The Academic Friends of Israel
18 February 2007
The University and College Union elections for General Secretary and the National Executive
This issue of the AFI digest is devoted to the University and College Union [UCU] elections for the post of General Secretary and 60 members of the National Executive committee. This digest provides information on the issue of an academic boycott of Israel for those AFI members who are members of the UCU who have until 7 March 2007 to return their ballot papers.
The UCU was formed on June 1 2006 by the merger of the academic trade unions, the AUT and NATFHE and has just over 100,000 members. There are 600 Higher and Further education Institutions in the UK. 100 of them are Universities of which 80 were AUT strongholds and most of the rest were represented by NATFHE.
In May 2005, AUT council voted for a boycott of Haifa and Bar Ilan universities, one month later after the membership at been consulted at branch meetings the boycott motion was overturned by a reconvened council meeting. The following year the AUT council approved a set of guidelines for instituting any future boycott.
The 2005 NATFHE conference approved almost unanimously a motion supporting the AUT’s right to pass a boycott of Israel and expressed solidarity with the first AUT council decision. The motion also stated that to criticise Israel policy or institutions is not anti-Semitic.
The 2006 NATFHE conference passed a resolution calling Israel's policies towards the Palestinians "apartheid policies" and urged the union's 67,000 members to boycott Israeli academics unless they publicly support those policies. The policy was in force for 3 days before it lapsed because of the merger of the 2 unions.
Election for General Secretary
There are 3 candidates, Sally Hunt, Roger Kline and Peter Jones.
AFI asked both Roger Kline and Sally Hunt for a meeting to discuss not only the issue of an academic boycott of Israel but also antisemitism on campus, the recommendations of the parliamentary inquiry into antisemitism and how the UCU deals with its Jewish members. Roger Kline agreed to a meeting but sadly Sally Hunt refused, referring us instead to her election address on her website. Peter Jones was not contacted as he is considered to be the outsider in the election. Both Sally Hunt and Roger Kline support the UCU’s response to the Parliamentary inquiry into antisemitism and believe Jews in Britain today face a greater threat from antisemitism from the Right than from radical Islam.
Sally Hunt was the General Secretary of the AUT until the merger and is currently joint General Secretary of the UCU. She has not said anywhere in her election address that she is opposed to an academic boycott of Israel. What she has said instead is:
· A boycott of Israel is likely to be an issue again at first UCU Congress in 2007.
· The issue is highly divisive and overshadows our other international work.
· Any final decision to boycott should be made by full membership ballot not conference alone.
· UCU’s international work should focus on supporting staff and students and defending academic freedom and trade union rights.
· UCU should adopt the AUT policy on international solidarity not the NATFHE boycott of Israel.
· UCU should work with Education International and other UK trade unions to promote academic freedom and equality of access to education for all.
Sally Hunt is the spokesman for the TUC on international affairs and her website can be found at: http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dmzhrnw_10cgjz2v
Roger Kline is currently the UCU National Head of equality and employment rights. These are the main points from our meeting with Roger Kline:
Q: Are you opposed to boycotts?
RK: I can’t envisage circumstances where a boycott should be used. I find it extremely difficult to think of any circumstances where it would be appropriate for an academic boycott of Israel that could conceivably achieve its aim.
Q: Do you believe in the concept of an academic boycott?
RK: I would have been probably have been in favour of an academic boycott of South Africa. I can’t think of circumstances where it would be appropriate. If elected as General Secretary and the issue were raised I would be against it and would vote against it.
Q: How would you vote on the issue of divestment or sanctions against Israel?
RK: I would vote against sanctions and divestment.
Q: What are your views about antisemitism?
RK: Let me say that I am not a practicing Jew and have personally experienced antisemitism. The one time when I am conscious of being Jewish is when I have to face antisemitism. Let me say that if Jewish students or Jewish Lecturers are attacked at work, not physically but called say Zionists I take great exception to that. Your views are not important to me as I would always challenge antisemitsm. I am under no illusions that antisemitism is on the increase and is likely to get worse as racism generally increases. Those who are opposed to antisemitsm have to remind ourselves and others that it is legitimate to criticise Israel however we cannot conflate anti-Israel views with antisemitism which is as bad as any other form of racism.
Roger Kline’s candidature has been endorsed by the UCU Left, The Socialist Workers Party [SWP] and Paul Mackney, the General Secretary of NATFHE.
Roger Kline’s website can be found at: http://www.rogerkline.org.uk/
The elections for members of the National Executive
The academic boycott of Israel is an issue that everybody knows is there hovering in the background but nobody wants to take a stand on the issue. Only one candidate out of the 101 candidates, Alistair Hunter from Glasgow states in his election address that he is opposed to the boycott. A few candidates mention that they are opposed to the rise of Islamophobia, but none specifically mention the increase in antisemitism. This is to be unexpected as the majority of candidates are from NATFHE the home of the Left, who believe that antisemitism only exists on the Right and not on the Left.
You will find a spread sheet with the names of all the candidates here and as much information as we have been able to find about their views on boycotts. Those standing for Trustees of the Union have not been included as Trustees oversee the running of the UCU and do not have a vote.
- We recommend you vote for the candidates who we know are opposed to a boycott and whose names are marked in red.
Engage who are our allies in the opposing the academic boycott wrote to the UCU candidates and their responses can be found at: http://www.engageonline.org.uk/archives/index.php?id=50
- The UCU Left is a national organisation of University and College Union activists. The UCU Left opposes imperialist wars and imperialism and supports the anti -Israel, pro-Palestinian policies of NATFHE. The UCU Left candidates are endorsed by the Socialist Workers Party [SWP] which supports the Palestinian right of return which would destroy the basis of Israel as a Jewish state and a single secular and democratic Palestinian state.
- Those Candidates marked as 2005 NATFHE conference delegate means that they supported the 2005 NATFHE motion [see above] and also attended the 2006 conference and probably voted in support of the 2006 boycott motion.
- Those Candidates marked as 2006 NATFHE conference delegate means that they attended the 2006 conference only and may have voted in support of the 2006 NATFHE boycott motion [see above]
- Supporters of the Stop the War coalition are listed were known because this movement operates from the UCU offices.
- Supporters of the Unite against Fascism movement are listed because this movement was founded by NATFHE to oppose Right-wing antisemitism and operates from the UCU offices
We do not recommend voting for any of the UCU Left candidates.
On the basis of the evidence available The Academic Friends of Israel feels that each of you has to make up your own minds since there is little to choose between them.
Voting will be by single transferable vote which means members can if they wish number their ballot papers in the order of their preferred candidates. We advise limiting your choices to your favoured candidates and no others.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to email me on the above address.
Academic Friends of Israel
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
Dr Robin Stamler
Professor Leslie Wagner CBE
Rt Hon Lord Young of Graffham
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