22nd March 2006
As predicted the academic boycott of Israel is still with us and has reappeared in the form of a motion which is below, is due to be discussed at the NATFHE annual conference at the end of May. NATFHE is the other academic trade union in UK and will cease to exist immediately after the conference as it is to merge with the AUT. This motion if approved will have no immediate effect on the policies of the new Union. I have also included one other motion which discusses the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections.
The boycott motion calls on union members to consider their own responsibility for ensuring equity and non-discrimination in contacts with Israeli educational institutions or individuals and to consider the appropriateness of a boycott of those that do not publicly dissociate themselves from such policies.
At last years’ conference in order to avoid the possibility of legal proceedings against the Union, the NATFHE motion supporting the right of the AUT to boycott Israeli universities which was passed carried virtually unanimously, had been drafted with care after having taken legal advice. The original draft motion which had contained the statement “that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism” had been deleted following such advice. The sense of the NATFHE meeting, as emphasised by the speech of the General Secretary after the motion was carried, was that a boycott should be implemented somehow, but in a fashion so as to avoid the possibility of legal attack for defamation or misuse of Union funds. This is why this year’s motion is worded in the form of a “silent boycott” so that individuals will not be detected if they carry out a boycott nor they hope will the union be responsible for promoting a boycott.
We call upon the NATFHE not to allow this motion to be debated because: The idea of boycott has been roundly condemned by the UK government and many organisations on the grounds that academic work should not be blocked on political grounds, that to discriminate on grounds of nationality is pernicious and was likely to lead to discrimination here in the UK, and that academic discourse was crucial in keeping channels open to build opportunities for peace.
NATFHE as well as the AUT is affiliated to Education International, the world body for education Trade Unions, which includes within its principle aims the building of solidarity and mutual cooperation among member organisations. NATFHE officers attended the last congress in 2004 and voted in favour this policy. The adoption of a boycott call would not be consistent with the union’s membership of Education International. NATFHE officers have a duty of care and an obligation to ensure that the Union makes only those commitments which it is capable of pursuing according to its constitution and not to allow it to pursue policies which encourage union members to break discrimination and equal opportunities legislation as well as their own contracts of employment. The motion also undermines the work of the NATFHE executive who are working with their colleagues from the TUC and the AUT who, after the special AUT Council meeting last May established an investigative commission to advise on International policy on Israel and Palestine.
The motion also refers to Israeli apartheid policies, and discriminatory educational practices. The Israeli Universities are not discriminatory in their treatment of the Arab minorities in Israel as their student population accurately reflects the Arab minority of Israel as 20% of students at the Hebrew University, Haifa University and Bar Ilan University are Israeli Arab students. If Israeli Universities are discriminatory why is Omar Barghouti, a well known activist within the academic boycott movement a PhD student at Tel Aviv University?
Apartheid was the term used in South Africa by the white minority to pursue a policy of segregation and political discrimination against the non-European majority population which denied them basic human and civil rights. The term does not apply to Israeli polices towards its Jewish, Arab or Christian citizens. Israeli Arabs have more political rights than any other Arabs in the Middle East and all Israeli citizens regardless of colour, religion, and ethnicity are accorded full political rights.
The academic boycott is not going to go away in Britain and the battleground this year will be at Union conferences culminating at the TUC Congress at the beginning of September. 15 Unions; UNISON, GMB, TGWU, PCS, CWU, RMT, NATFHE, NUM, ASLEF, TSSA, UCATT, NUJ, FBU, CYWU, Community and SERTUC sponsored a Palestine Solidarity Campaign conference “Palestinian Workers Challenging the Occupation, ” which was held in London on 11March 2006. The speakers included Shaher Sae’d, General Secretary of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) who called for an international campaign of solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Academic Friends of Israel
NATFHE Conference Motions
Conference notes the victory of HAMAS in the recent Palestine Authority elections. Conference condemns the hysterical reporting of the result by most of the British news media and the outrageous bias shown by UK Government statements against the outcome of a democratic process NATFHE resolves:
1) To continue to help protect and support Palestinian colleges and universities in the face of the continual attacks by Israel’s government.
2) To contact the Palestinian Authority Government to re-affirm that support.
Southern region 198C Academic Responsibility
Conference notes continuing Israeli apartheid policies, including construction of the exclusion wall, and discriminatory educational practices. It recalls its motion of solidarity last year for the AUT resolution to exercise moral and professional responsibility.
Conference instructs the NEC to facilitate meetings in each university and college, and to circulate information to Branches, offering to fund the speakers' travel costs. Conference invites members to consider their own responsibility for ensuring equity and non-discrimination in contacts with Israeli educational institutions or individuals and to consider the appropriateness of a boycott of those that do not publicly dissociate themselves from such policies.
The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks
Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld - Chairman of the Board of Fellows, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Henry Grunwald Q.C. - President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews
John D A Levy - Director of the Academic Study Group on Israel and the Middle East
Andrew R. Marks, M.D. - Columbia University, USA
Professor Leslie Wagner CBE
Rt Hon Lord Young of Graffham
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