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The Academic Friends of Israel
 TheAcademic Friends of Israel

                                                   

Vol 7 No 8                                        2nd June 2009

The UCU is the most anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian Trade Union in Britain

       Two years ago the University and College Lecturers Union [UCU] adopted a resolution calling for an academic boycott of Israel which they were unable to implement as the legal advice they received made it clear that making a call to boycott Israeli institutions would run a serious risk of infringing discrimination legislation. The call to boycott was also considered to be outside the aims and objects of the UCU.  
  
       If we fast forward to last week’s UCU Congress delegates considered five motions on Israel and Gaza including two which called for an academic boycott of Israel, but there was no debate this time, but instead there was a procession of speakers demonising and condemning Israel and its actions in Gaza. There was no one to oppose the motions because over the last two years the Far Left and the Socialist Workers Party [SWP] has ethnically cleansed the UCU Congress of any Jewish or Zionist opposition to their racist, xenophobic and antisemitic policies. 
           It was therefore no surprise when delegates voted overwhelmingly for motion 28 to boycott Israeli universities and colleges. Delegates said that Israeli academics were complicit in their government's acts against the Palestinian people and that Israel should be tried for human rights violations. However, the leadership of the UCU then immediately declared the vote for motion 28 as void, as lawyers had advised them that any kind of boycott call could prompt legal action against the union. UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt was quoted in the Guardian newspaper as saying that she "formally and personally commended" having the debate.   
           Although a UCU spokesman has said that “UCU delegates had amended the final motion they discussed, motion 29, following legal advice that to pass it without amending it would be unlawful; motion 29 includes the following clause:  “This year Congress resolves to intensify solidarity and renew urgently its call to members to reflect on the moral and political appropriateness of collaboration with Israeli educational institutions….   
         However the 2007 Congress resolution which the UCU was unable to implement because a boycott call would have been unlawful instructed the union:   “To circulate the full text of the Palestinian boycott call to all branches for information and discussion and encourage members to consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions…..   
           Can you spot the difference because I can’t? If it was unlawful in 2007 to encourage UCU members to boycott Israelis, then as the two clauses were exactly the same and no matter what the UCU says, Congress adopted motion 29 which contained a clause which mandated the union to promote an academic boycott of Israel, which is discriminatory and antisemitic.    
          The whiff of antisemitism in the air last Wednesday was also apparent earlier when Congress supported a resolution for the UCU to campaign against antisemitism. Their action cannot be taken seriously and can only be seen as window dressing because of the refusal by an overwhelming majority of the 250 delegates present to support an amendment from University College London [UCL], which called for an investigation into the reasons for the large number of resignations from the union by mainly Jewish members over charges of institutional antisemitism within the UCU. That the majority of delegates present do not also accept the European monitoring definition of antisemitism was reinforced by one of the speakers against the amendment, who was roundly applauded, when he said that it is legitimate to discuss Israel is a racist and apartheid state and “frankly this has nothing to do with antisemitism.”   
            Speaking at a fringe meeting at the conference, UCU branch secretary at University College London (UCL), Sean Wallis, said the union should debate a boycott whether legal or not. One of the threats to debating such a motion he said was from lawyers backed by those with "bank balances from Lehman Brothers that can't be tracked down." He was allegedly referring to an online conspiracy theory that claims Jews transferred $400 billion from Lehman Brothers to untraceable bank accounts in Israel, days before Lehmann’s filed for bankruptcy.   It is hoped that UCL will invoke its disciplinary process as anti-Semitic remarks of this nature are in breach of the University College's equality and discrimination rules.  As a linguist expert, Wallis should be perfectly aware of what he is saying. He is also branch secretary of UCL, which has many Jewish staff members, and is a very popular institution with both Jewish and Israeli students.  Wallis has since refuted the allegation of antisemitism but did not deny making the comment.  
               In other developments Congress also agreed for branches to discuss, prior to Congress 2010, the Palestinian call for a boycott, disinvestment and sanctions [BDS] campaign. They also committed the UCU to host an autumn international, inter-union conference of BDS supporters to investigate the “lawful” implementation of the strategy, including an option of institutional boycotts.   
              The question is how can the UCU support a conference to investigate the lawful implementation of the Palestinian BDS campaign which calls for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel and not infringe discrimination legislation. Hosting such an event would also seem to be outside the powers of the union.   The UCU has yet to decide whether or not to implement these motions and a lot will depend on the attitude of the Union trustees towards these motions. The role of the trustees is to is to protect the union from breaking the law and they would be personally liable for damages if the union and was taken to court for infringing discrimination law and found guilty.  It seems that the cash strapped UCU is being pushed whether it likes it or not by the SWP and its supporters into having their day in court.    
               Congress was also addressed by Amjad Barham the President of the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees [PFUUPE], the UCU’s Palestinian partner who congratulated the UCU for its support. He  called for an academic boycott of Israel and opposed “constructive engagement” with the Israeli academics   
              So here we have it, the UCU is now the most anti-Israeli, pro-Palestinian trade union in Britain which refuses to investigate claims that it is institutionally antisemitic and actively promotes divisive antisemitic boycott policies that makes life difficult on campus for both Jewish and Israeli academics and students.  Nor is it interested in building partnerships with Israeli academics or a two state solution. Instead it supports Hamas, whose charter calls for the elimination of the State of Israel.  Fortunately the legal advice the UCU has received constrains the amount of support it can give to the Palestinians otherwise it would be spending even more time and money on demonising Israel and alienating its dwindling number of Jewish members.  
Ronnie Fraser 
 Director
 Academic Friends of Israel  

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       For more information on the UCU Congress you may like to read: 
2. The Fairplay blog about Sean Wallis - Whatever did he mean by that?http://www.fairplaycg.org.uk/2009/05/ucu-whatever-did-he-mean-by-that/ 
3. Engage has a number of reports about Congress including:
David Hirsh is blogging live from UCU Congress
Michael Cushman and the Jew-free UCU Congress
4. Address to the UCU Congress by Amjad Barham, President of the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/docs/l/a/congress09_abarhamspeech.rtf 

5. Resoloutions passed at 2009 UCU Congress

 24 Solidarity with Palestinians - Composite (National Executive Committee; Westminster-Kingsway College; Derwentside College)
            Congress condemns the recent military attacks on Gaza. The continuing blockade of the Gazan people and the occupation of the West Bank highlight the importance of international union solidarity with the Palestinian people. Congress also condemns the use of rockets against Israeli civilians.
              Congress endorses the actions of the general secretary and SFC in relation to the implementation of Motion 25 from Congress 2008.
We welcome the progress on twinning and exchanges with international post-school education unions and institutions including those in Palestine and support the continuation of this solidarity work and other solidarity work within the law.
               We note the success of twinning in raising awareness of the ongoing military occupation in the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza.We welcome the role of such groups as Camben-Abu Dis Friendship Association in building such links between educational institutions here and in the occupied territories.
                 We call on UCU to affiliate to the national twinning campaign.Congress also notes that 29 November is designated annual United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and instructs the NEC to promote activities in the branches - both curricular and non-curricular - to mark this day.CARRIED (AMENDED)

24A.1 - London School of Economics

Add after paragraph 3Congress instructs the NEC to collect information on Palestinian academics prevented from travelling abroad to conferences or visiting positions; on overseas academics refused permission to take up, or remain in, positions in Palestine; and on students who have places in overseas universities that they are unable to take up through travelling restrictions and publicise the information; inform Education International; and press the Israeli Government to allow freedom of movement for Palestinian academics and students.CARRIED
Substantive motion:
    Congress condemns the recent military attacks on Gaza. The continuing blockade of the Gazan people and the occupation of the West Bank highlight the importance of international union solidarity with the Palestinian people.
      Congress also condemns the use of rockets against Israeli civilians.
Congress endorses the actions of the general secretary and SFC in relation to the implementation of Motion 25 from Congress 2008.
      We welcome the progress on twinning and exchanges with international post-school education unions and institutions including those in Palestine and support the continuation of this solidarity work and other solidarity work within the law.
     We note the success of twinning in raising awareness of the ongoing military occupation in the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza.
Congress instructs the NEC to collect information on Palestinian academics prevented from travelling abroad to conferences or visiting positions; on overseas academics refused permission to take up, or remain in, positions in Palestine; and on students who have places in overseas universities that they are unable to take up through travelling restrictions and publicise the information; inform Education International; and press the Israeli Government to allow freedom of movement for Palestinian academics and students.
      We welcome the role of such groups as Camben-Abu Dis Friendship Association in building such links between educational institutions here and in the occupied territories. We call on UCU to affiliate to the national twinning campaign.
      Congress also notes that 29 November is designated annual United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and instructs the NEC to promote activities in the branches - both curricular and non-curricular - to mark this day.

25 Disabled people and conflict - Disabled Members' Standing Committee

Congress notes that armed conflict is one of the biggest causes of impairment globally and that hundreds of thousands of people are injured and impaired annually due to wars.Congress is appalled by the recent conflict in Gaza which has resulted in the deaths, injury and impairment of over a thousand people, including 300 children and countless others.Congress resolves to support practical initiatives to show solidarity with disabled people and their organisations in Palestine.CARRIED

26 Palestine and Israel - UCU Scotland

UCU Congress welcomes the visit of the President of UCU Scotland to Palestine and Israel as part of an STUC delegation in March 2009. Congress agrees to disseminate his report as widely as possible to members. UCU Congress welcomes the campaign amongst students in Scottish HEIs for disinvestment from arms companies such as British Aerospace and congratulates Dundee and Strathclyde's victories in this respect.CARRIED

27 Gaza - Black Members' Standing Committee

Congress strongly condemns the Israeli invasion in Gaza. Over 1300 children and women were massacred and over 5000 people were seriously injured. Indiscriminate killings, attacks and destruction of educational institutions, UN properties, hospitals and infrastructure in Gaza amount to crime against humanity.  
Congress strongly condemns the use of banned substances, white phosphorus and depleted uranium on defenceless people. The Congress strongly condemns the BBC and much of the Western media for biased reporting of the atrocities committed against civilians by the Israeli Army. Also the UN and countries that vacillated and allowed the army time to destroy the infrastructure of Gaza.Congress demands:
  • ending of apartheid and lifting of all barricades in Gaza
  • recognition of the democratically elected Gaza government
  • establishment of free independent Palestine
  • respect for human rights in Palestine
  • stop killing of defenceless Gazans
  • Israel tried for human rights violations
  • lasting peace in Palestine.
CARRIED

28 Gaza - Composite (Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Committee, North West Regional Committee)

Congress notes:
  1. the deaths, injuries and destruction caused by the Israeli government's assault on Gaza
  2. the sale of over £18.8 million of British arms to Israel in 2008, up from £7.5 million in 2007.
Congress condemns:
  1. the Israeli attack on Gaza and refusals by the US and UK governments to condemn it
  2. the total support for Israel by the US government
  3. the siege of Gaza by the Israeli government in breach of international law.
Congress resolves:
  1. to congratulate student unions who have occupied and protested over Gaza
  2. to call for an immediate lifting of the siege
  3. to demand the British government end its complicity in denying Palestinian rights
  4. to demand the British government bans arms sales and economic support for Israel
  5. to support self-determination for the Palestinian people
  6. to call for a ban on imports of all goods from the illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories
  7. to demand the British government expels the Israeli ambassador
  8. to donate to the special Stop the War fund for Gaza.
CARRIEDAmendment 28A.1: The union received advice from Leading Counsel that to pass this amendment would be unlawful because it is likely to be viewed by a court as a call to boycott Israeli academic institutions. The union has previously followed advice from Leading Counsel that such a call would be outside the powers of the union to make. If the amendment is further amended to remove the affirmation of support for the Palestine call for a boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign, Leading Counsel has advised the union may lawfully pass this amendment. If the amendment is passed in its unamended form the President has been advised that she will have to treat it as being void and of no effect.

28A.1  - North West Regional Committee

Add at end:'Congress affirms support for the Palestinian call for a boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign.'CARRIED

Motion 29: The union received advice from Leading Counsel that to pass this motion would be unlawful because it is likely to be viewed by a court as a call to boycott Israeli academic institutions. The union has previously followed advice from Leading Counsel that such a call would be outside the powers of the union to make. If the motion is amended to remove the affirmation of support for the Palestine call for a boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign, Leading Counsel has advised the union may lawfully pass this motion. If the motion is passed in its unamended form the President has been advised that she will have to treat it as being void and of no effect.

29 Composite (University of Brighton Grand Parade, College of North East London, University of East London)

Congress notes: Congress believes: Congress affirms support for the Palestinian call for a boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign.Congress resolves to: CARRIED (AMENDED)

Late amendment 29A.1 (University of Brighton Grand Parade)

Insert 'the lawful' before 'implementation' in the final bullet-point of 'Congress resolves', to read And replace 'affirms support for' with 'urges branches to discuss prior to Congress 2010' in the 'Congress affirms' passage, to read:Congress urges branches to discuss prior to Congress 2010 the Palestinian call for a boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign.CARRIEDSubstantive motion:Congress notes: Congress believes: Congress urges branches to discuss prior to Congress 2010 the Palestinian call for a boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign.Congress resolves to:  

Campaigning against Anti-Semitism - National Executive Committee

Congress agrees to instruct the NEC to: CARRIED (UNAMENDED)

7A.1 - University College London

Add new first line:'Congress notes with concern the rise of anti-Semitism in the UK and resignations of UCU members apparently in connection with perceptions of institutional anti-Semitism.Add new final bullet point: 'To investigate the number of recent UCU resignations and the reasons for them, and to report its findings to next Congress.'

 

LOST

 

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Patron: The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks 

Advisory Board: 

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

Amir Lev

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 

The Academic Friends of Israel Ltd is limited by guarantee and registered in England No 5297417.