUP member at the London School of Economics, told UCU Congress that Masuku had vigorously denied all such allegations and was fighting them in the courts and through the appeals process of the South African Human Rights Commission. Cushman said that the real racists were those who had tried to provoke Masuku with insults about “the monkeys in Cosatu” dying of AIDS.

BRICUP welcomes the UCU decisions and will continue to campaign within trade unions in the UK for boycott, sanctions and divestment against Israel until the occupation is ended and Palestinian people have justice.


Notes for Editors

1. Please note: while we believe that the motions have been accurately summarised above, this press release represents the views of BRICUP and not of UCU.

2. The full text of all the motions in the session can be read here on the UCU website:

3. The text of the TUC Congress resolution mentioned in motion 30 is here:

4. The PACBI (Palestinian BDS campaign) press release is here:

5. The original motion by the Association of University Teachers in 2005 to boycott Bar-Ilan University was motivated by BIU’s association with Ariel College. (That motion was subsequently overturned).

6. Contacts: the following BRICUP members are all currently at UCU Congress as delegates and are available for comment, quotations or interview:

Tom Hickey +44 (0)781 692 1105

Mike Cushman +44 (0)773 670 5294

Sue Blackwell +44 (0)792 995 3893

COSATU condemns Israeli state piracy

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is outraged at the murder by Israeli commandos’ of at least twenty people – and injuries to a further 60 – as a result of their armed attack on a convoy of ships carrying aid to the people of Gaza last night, 30 May 2010.

COSATU sends its condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives and calls upon the people of the world to condemn this act of Israeli state-sponsored piracy.

The six-ship flotilla, with 750 Palestine Solidarity activists from around the world on board and carrying 10,000 tonnes of aid for the people of Gaza, left Cyprus on Sunday and had been due to arrive in Gaza today.

Then, when it was about 64 km out to sea, in international waters, Israeli armed forces boarded the largest vessel and fought with those on board. The activists say Israeli troops came on board shooting. Israel is now reported to be towing the boats to the port of Ashdod and says it will deport the passengers from there.

The ships were bringing the people of Gaza 10,000 tonnes of badly needed concrete, toys, workbooks, chocolate, pasta and substantial medical supplies. It was acting in accordance with international law.

COSATU fully supports the call on the international community to pressure their governments to condemn this brutal deed and hold Israel accountable for the murder of foreign civilians at sea and illegal piracy of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid.

The federation welcomes the decision by the government of Spain and Sweden to withdraw their ambassadors from Israel and calls upon the South African Government to follow their lead.

The flotilla was an international response to the plight of the people of Gaza, following Israel`s closure of the border. Amnesty International in their Annual Human Rights Report concluded that the siege has “deepened the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages left four out of five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. The scope of the blockade and statements made by Israeli officials about its purpose showed that it was being imposed as a form of collective punishment of Gazans, a flagrant violation of international law.”

The United Nations has continuously stated that only a fraction of the required aid is entering Gaza due to what it calls ‘the medieval siege’. John Ging, the Director of UNRWA in Gaza, has specifically expressed the need for the flotilla to enter Gaza.

The European Union’s new foreign affairs minister, Catherine Ashton, has just reiterated its call for, “an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza.”

COSATU also calls for greater support for the international boycott, divestment and sanction campaign against Israel, which is proving again to be violent and ruthless in attacking and murdering those who stand in its way. We urge all South Africans to refuse to buy or handle any goods from Israel or have any dealings with Israeli businesses.

COSATU reaffirms its support of the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to national sovereignty and the same human rights as any other people. We demand the immediate end to the Israeli siege and the illegal occupation of the sovereign territory which has been violently seized from the Palestinian nation.

Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
1-5 Leyds Cnr Biccard Streets
Braamfontein, 2017

P.O. Box 1019
Johannesburg, 2000

Tel: +27 11 339-4911/24
Fax: +27 11 339-5080/6940/ 086 603 9667
Cell: 0828217456