9 May 2006
At this time last year we were in the throes of the battle to overturn the AUT decision to undertake an academic boycott of Israel. What a difference a year makes, as later this week, the AUT has its last annual council meeting and at the end of this month NATFHE meets for its final conference. The contrast at this time between the two unions cannot be more different; The AUT will not be discussing any boycott motions but will consider instead recommendations from International committee to ensure that the Eastbourne fiasco will never happen again and that any future boycott proposals will have to consider the context of the request as well as meet several laid down criteria which have to be met before any boycott motion can be considered.
NATFHE on the other hand is to go ahead and discuss a motion recommending that the 67,000 members of the union carry out a “personal” boycott of Israeli lecturers and academic institutions that do not publicly declare their opposition to Israeli policy. This affair was reported in today’s Haaretz Newspaper (http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/713716.html)
Jon Pike from Engage has written an excellent piece on why this NATFHE motion 198C calling for a “personal boycott” should be withdrawn because it is inaccurate, dishonest, and in conflict with NATFHE's constitution by specifically advocating discrimination of one nation: Israel. I urge everyone to read it; you can find it below or at http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=410
The Academic Friends of Israel joins with Engage in calling for NATFHE to reconsider its decision to allow a debate on this motion at conference. Any boycott call that is based on whether Israeli academics support their Government’s government policy is like the AUT call last year discriminatory and effectively an antisemitic act. I would expect my Union NATFHE to recognise the problem and act immediately, yet as in the past they have so far failed to do anything. NATFHE has 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. I would ask that you write to NATFHE urging them not to allow debate on this divisive and discrimatory motion to go ahead. I would also suggest that you send a copy of your email to the President and General Secretary of the AUT, so that they are also aware of the depth of feeling.
The relevant addresses are:
John Wilkin, PRESIDENTpresident@natfhe.org.uk
Dennis Hayes, VICE PRESIDENTd.firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Mackney, GENERAL SECRETARY
AUT General Secretary, Sally Huntsally.email@example.com
AUT President, Steve Whartonpresident@aut.org.uk
SPME has started a petition: An Appeal From Scholars WorldWide To NATFHE Not to Vote/Defeat Any Motions to Boycott Israel Scholars http://www.spme.net/cgi-bin/display_petitions.cgi?ID=2
To Sign this petition go to -
What does this mean for the new Union, the UCU which is the result of NATFHE and the AUT merging and takes office from 1st June? Not a good point to start from I would think. There is no stomach at the AUT at present for another fight over boycotts yet NATFHE can’t wait to call one. It is clear that the first conference of the new union in 2007 will see a clash between the moderate AUT membership and the Left wing activists from NATFHE. Neither of these motions if passed will have any effect on the policy of the new union as in theory they “die” with the passing of NATFHE and the AUT. The new union can only follow policies that both unions agreed on in the past and these two recommendations are so at odds with each other that neither can be adopted.
The first thing the new merged UCU union should do is to condemn this “personal boycott” call if it is passed. Finally I have also put below the AUT Draft Policy on International Greylisting and Boycotts which is due to be debated at the AUT council later this week. It may not be perfect, but that any call for a boycott of Israeli Universities can only be accepted if they are called for by Israeli staff associations.
Academic Friends of Israel
NATFHE: Chuck out 198C! - Jon Pike
The union that covers staff in the newer universities is to consider a further resolution on boycotting Israeli universities at its conference in Blackpool later this month. There are reports in the Israeli media that suggest that the resolution facing Natfhe is a full-on boycott resolution, and that suggest that it is already in place. This isn´t true.
This is what the resolution 198C says: 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.
It´s due to be voted on at the NATFHE Conference in Blackpool on the weekend of the 27-29th May. 198C is inaccurate, dishonest, and in conflict with NATFHE's constitution. Let's take the central point first. 198C seeks NATFHE endorsement for a private or individual boycott of Israeli academia. It doesn't say which universities, so we must presume that it refers to all the universities in Israel. It does so, disingenuously, because it couches the boycott call in terms of individual responsibility, but the foul discriminatory language is there: it asks that people consider their responsibility (in relation to) "contacts with Israeli ... individuals". It is clear that the proposers of 198C think that it is appropriate to cut off links with Israeli individuals, but they don’t, yet again, have the guts to say so.
It is clear, once again, that the proposers of 198C think it is appropriate to introduce a McCarthyism test (public disassociation from 'apartheid policies') as a precondition to ordinary academic interchange. And, once again, this runs flat up against a concern with academic freedom. And it is clear that they want to endorse a private, covert, boycott. Let’s be stone cold clear about this: what the proposers of this resolution want is union endorsement for actions that are, in effect, anti-Semitic.
They aim to endorse the actions of Mona Baker, who sacked members of the editorial board of her journal because they were affiliated to Israeli Universities. We know that Mona Baker's policy is, in effect, anti-Semitic: she doesn't want to have contact with any individuals who are affiliated with Israeli institutions, and those people will largely be Jews. And we know, of course, that Mona Baker thinks these actions are 'appropriate' (and, when criticised, complains bitterly about the Jewish press). We know, too that concerned supporters of Palestinian rights like Prof. Judith Butler clearly distance themselves from Baker. Yet the South East region of Natfhe want their union to endorse Baker-type actions. The gutlessness is extraordinary. We know that the proposers of the resolution want a full-on official boycott of all Israeli institutions, and we know that they daren't subject their argument for this to democratic or legal scrutiny.
These bold advocates of united collective action retreat to advocacy of covert individual discriminatory acts. And there is much more wrong with this resolution. It gets its history wrong. Natfhe did not 'pass a motion of solidarity last year for the AUT resolution to exercise moral and professional responsibility'. There was no such thing as an AUT resolution to exercise moral and professional responsibility. (But the suggestion that there was, is interesting. It's clear that the proposers think that being morally responsibility equals being in favour of a boycott. What a crassview!) There were three AUT boycott resolutions. NATFHE passed a rather silly resolution defending AUT's right to pass resolutions - a right that was never in doubt. The boycott resolutions were overturned by the AUT membership. Is South East region of Natfhe in solidarity with the AUT members who voted overwhelmingly against the boycott? Or does it pick and choose which AUT branches it is in solidarity with? (In the South East, is it in solidarity with Sussex University AUT, which opposed the boycott, just up the road from Tom Hickey of the SWP and South East Natfhe?)
This is a move by an unrepresentative group in Natfhe to reopen the boycott debate in a dishonest and disingenuous way. The attempt comes just as Natfhe and the AUT (my union) are engaged in a joint industrial dispute over pay, and as we move towards merger. If this policy is passed by Natfhe, it will only last three months, because it cannot and will not become the policy of the UCU: the AUT is clearly opposed to such boycott action and will adopt a framework at its council in Scarborough this week that rules out boycotts of green line institutions unless they are called for by Israeli staff associations.
But many in the AUT will be shocked by the thought of merging with a union that wants to endorse effectively anti-semitic acts, like those of Mona Baker. The resolution has not been put to the conference and there is no boycott in place at the moment. It may well be ruled out of order: there were procedural irregularities in its proposal, and it also seems to come up against the non-discriminatory clauses of NATFHE's constitution.This specifies that the aims and objectives of the association are: (2.4) To oppose actively all forms of harassment and unfair discrimination whether on the grounds of sex, race, ethnic or national origin, religion colour, class, caring responsibilities, marital status, sexuality, disability, age, or other status or personal characteristic. (NATFHE Constitution and Rules) But the resolution specifically advocates discrimination on a national basis: it applies to only one nation: Israel. This is, of course that familiar problem of the unwarranted selectivity involved in the AUT debate.
The proposers might object that they are only in favour of 'fair' discrimination, but they have no warrant for that: they do not encourage a boycott that is policed or judged by Natfhe, or any other body - they leave it up to the members themselves. Are we to rest assured that Natfhe members are incapable of acting in a way that is unfairly discriminatory? Of course not. If 198C is passed, NATFHE will have endorsed a policy that conflicts with its own constitution - and it may well conflict with anti-discrimination legislation. 198C also contradicts AUT policy.
I´ve argued above that 198C conflicts with academic freedom because it requires that Israeli individuals pass a political test: it requires them to publicly disassociate themselves from the 'apartheid policies' of the Israeli state. This is a McCarthyite test, which no academic should impose. The proposers should be embarrassed to make such a suggestion in public. PACBI, the organisation which called for the original boycott in the AUT has abandoned this position. But Tom Hickey and the South East Region seem not to have caught up with the debate. Consider how such a test might be operated. Which policies count as 'apartheid' ones? How public is public? What sort of disassociating statement needs to be made to satisfy the requirement of Tom Hickey and NATFHE South East region? Could he provide us with a wording, or will NATFHE HQ do that?
In the meantime, later this week in Scarborough, AUT will adopt a policy that commits it to 'the protection and extension of academic freedom to teach, research and otherwise collaborate with fellow academics around the world'. The AUT won't support a policy in the merged union that is in contradiction with this concern. There are, too, very many union members in the UCU - certainly the majority in the AUT who would be very reluctant to vote for someone who endorsed 198C for a senior post in the new union. If I was after such a post, I'd make it clear that I stood for academic freedom, and against 198C. So 198C contradicts AUT policy, and will not be able to stand in a merged union. But the reason that it should be thrown out by delegates to NATFHE is not just that it causes problems for the merger, but that it is wrong in principle and in practice.For all these reasons, and more, NATFHE delegates should chuck out 198C at the end of the month.
Open University AUT
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 processNATFHE 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 RegionAmendment 1
Delete second paragraph:
'Conference condemns . . . democratic process.'
Northern Ireland Region
Para 1: delete all after 'in', replace with 'the free, democratic and non-violent elections for the Palestinian Authority.'
Para 2: delete all after 'statements', replace with 'in demanding that Hamas recognises the Israeli state and renounces violence in the context of continuing Israeli violence, the construction of the illegal wall and a voluntary truce maintained by Hamas for over 12 months.'
Point 1) delete 'help protect and'
North West RegionAmendment 3
Add at the end of line 5: 'and is concerned about events such as the apparent collusion of the British and American Governments in the withdrawal of prison guards who monitored Jericho Prison under the Ramallah Agreement enabling the Israeli forces to storm the prison.'
outh East 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.South East Region
Draft AUT Policy on International Greylisting and Boycotts
The Investigative Commission on Israel/Palestine established by Special Council in May 2005 makes the following recommendations regarding the action that may be taken in relation to the boycotting of higher education institutions in another country ie an international boycott. In drawing this proposal together, the commission has been very much aware that the AUT while being a significant player in higher education terms worldwide, is a relatively small organisation in international terms with limited resources.
It is not capable of policing the academic world or of imposing its own policy at a global level. AUT needs, therefore, to work in collaboration with the national and international organisations to which it is affiliated (notably the TUC, ETUC, Education International) and like-minded unions in order to secure the implementation of its policies. The commission also looked carefully at the domestic greylisting and boycotting procedures that AUT has established in relation to institutions in the UK and felt that these procedures provided a useful model around which international greylisting and boycott procedures could be developed. The commission also agreed that international procedures would need to be at least as rigorous as procedures for greylisting and boycotting institutions in our own country. Any action taken against academic institutions in other states must be in line with the current international policy of AUT.
Further to the meetings of Council and Special Council in 2005, the following was adopted as an interim international policy by the Executive Committee from the 2nd December 2005 as recommended by EIA committee: Interim International Policy In considering the provision of solidarity to colleagues abroad, the AUT shall ensure that the main intention of any proposal is:
1 The protection and extension of academic freedom to teach, research, and otherwise collaborate with fellow academics around the world
2 The protection and extension of trade union rights as defined by the ILO within education, and the support of fellow trade unionists in their practise of those rights. In order to pursue this policy at international level, the commission considers that action taken against institutions in other states needs to be:
1 Carefully thought through with a view to understanding the purpose and outcomes.
2 Developed as part of a wider campaign with support from other external organisations.
3 Capable of having an effect or creating an acceptable result. The commission believes that it is essential therefore to engage with other organisations, particularly Education International, when considering international greylisting or boycotting of institutions in other countries.
Mechanism An international greylisting or boycotting of academic institutions needs three elements. First there has to be a trigger that sets up the activity. Second there has to be a graded or stepped approach during which checks can be made as to whether the action is being effective or whether it is damaging collegial interests more than creating results. Third, there must be a practical possibility of generating activity to secure collective support for effective action.
1 Trigger The commission believes, after careful consideration, and noting that we are not capable of policing the academic world in a pro-active way, that triggers for actions leading to greylisting and boycott can only result from a request from a legitimate organisation within the state, or within the occupied territory or institution in question. Legitimate organisations would include a trade union movement, a recognised higher education union or other representative organisation. Exceptionally, a decision to impose greylisting or boycotting might be taken following consultation with Education International in circumstances where legitimate organisations cannot be lawfully established within the state or institutions in question, or in circumstances where institutions or branches of institutions, are established in territories under unlawful occupation as defined by UN resolutions. It is recognised that this is a difficult area. We are aware of great wrongs being committed throughout the world against colleagues in other countries. But there is always a balance to be drawn between boycotting and damaging those colleagues in the hope that the state will address the harm that it is inflicting on academia, and the harm that the boycott itself inflicts on academia.
2 A Graded Approach The purpose of an international greylist or boycott of academic institutions is to make either those institutions’ managements or the government of the country concerned think again about their policies in relation to academic issues and human rights. A stepped or graded approach is, therefore, recommended as the best way of creating the greatest response. The commission sees this as a gradual process starting with actions intended to exert influence but leading ultimately to coercive action up to an including a total boycott of all academic activity.
(i) A decision can be made by executive or council to impose an international greylisting as a result of the trigger described above. The first action will be to notify the institution concerned that they are about to be placed on a greylist, ie a list of censured institutions which will be made public across the world. The censuring of an institution will be initially an alerting mechanism such that the international community worldwide will be made aware that the AUT is concerned that the institution is not abiding by generally recognised international standards of academic freedom and human rights. Censured institutions will be contacted and asked to explain where they stand in relation to the issues on which concern is being expressed.
(ii) On receipt of an explanation from those institutions, a judgement will then be made as to whether it is appropriate to impose the sanction of greylisting.
(iii) If the decision is no then the institutions will not be greylisted and the organisation triggering the action will be contacted with a view to asking what other actions might be considered.
(iv) If the explanation is not satisfactory or if there is no response, then contact will be made with other national and international organisations, in particular ETUC, TUC and Education International to establish whether they are also considering action in relation to the greylisting of the said institutions.
(v) If there is a consensus that action needs to be taken, then AUT will join with those organisations in developing a common approach to the greylisting and boycotting of the institutions concerned. The common approach must include a clear statement of what the institution must do to secure the ending of sanctions. Within that approach AUT will continue to urge that regular checks are made as to the impact of the greylisting/boycotting and the attitude of the institution’s management in relation to the issue about which there is concern.
(vi) Where there is no consensus among like-minded organisations and AUT appears to be considering acting alone, then a further judgement will be made as to whether this is acceptable. The triggering organisation will be contacted to ascertain whether it is advantageous to their aims that AUT continues to consider greylisting and boycotting in isolation.
(vii) In the event that AUT decides to take action in isolation, further actions beyond greylisting will be considered by the national executive committee and/or council. These will be actions moving towards a full academic boycott of the institution/s concerned, but such will not be implemented without a further decision of Council.
(viii) In the event of sanctions being imposed, it is recommended that AUT should establish an action committee in relation to the greylisting/boycotting which draws up a programme of activities that are to be boycotted. AUT should communicate these proposed actions to the institutions concerned and ask for a response. In the event of a negative response AUT should implement the agreed actions and issue appropriate guidance to members.
(ix) Throughout this process contact will be maintained with the triggering organisation so that a judgement can be made as to the appropriate time to end sanctions.
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
The Academic Friends of Israel Ltd is limited by guarantee and registered in England No 5297417.