Category Archives: U.K.

London protest calls for Free Palestine

PSC Media Release Saturday 10 May 2008

London protest calls for Free Palestine

Thousands marched through London, sixty years after the Palestinian Nakba, to demand an end to the siege on Gaza, an end to Israeli occupation, and for the right of return of refugees.

The demonstration, organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, British Muslim Initiative and the Palestinian Forum in Britain, was supported by trade unions UNISON, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Unite the Union, Communication Workers Union, GMB, TSSA, RMT, Fire Brigades Union, and the National Union of Miners, who joined organisations such as the Association of PalestinianCommunity UK, Amos Trust, Friends of Al Aqsa UK, Palestinian Return Centre, War on Want, Jewish Socialist Group, Pax Christi, Stop the War Coalition, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Britain Palestine Twinning Network, ICAHDUK, Friends of Lebanon, Federation of Student Islamic Societies, and Midlands Palestinian Community Association.

Dr Mustafa Barghouti, elected Palestinian Legislative Council member, told the rally of the situation of Apartheid existing in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories: “Israeli citizens make 30 times what Palestinians do, settlers take 48 times the water of Palestinians, Palestinians are denied entry to Jerusalem…” He said that the ‘peace process’ of Annapolis was an illusion: “Since then Israeli attacks have tripled and even more checkpoints have been set up.” He stressed the importance of re-establishing Palestinian unity and accused western governments of hypocrisy, in undermining democracy in Palestine, but supporting an Apartheid state.

Speakers also included Richard Burden MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Palestine, who reminded people of the ongoing plight of the refugees from 1948, especially those in Gaza: “Gaza is dotted with masses of cesspits of raw sewage, as deadly as any bomb or missile.” Like many speakers, he called for the lifting of the siege of Gaza and withdrawal from all the Occupied Territories: “The peace process cannot work while people are imprisoned in their own land.” Both he and Caroline Lucas stressed Israel cannot continue to enjoy a privileged trading relationship with Europe while it persists in violating international law.

Referring to the founding of Israel, Tony Benn said: “Nothing that happened in the WWII can justify Israel’s seizure of Palestinian land.” He found room some optimism: “Wherever you go you find people understand increasingly what is happening to the Palestinian people. There will never be peace in the Middle East till the Palestinians are treated decently.”

Manuel Hassassian, the General Delegate to the UK said: “Our problem is not a humanitarian problem, it is a political problem, which must have a political solution.” He also said: “The right of return is a sacred right for the Palestinians. Jerusalem is our capital, and we will never compromise on Jerusalem.”

Respect MP George Galloway reminded the crowd of Britain’s historic responsibility for the tragedy inflicted on the Palestinian people, from the time of Balfour onwards, and remembered the “thousands upon thousands of martyrs” created over decades; he also demanded the release of Marwan Barghouti and other political prisoners, and declared: “If there is no justice in Palestine there can be no peace in Palestine, and peace in Palestine is the key to peace throughout the Middle East.”

Video messages came from a PLC member from Gaza, Dr Jamal Al-Khoudary, and from Ismail Haniyeh.

– END –


For more information please call:

Jenny Najar or Sarah Colborne: 0207 700 6192

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The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) aims to raise public awareness about the occupation of Palestine and the struggle of the Palestinian people. PSC seek to bring pressure on both the British and Israeli government to bring their policies in line with international law. PSC is an independent, non-governmental and non-party political organisation with members from communities across the UK.


Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Tel:   020 7700 6192
Fax:  020 7609 7779



Teachers to discuss backing Palestinians (Guardian)


Teachers to discuss backing Palestinians

Debbie Andalo
Thursday March 13, 2008

A teachers’ union looks set to reignite the row over the boycott of Israel, which divided university lecturers last year and triggered an international storm.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) is due to discuss a motion at its Easter conference that takes a pro-Palestinian stance on the occupation. It calls on its union to buy educational material produced by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign for use by students in schools.

The motion, which marks the 60th anniversary of the “unresolved injustice” of the “banishment of 750,000 Palestinians from their homelands”, says that the campaign material “promotes an understanding of the history of this most protracted dispute in the Middle East”.

It also wants the union to fund the publication of curriculum learning materials around peace and militarisation.

The motion goes on to urge members to stop promoting in schools career opportunities in the armed forces and to support any teachers who face “victimisation or other professional difficulties” in implementing the policy.

The motion, which comes from NUT members in Croydon, south London, is due to be debated at the conference in Manchester, which starts next Friday. It could trigger the same divisions in the union that split the University and College Union (UCU) last year.

Last May, the UCU provoked global condemnation after its national conference decided to take steps towards a vote on introducing an academic boycott of Israeli universities.

The ensuing row dragged on for four months and involved academics from across the world – especially in the US and Israel – sparking criticism from Jewish leaders, university vice-chancellors and the government.

In September last year the union cancelled the schedule of regional meetings organised for members to discuss the “moral implications ” of existing links with Israel”, which had included invitations to speakers from Palestinian trade unions living under Israeli occupation who had originally urged the union protest.

The union’s U-turn followed advice from its lawyers that a boycott call ran the risk of infringing discrimination legislation and was also considered to be outside the aims and objects of the union.

Beatles, don’t let it be! Palestinian Dispossession and Israeli Apartheid are no Cause for Celebration (PACBI)


February 2, 2008

Beatles, don’t let it be! Palestinian Dispossession and Israeli Apartheid are no Cause for Celebration

Open Letter to the Beatles

Forty-three years ago, the government of Israel banned your performance in the country for fear you would corrupt the minds of Israeli youth. Now, Israel is extending an apology and an invitation to you, hoping you will forget the past and agree to help celebrate its 60th “birthday.” The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) urges you to say no to Israel, particularly since the creation of this state 60 years ago dispossessed and uprooted hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and lands, condemning them to a life of exile and destitution.There is no reason to celebrate! Israel at 60 is a state that is still denying Palestinian refugees their UN-sanctioned rights, simply because they are “non-Jews.” It is still illegally occupying Palestinian and other Arab lands, in violation of numerous UN resolutions. It is still persistently and grossly breaching international law and infringing fundamental human rights with impunity afforded to it through munificent US and European economic, diplomatic and political support. It is still treating its own Palestinian citizens with institutionalized discrimination.

Now, more than ever, Israel is committing horrific war crimes, especially in the occupied Gaza Strip, where its illegal and immoral policy of collective punishment — through a hermetic military siege and an almost complete blockage of fuel, electric power, and even food and medicine — is pushing 1.5 million Palestinian civilians to the brink of starvation. Without electricity, incubators are shutting down; hospitals are fast coming to a standstill; water is not being properly purified nor separated from raw sewage; whatever is left from the local economy is undergoing a meltdown; and the most vulnerable sectors of the population, the children, the elderly, and the acutely ill, are languishing under unspeakable hardships. Do you see any reason to celebrate?

Israel’s military occupation — the longest in modern history — is not an abstract notion to us. It manifests itself in wilful killings of civilians, particularly children; wanton demolition of homes and property; uprooting of more than a million fruitful trees; incessant theft of land and water resources; denial of freedom of movement to millions; and cutting up the occupied Palestinian territory into Bantustans, some entirely caged by walls, fences and hundreds of roadblocks.

In light of the above, performing in Israel at this time is morally equivalent to performing in South Africa at the height of the apartheid era. Indeed, Israel has created a worse system of apartheid than anything that ever existed in South Africa, according to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights Prof. John Dugard, and South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils, among others.

In 2005, inspired by the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, Palestinian civil society called for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) [1] against Israel until it fully complies with international law and recognizes the fundamental human rights of the people of Palestine. A specific call for cultural boycott of Israel [2] was issued a year later, garnering wide support. Among the many groups and institutions that have heeded the Palestinian boycott calls and started to consider or apply diverse forms of effective pressure on Israel are the British University and College Union (UCU); the two largest trade unions in the UK; the Church of England; the Presbyterian Church (USA); prominent British architects; the British National Union of Journalists (NUJ); the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU); the South African Council of Churches; the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in Ontario; Aosdana, the Irish state-sponsored academy of artists; celebrated authors, artists and intellectuals led by John Berger; and Palme d’Or winner director Ken Loach.

We strongly urge you to uphold the values of freedom, equality and just peace for all by joining this growing boycott against Israeli apartheid. Nothing less would do justice to the legendary legacy of the Beatles.




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Posted on 02-02-2008

Between Boycott and Apartheid

Between Boycott and Apartheid

History will also remember those academics and university presidents who stood on the side of apartheid, oppression, and colonial domination.

Hammam Farah:UCU

October 24 2007

After passing a motion in May that called for the circulation and debate of the Palestinian call for the academic boycott of Israel, Britain’s University and College Union (UCU)’s strategy and finance committee unanimously accepted a recommendation from its Secretary-General, Sally Hunt, that not only is the call to boycott apparently unlawful under discrimination legislation, but even debates on the issue at the union’s meetings should be silenced “to ensure that the union acts lawfully.” Consequently, the union also cancelled a UK speaking tour in which Palestinian academics would discuss the academic boycott of Israel with their counterparts at UK universities.

There is ample reason to doubt the claim that th e union and its members are at risk. After months of trepidation over the boycott due to its alleged violation of academic freedom, the irony lies in that the sole violator of academic freedom is the leadership of the UCU. One is forced to question whether they were driven by genuine concern for justice and the importance of the boycott for achieving it, or bitter resentment at their own membership’s democratic decision to discuss the boycott. As Amjad Barham, head of the council of the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, stated, “by muzzling debate and free discussion on the boycott, the [Israeli] lobby and its supporters within the UCU are suppressing academic freedom in the most crude manner.” In addition, the opacity of the UCU statement further compounds the perception of hypocrisy felt towards the leadership of the union. The fact that academic unions in the UK are discussing the issue of academic boycott is a big step in the right direction, but it seems like the activists in the UCU will have to continue this uphill battle against apartheid, and we can expect them to keep fighting.

It appears we have been put on the defensive, consumed more with rebutting the allegations of violating academic freedom and singling out Israel than with providing a thorough elaboration of the appalling ways in which Israel has been systematically violating Palestinian academic freedom and students’ right to education for the past 60 years: Schools and universities have been closed for hundreds of days by the military government; students shot and left to bleed in their classrooms; violent crackdowns on student non-violent demonstrations; thousands of arrests and detainments of students and faculty members are common; permits to study abroad, even from Gaza to the West Bank, are regularly denied. Just recently, Israel’s High Court rejected a petition by students from Gaza to transf er to the West Bank to study occupational therapy because the universities in Gaza do not provide the program. This process of academic destruction has driven Palestinian education underground, where classes are held secretly in teachers’ apartments, in local churches and mosques, and in refugee camps.

Perhaps more importantly concerning the academic boycott, however, is not only the Israeli government’s actions, but the active participation of Israeli academia itself in discriminating against Palestinian students, and here I mean Palestinian citizens of Israel since Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are not even allowed to physically access Israeli universities to take admission exams, let alone go to class. Here are just some of the examples of Israeli academic institutions’ role in perpetuating apartheid, above and beyond the fact that they have failed to condemn Israel’s colonial/apartheid policies.

While 25% of Haifa University’s students are Arab -Palestinian citizens of Israel, they make up 80% of the students facing disciplinary action, a clear disproportion. Recently, students were brought in front of a disciplinary committee for demonstrating against a university-sponsored conference entitled “The Demographic Problem and the Demographic Policy of Israel.” The “demographic problem” alludes to the racist fear of the high Arab birth rates that threaten Zionism’s obsession with maintaining Israel’s Jewish majority at any and all costs. Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if Black students were brought in front of a disciplinary committee in the US or Canada for demonstrating against a conference addressing the population growth “problem” of Blacks? Furthermore, Haifa University’s official guide for foreign and exchange students includes a warning entitled “Special Security Instructions” cautioning against visiting Arab-Palestinian towns and villages in Israel. These are only a few of many Haifa University discriminatory practices. At Ohalo College, the only Palestinian student candidate running for head of the student union was disqualified, on the day of the election nonetheless. At the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Arab-Palestinian visitors are required to carry a “certificate of integrity” if they wish to enter the university.

Many of the universities have also played a role in the theft and confiscation of Palestinian land. Hebrew University began expanding its housing and offices in 2004 over the destroyed and depopulated Palestinian village of Lifta – and of course, the Palestinian refugees do not have the right to return, which means that the people whose land the university is built on are not allowed to study at the institution, let alone reclaim their land. Professor Margaret Aziza Pappano of Canada’s Queen’s University informed us recently that “Hebrew University has a long an d deleterious history of appropriating Palestinian land. In 1968, in opposition to a UN resolution, the university evicted hundreds of Palestinian families to expand their campus in East Jerusalem. This history of confiscation continues, as October 2004 saw more evictions of Palestinian families and destruction of their homes for another campus expansion.”

Tel Aviv University was built over the destroyed and depopulated village of Sheikh Muwannis. The former home of the village Mukhtar (mayor) has become the faculty club/cafeteria. To add insult to injury, the university refuses to allow the posting of a sign that would explain the origins of the building – perhaps it would spoil the faculty’s appetite. The university plans to ironically build a new Faculty of Archeology as an expansion of its campus further into the lands of the destroyed village. Last but not least, in perhaps the most infamous case, the Ariel University Centre of S amaria (AKA “the settler university”), an extension of Bar Ilan University, was built inside the illegal settlement of Ariel inside the West Bank. The village of Salfit endured massive land confiscations to make way for the settlement and its residents will soon be displaced to the other side of the illegal Wall that is being erected inside the West Bank (separating students from their universities) to cage in Palestinian communities and to eventually annex the illegal settlement blocks where this University will operate.

This is only a glimpse of the long list of Israeli academia’s participation in the colonization of Palestinian land and in the discrimination against Palestinian students. If we are to build on the case for the academic boycott of Israel, we must dedicate more time to disseminating the painful details of this academic apartheid that is part and parcel of the wider apartheid system imposed by Israel on the Palestinians.

In l ight of this, it is a fair demand on behalf of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine that the leadership of the UCU publish the ‘legal advice’ for examination and tell us who provided it, tell us whether any other sources were sought out for advice, and what the nature of that advice was. Furthermore, an explanation of why it was ‘heroic’ for British academic unions to lead the academic boycott of South Africa, but ‘illegal’ to even discuss the academic boycott of Israel is vital. Indeed, a fundamental component of academic freedom is academic transparency.

Lastly, it is important to note that academia, perhaps more than any other sector of society, should be at the forefront of the boycott campaign because of its long professed commitments to anti-oppressive and anti-racist ideals. Just as dangerous or hate-speech is ideally exempted from the right to freedom of speech, so should academic practices that perpetuate and entrench racis m and apartheid be exempted from academic freedom. All around the world, academics have begun to take principled positions against Israeli apartheid, and history will remember this. Conversely, history will also remember those academics and university presidents who stood on the side of apartheid, oppression, and colonial domination. So, to Sally Hunt and her ‘legal’ team, the lines are drawn – which will it be?

Special to

Hammam Farah is a Palestinian Canadian who was born in the Gaza Strip as part of Gaza’s small Christian community. He resides in Toronto and is a solidarity activist with the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA), which is spearheading the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign in Canada.


Also read
Palestinian Academic professor urged the end to Academic Boycott

NYCLAW Response to Anti-Boycott Attacks (Chief-Leader)

The Chief-Leader, NYC Civil Service Newspaper October 19, 2007

Thompson and Israel

To the Editor:

The undersigned trade-union activists disagree with New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson and the Jewish Labor Committee, who have joined the witch-hunt against British unions for boycotting Israel (Sept. 7 issue [*]).

Palestinian trade-union bodies have long asked international labor to support the boycott; endorsers now include the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and unions in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada.

It is no more unfairly selective or one-sided than the isolation of apartheid South Africa, a campaign in which we and many others actively participated. This boycott — many of whose supporters are Jewish — DOES NOT target Israel for its ethnicity, but for theft and colonization of Arab lands, denial of equality to Arab-Palestinians in Israel, and violation of Palestinian Refugees’ right to return home.

South African apartheid — racist oppression of the black majority — was consolidated in a 1948 white-only election. At the same time, apartheid Israel began with the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1947-49, when Zionists systematically terrorized, dispossessed and ethnically cleansed the Palestinian majority. Some 13,000 Palestinians were massacred, 531 towns and villages erased, 11 urban neighborhoods emptied, and more than 750,000 (85 percent) driven from 78 percent of their country.

In 1967, Israel seized the remaining 22 percent — including East Jerusalem, the’ West Bank and Gaza — which remains under military rule.

Today, at least 70 percent of the 10 million Palestinians are in exile — the world’s largest refugee population. Those who managed to remain — today, 1.4 million (or 20 percent of the population in Israel) — are confined to 2.5 percent of the land, subject to more than 20 discriminatory laws, and deemed a “demographic threat” to be “transferred” elsewhere.

In East Jerusalem and the West Bank, 140 illegal, ever-expanding Jewish-only settlements and road systems dominate the water resources and control 40 percent of the land. Palestinians are confined, separated and degraded by an 8-meter-high separation wall, pass laws, curfews and 600 military checkpoints. In Gaza, 1.4 million suffer sealed borders; air, artillery and ground strikes; economic blockade; designation as “enemy entity”; and suspension of essential services.

During the past seven years, 4,274 Palestinians in these 1967 territories have been killed, compared with 1,024 Israelis. The military has seized 60,000 political prisoners; it still holds and tortures 11,000.

Apartheid Israel has also aggressively exported itself beyond Palestine. It was apartheid South Africa’s closest ally. Especially since 9/11, it has promoted the demonization of Arabs and Muslims. It has 200 nuclear weapons, but manufactured phony “evidence” of WMD for the Bush administration to invade Iraq.

There, in Afghanistan and in Lebanon, the U.S./Israel alliance has killed, maimed and displaced millions of people, using Israeli-perfected techniques of collective punishment, air war, human shields, home demolition, assassination, kidnapping, rendition, detention, torture, separation walls, partition and ethnic cleansing. Working people in this country have also paid a high price for these wars to dominate the oil-rich Middle East. Now, Israel is at the forefront of escalating attacks against Syria and Iran.

Moreover, apartheid Israel is sponsored by the U.S. In the past ten years alone, it has provided $17 billion in military aid, which the bipartisan Congress has just increased by 25 percent. U.S. trade-union officialdom is a shameful accomplice, and tries to silence union members who oppose this apartheid regime.

Ending this support would strike a critical blow against war and racism — abroad and at home. As in South Africa, points out Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, a boycott “will not change [the regime’s] position in a day, but it will send a clear message that [apartheid is] racist and unacceptable in the 21st century . . . They would have to choose.”

Workers in Palestine, the United States, and around the world, deserve no less.

Former president, Mail Handlers Local 300

Former executive board member, TWU Local 100

Former president, Assn. of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325

Former president, AFSCME DC 1707

[Signers affiliated with New York City Labor Against the War; other affiliations listed for identification only]

*The Chief-Leader, September 7, 2007

Thompson Hits Israel Boycott by Brit Unions


City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. Aug. 28 blasted several British unions, including the Transport and General Workers Union
(TGWU), for supporting a boycott of Israeli goods.

Various groups have called for boycotts of products made in Israel and for institutions to divest from companies that do business in Israel to protest the country’s 40-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Mr. Thompson sent letters to several trade-union leaders saying, “Boycotts of this nature will result merely in a failure to achieve a just and fair resolution of the Middle East conflict.”

Labor Leader Applauds

Jewish Labor Committee President Stuart Appelbaum, who is also president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, praised Mr. Thompson’s stance.

“I thank Comptroller Thompson for his bold words against these ill-conceived anti-Israel resolutions,” Mr. Appelbaum said in a statement. “It is my hope that Comptroller Thompson’s words will be followed by similar actions by others truly concerned about seeking a just and fair resolution, and peace in the Middle East.”

The JLC issued a statement signed by dozens of American labor leaders opposing such boycotts and divestment campaigns. The president of the TGWU’s American counterpart, James C. Little of the Transport Workers Union of America, signed the statement, but Roger Toussaint, president of TWU Local 100, has not made his stance on the issue public.

‘Bring Them Together’

“Trade unionists and their organizations seeking such a just and fair resolution should be assisting those working to bring the two sides together in direct talks and then negotiations,” the JLC’s letter said. “In this regard, we call for increased engagement of trade unions with their counterparts on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We support efforts of Palestinian and Israeli trade unionists and their organizations to maintain contact and cooperative and mutually supportive activities, even in the midst of tumult and political change within their respective communities and polities.”

Mr. Thompson was pleased to see American unions signing the JLC’s statement.

“The Comptroller is concerned about any issues that affect trade and the economy,” a spokesman for Mr. Thompson said in an email. “In this instance, as he indicates in his letter, he is concerned that ‘antagonism or retaliation’ are being employed whereas constructive dialogue would be a more productive route.”

We will not be silenced (Guardian)


We will not be silenced

The cancellation of the Palestinian academics’ UK speaking tour amounts to censorship and bullying, writes Amjad Barham

Tuesday 2 October 2007 07.39 EDT Last modified on Sunday 10 January 201615.21 EST

Palestinian academics received with dismay, although not entirely with surprise, the decision by the University and College Union (UCU) to cancel their UK speaking tour, during which they had planned to discuss the academic boycott of Israel with colleagues at British universities.
Citing legal advice, the union released a statement saying that “while UCU is at liberty to debate the pros and cons of Israeli policies, it cannot spend members’ resources on seeking to test opinion on something which is in itself unlawful and cannot be implemented”. Debating effective means of countering Israeli colonial policies has thus been declared illegal.

We believe that this ban on debating the Israeli academic boycott has deprived our British colleagues of an opportunity to better inform themselves about an issue that is of concern to conscientious academics and intellectuals the world over. The complicity of the British government, among others, in Israel’s continued military occupation and persistent violation of international law makes it all the more relevant for British civil society, academics included, to rationally deliberate on its moral responsibility in countering injustice.

We are disappointed to see that the leadership of the UCU has failed to defend the right of its members to engage in unfettered discussions on this or any other matter of concern to academics. Open debate, after all, is one of the key foundations of academic freedom, and thus we cannot understand why the door to open consideration of controversial ideas has been so abruptly closed.

Palestinian academic unions will continue to pursue other avenues to make our case heard in the academic community in the UK, and shall not be deterred by the cancellation of the invitation extended to us by the UCU. While we do not have the resources of the Israel lobby in the UK, we do think that fair-minded British academics will be willing to listen to our case and give it thoughtful consideration. Truth is stronger than power, and we trust in the integrity of British academics to know that instinctively.

In fact, we can detect the not-so-hidden hand of that lobby in this latest episode of stifling debate on issues pertaining to Israeli policies and the complicity of the Israeli academy in perpetuating them. Given that the same suppression of academic freedom has been proliferating among US campuses for quite some time, one cannot escape the conclusion that an abhorrent wave of new McCarthyism has perhaps crossed the pond.

By resorting to bullying, censorship and intimidation, however, the Israel lobby in the US and UK, supported by the Israeli government and academic establishment, is declaring its definitive loss of confidence in its own ability to rationally refute the case for an academic boycott against Israel.

By muzzling debate and free discussion on the boycott, the lobby and its supporters within the UCU are suppressing academic freedom in the most crude manner. They are proving once again that they were never concerned about the alleged “infringement” of the boycott on academic freedom; rather, their only concern has always been how to shield Israel’s unique form of apartheid from scrutiny and censure. Their aim has been to protect the Israeli academy from damning accusations of complicity in maintaining Israel’s oppression of all Palestinians, academics and students included.

We think that UCU members are aware of the significant role played by the union’s predecessor, the Association of University Teachers, in upholding academics’ commitment to justice in a historical precedent. During the struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa, British academics were at the forefront of boycotts of the racist state. We do not see why considering ways of fighting Israel’s unique yet equally pernicious form of apartheid should be subject to different considerations.

We appreciate the sentiments expressed in the UCU statement about finding a way of opening a dialogue with the Palestinian academic community on building solidarity. The best form of solidarity with Palestinians is direct action aimed at bringing an end to the occupation and the regime of apartheid in Palestine. Isolating Israel in the international arena, through various forms of boycott, divestment and sanctions, and forcing it to obey international law and to respect Palestinian rights, are among the most effective and morally sound strategies open to international civil society. We are confident that our British colleagues will begin to realise that true solidarity with Palestinian academics requires a political commitment to bringing about an end to oppression and injustice.

Needless to say, the boycott campaign will not only continue, but is likely to gain public support among western academics in particular; the true face of the anti-boycott camp has been exposed as a McCarthyist front that unabashedly violates the most revered values of academic freedom and open debate.

· Amjad Barham is head of the council of the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees

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

Solidarity message for TUC Congress 2007 (PGFTU)

Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU)
Solidarity message for TUC Congress 2007

Shaher Sae’d, General Secretary

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Dear Friends and colleagues,

First of all I would like to express our apologies for not being able to be with you in your distinguished event, in the UK.

Today is a historical day in the life of international union movement to enhance once again principles and values which we struggle to achieve and for them many workers and union leaders have lost their lives or tortured by forces acting against freedom and rights.

We are sending you our solidarity from here from Palestine, which is attacked by Israeli soldiers through killing, injuring, arresting thousands of Palestinian, as well as demolishing, destroying factories, houses, roads without any comment from the International Community.

It was not before along time that workers had been denied their rights to form their unions or to enjoy their fundamental rights to represent their workers, to perform collective bargaining and agreements and to seek for equity and equality.

In this prospect you were, and will be the body in which union movement has been strengthened and deepened and become much aware of their responsibilities in fields of fair globalization, international peace, social justice, democracy and freedom.

We together fight against all kinds of discrimination, the use of force to solve conflicts and the violation of human rights. These values are now adopted and enhanced by our new organisation which will coordinate, link and support union relations and activities in this part of the world.

We in the PGFTU always appreciate and highly respect all the efforts to support the Palestinian struggle to achieve our legitimate rights and to establish the independent Palestinian state and to achieve permanent peace in the area to create the suitable environment for a better future for our workers and their families.

The political and economical situation is very critical. Nowadays and according to the United Nations reports nearly 70% of the Palestinian people are living under poverty line and more than 45% are unemployed. Israeli occupation authority is still violating the international laws, Geneva conventions and human rights. Workers are banned from free movement. The illegal wall makes the life of nearly half million people miserable.

We do hope that our distinguished organisation will continue efforts to pressure Israel to comply with UN resolutions to respect the rights of the Palestinian people, to withdraw from the occupied territories and to enable them to enjoy life as any people in the world.

On the union concerns, there are still many problems and obstacles facing our goals. Some authorities are still violating the principle rights, globalization is considered the greatest challenge not only for our unions and the rights of our workers but also for the mankind.

We do believe that we have to continue our struggle for improving the conditions of the workers by regional and international solidarity.

It is the time now to begin our activities to pave the way for new horizon from the well-being of all workers men and women, adults and young in independent and democratic unions.


During two months ago the Israeli Army attacked Lebanon, it repeated the same measures and crimes that practiced in Palestine as killing, injuring, destroying the infrastructures. This continuous series terrorism of the Israeli State should be stopped.

The results of the Israeli practices with its American Administration alliance gives difficult consequences in different levels (political, social, economical).

Now we are in Palestine in front of critical conditions.

All the Palestinian territories are involving into a general strike in public sector since the 2nd of September 2006, it will be an open strike which means that about 84,000 employees in the public sector don’t take their wages since six months, there is an increasing of the percentage of poverty and unemployment to reach to 27% of the Palestinian national income.

Since September 2000 we were discussing with you the impacts of the huge percentage of poverty and unemployment, but the situation nowadays becomes more difficult. In Gaza the situation is a nightmare, where the percentage of unemployment reaches 65% and poverty 70%. And after the redeployment of the Israeli Army from Gaza, it becomes a big prison, people are suffering deeply because Israeli authorities not only closed the Israeli borders with Gaza, but it also closed the borders with Egypt.

In this way Israel controlled the movement of the Palestinian workers and prohibited them to work inside the Green Line and even in Egypt. All this led to economical crises.

In the West Bank, the situation will become miserable after accomplishing the illegal wall, which is built by Israelis in the Palestinian lands.

Military checkpoints (over 370 ones) are spread between the cities make it very difficult for workers and for citizen to move freely and swiftly.

The journey, which takes 40 minutes, will take nowadays 4 hours.

Brothers and sisters,

Now in the Palestinian lands there are over than 360 thousands unemployed workers out of 985 thousands.

The workers loss during the last six years because of the Israeli restrictions are over $1,800 million. It is expected that in the beginning of the New Year new unemployed workers will join the unemployed army (additional 180 thousand) after the accomplishing of the illegal wall.

After the Israeli Army had failed to achieve its goals in Lebanon, the Palestinian community returned to be the target. Within a month Israeli army killed 300 citizens and destroyed hundreds of homes. More than 1000 families are now homeless.

All these violations are occurred without any comment from the international community as usual.

In this prospect let me show what PGFTU had introduced to the workers:

A financial assistance for 265 thousands workers with 110 $ for one time.
Introducing 400 thousands food baskets.
Family solidarity
Free medical insurance
We find that the only way to end the Palestinians suffering is through the necessity to end the Israeli occupation to the Palestinian lands because this occupation proves to be the source of in stability in the area.

Palestinians must enjoy international protection and the need to implement the international resolutions and Geneva Conventions.

International community must continue the assistance to the Palestinian people and workers to create projects to employ workers and to reduce the impacts of unemployment.

We in the PGFTU appreciate your efforts for what you have presented and still presenting to support Palestine and Palestinian people.
Issued: 19 September, 2007

Upholding Debate as a Necessary Component of Academic Freedom PACBI Appeal to North American Academics September 2, 2007

Upholding Debate as a Necessary Component of Academic Freedom PACBI Appeal to North American Academics September 2, 2007

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) welcomes the historic resolutions passed by the UK’s University and College Union (UCU) at its first Annual Congress in May 2007. In particular, PACBI applauds the Congress for passing resolutions deploring the denial of educational rights for Palestinians; condemning the complicity of Israeli academia in the occupation; noting that in these circumstances passivity or neutrality is unacceptable; recognizing that criticism of Israel cannot be construed as anti-semitic; calling for the circulation of the full text of the PACBI Call for Boycott for information and discussion; and encouraging members to consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions.

While British colleagues prepare to discuss the Palestinian boycott call and consider the implications of normal academic links with the Israeli academy during the coming academic year, a disturbing development has been noted in the United States and Canada. No sooner had the UCU motion been passed than dozens of American and Canadian university presidents and rectors rushed to condemn the Union, basing their attacks on mostly false or inaccurate data. Such enthusiasm in denouncing the British academic union’s resolutions, particularly during the summer holidays when university life slows down, is difficult to understand. What these university presidents have done in effect is to shut the door to debating any issues specifically pertaining to Israel, without consultation with their colleagues and without any public discussion whatsoever having taken place about the merit of the UCU resolutions. Furthermore, the fact that none of these — now exceeding 300 — university presidents has ever even criticized Israel’s persistent suppression of Palestinian academic freedom, not to mention its grave violation of Palestinian human rights, sheds serious doubts on their consistency and fairness.

We appeal to our American and Canadian colleagues to challenge what appears to be an organized effort to stifle debate in the academy, and to urge their presidents, faculty associations, professional bodies, and colleagues at large to follow the example of British academics and initiate a robust debate about Israel’s military occupation and other forms of oppression of the Palestinians and the most effective ways to counter them. The complicity of the U.S. government, in particular, in perpetuating Israel’s occupation and violation of basic human rights through unconditional and uniquely generous financial, political and diplomatic support makes Israeli policies clearly relevant to all American tax-payers, academics included. It is worth noting, in this context, the principled stand of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) when it went ahead last year with its plan to publish various pro and con position papers concerning the academic boycott of Israel in its journal Academe after its conference on academic boycotts was hastily cancelled due to political pressure. We also recall the decision of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) to hold a panel discussion on the boycott at its annual meeting last November. We also vividly remember the brave role that North American academics and institutions of higher learning played in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. It is in this spirit of encouraging free debate about controversial issues of concern to academics that we urge our colleagues to call for a careful consideration of the case for the academic boycott against Israel.

PACBI notes that university presidents and provosts in North America have been deploying the notion of academic freedom in order to justify their condemnation of the boycott. However, in their attempt to forestall debate on their campuses by issuing these statements, they can themselves be viewed as infringing upon the academic freedom of their constituencies — students, faculty, and staff — to decide for themselves where they stand on this important issue.

We feel that a principled, reflective, and representative debate on university campuses will bring into focus the dire situation in Palestine that prompted the UCU to issue their call to give serious consideration to supporting an academic and cultural boycott of Israeli academic institutions. There has been much misinformation about the boycott, and the statements by university presidents show them to be ill-informed about some of the basic issues pertaining to the rationale for the boycott and its implementation. It is particularly important to stress that the boycott targets institutions rather than individuals, thus creating the necessary space for the free exchange of ideas to continue amongst academics on an individual basis.


There is ample evidence showing that Israeli universities, research centers, and think tanks are an integral part of the structures of oppression in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. They have played a direct and indirect role in promoting, developing or supporting the state’s racist policies and persistent violations of human rights and international law. It is significant that no Israeli university has ever taken a public stand against the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, nor have academic institutions or representative bodies of Israeli academics ever criticized their government’s longstanding siege of Palestinian education and the denial of Palestinian academic freedom.

The achievements of Palestinian institutions of higher education under Israel’s military occupation have been realized despite the enormous obstacles the Israeli army and security establishment have placed in their path. Over the past few decades, tens of thousands of students and faculty have been imprisoned, exiled, tortured, or wounded by the occupation forces. University campuses have been routinely shut down — for several consecutive years, in some cases — by military order as punishment for student activism against the occupation. Under the current regime of closures, curfews and the vast network of military roadblocks and the Wall, normal life, including the pursuit of education, has become impossible for Palestinians.

The Palestinian call for boycott of Israeli academic institutions
(, like the Palestinian civil society’s widely endorsed call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), is based on the same moral principle embodied in the international civil society campaign against the apartheid regime in South Africa: that people of conscience must take a stand against oppression and use all the means of civil resistance available to bring it to an end.

We appeal to you, colleagues in the American and Canadian academy, to urge your institutions to open their doors to the open exchange of ideas about the situation in Palestine and to consider the ways you can respond to the human and moral challenge the Israeli system of oppression presents to all people of conscience. It may be particularly relevant to address your educational unions and professional organizations to hold panels and discussions on this issue.

We urge you not to allow powerful political forces to dictate to your presidents and provosts how the academy deals with controversial issues pertaining to Israel. As Roger Bowen, the General Secretary of the AAUP and one of the organizers of the ill-fated AAUP conference on academic boycotts (in which two PACBI members were to participate) said after the cancellation,

“The AAUP is honoring its nearly hundred-year legacy of defending academic freedom by not excluding our opponents from participation in debate. If only we could require that critics of the originally planned conference join the AAUP and embrace our principles of academic freedom. Alas, we do not manage the American academy, let alone global higher education. But maybe, just maybe, we, or the principles we espouse, should.”

We hope that the coming academic year will witness the launching of a serious and responsible public debate about the merits of academic boycott of Israel at American and Canadian universities. It is only through an open discussion and in the spirit of the free exchange of ideas that informed opinion can emerge.

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) Ramallah,

Weapon of the Weak (Haaretz)


Weapon of the Weak
Photographs of the boycott’s ‘ringleaders,’ like those of wanted criminals, appeared on the front page of The Jewish Chronicle, which also carried a distressed article by Britain’s chief rabbi condemning the boycott as an anti-Semitic ‘witch hunt.’

Ghada Karmi Jul 13, 2007 12:00 AM

In conflicts, boycotts are the weapons of the weak. Their chief importance lies in their ability to raise public awareness and arouse disapproval. Yet, going by the paranoid reaction to the academic boycott of Israel, it might as well have been a declaration of nuclear war. No peaceable action in recent times has provoked so much anger and hostility as this British-based boycott.

In the wake of the British University and College Union’s vote at its annual general meeting on May 30 to initiate a national debate on a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, a wave of hysteria engulfed Israel and its friends. Articles appeared, before and after the vote, denouncing the UCU resolution and its initiators, and heated correspondence is still ongoing. Threats were made against members of the boycott group by pro-Israel organizations and individuals, and campaigns were mounted to defeat the boycott. Costly one-page advertisements appeared in The Times and The Guardian, carrying the names of scores of eminent signatories opposing the boycott.

Photographs of the boycott’s “ringleaders,” like those of wanted criminals, appeared on the front page of the major British Jewish weekly, The Jewish Chronicle, which also carried a distressed article by Britain’s chief rabbi condemning the boycott as an anti-Semitic “witch hunt.” The Daily Mail’s Jewish columnist Melanie Phillips declared “the age of reason” over. The Jewish-American lawyer and fierce warrior for Israel Alan Dershowitz has teamed up with his British counterpart, Anthony Julius, to take legal action against British supporters of the boycott. While this would not be valid in British law, its aim is clearly to intimidate.

The fuss has not abated yet, and more battles lie ahead this autumn as pressure is exerted upon the UCU to ballot its members individually, in the hope that they will reject the motion passed by the conference.

Two major misconceptions lie at the base of this response, both deliberately fostered. The first misconception is that the boycott is aimed against individual Israeli academics, and the second, and more important, is that it is anti-Semitic.
With regard to the first misconception, the boycott in fact calls for a ban on dealings with Israeli academic institutions, for example, for not participating in joint research, conferences or other collaborative activity. In a malicious misrepresentation of this position, opponents claim that the boycott will end the free exchange of ideas with individual Israelis and encourage discrimination against them within British academia. By suppressing “free speech,” goes the argument, this would end any hope of change in Israel’s policies that academics could have brought about. This is an erroneous argument, and it has galvanized opposition to the boycott in Britain .

The charge of anti-Semitism follows closely on this. The allegation is that the real reason for the boycott is hatred of Jews, a new outbreak of an old gentile affliction. Nothing is more designed to provoke and mislead than this charge, which, its authors know, antagonizes all Jews and many non-Jews.

In fact, of course, the imputation of anti-Semitism is a red herring, as so often is the case when Israel is criticized, and its aim, as always, is to deflect criticism. In the case of the British boycott committee, it is particularly inapt, since most of the members are Jewish. The campaign started in 2004 with a letter that two British scholars, Hilary and Steven Rose, published in The Guardian, calling for a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions, in support of a similar call by Palestinian civil society organizations. These, representing a majority of Palestinian academics and other professionals, had united to form a campaign for boycotting Israel because of its repressive policies against them.

The letter in The Guardian spearheaded a growing demand for Israel to be called to account for its policies, which was soon joined by many academics in Europe and beyond. Support was particularly strong in South Africa, which had lived through a similar boycott during the apartheid era, and was especially sympathetic to the boycott’s rationale and aims. Since that time, the boycott and divestment campaign against Israel has grown, resulting in the Association of University Teachers’ Union voting for a boycott against two Israeli universities at its meeting in 2005. Thanks to a vigorous pro-Israel campaign against it, the decision was overturned within a month. But the issue did not go away, and resulted in the vote for the boycott two years later by the newly formed UCU, which had absorbed the AUT.

Academic boycotts are not new to Britain. In 1965, a boycott campaign against apartheid South Africa was initiated by 34 universities in response to a call for solidarity by the African National Congress. After a prolonged British campaign, the boycott was adopted as policy by the AUT in 1988 and remained in place until the end of apartheid.

The academic boycott against Israel is no different. Israel’s well-documented repression of Palestinian academic life and victimization of Palestinian teachers and students is a scandal to be denounced by all those who claim to care about academic freedom. Rather than rushing to Israel’s defense in a situation so perverse and immoral, all efforts should be directed toward boycotting all Israeli institutions. Only when Israel is made a pariah state, as happened with South Africa, will its people understand tha they cannot trample on another people’s rights without penalty.

Ghada Karmi is the author of “Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine.”

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