British University and College Union (UCU) Decision a blow to business-as-usual with Israeli academy
From PACBI - The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) salutes the British University and College Union (UCU) for its principled support for the cause of justice and peace in Palestine and for adopting, at its annual congress on 28 May 2008, significant steps in the direction of applying effective pressure on Israel and holding it accountable for its colonial and apartheid policies which violate international law and fundamental human rights.
The UCU’s condemnation of the “apparent complicity of most of the Israeli academy,” its appeal to its members “to consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions,” and its decision to “greylist” -- a notch short of boycott -- the “colonising” Israeli college in the illegal settlement of Ariel are the strongest indicators to date that the Union has resolutely moved forward in the direction of gradually ending business-as-usual with Israeli universities. The congress resolutions also attest to the Union’s courageous refusal to bow to legal and other forms of bullying and intimidation, waged recently by Israel and Zionist pressure groups in the UK and elsewhere in an attempt to suppress the boycott debate and muzzle views within the UCU that are critical of the Israeli occupation.
Besides the boycott-leaning motion cited above, the UCU censured the Israeli trade union federation, the Histadrut, urging it to take a position against the “siege of Gaza” and to call for “an end to the occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territory.” Recognizing the “humanitarian catastrophe imposed on Gaza by Israel and the EU,” the UCU decided to send a fact-finding delegation to the occupied territory.
This sincere solidarity with Palestine shown by British academic trade unionists is particularly welcome and timely in light of Israel’s recent escalation of its colonial and racist policies against the Palestinian people. Israel has continued with unprecedented impunity its criminal siege of the occupied Gaza Strip, curtailing fuel, medicine and food supplies, thereby causing the death of dozens of innocent civilians, including premature babies, chronically ill senior citizens, among others, and the unspeakable devastation of the livelihood of 1.5 million Palestinians. It has also carried on with its policy of indiscriminate, often willful, killing of Palestinian civilians, at least a third of whom are children; confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources; construction of the apartheid Wall, condemned as illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004; and wanton destruction of Palestinian agricultural lands, infrastructure and entire civilian neighborhoods.
Furthermore, for the last six decades, Israel has treated its own Palestinian citizens with institutionalized racism, while denying millions of Palestinian refugees, ethnically cleansed in 1948, their UN-sanctioned rights, including the right to return to their homes.
At this time of exceptional Israeli brutality, impunity and war crimes against the indigenous Palestinian people, especially in Gaza and the Naqab desert area, the UCU has risen to its moral responsibility by taking exceptional measures to hold Israel to account. It is also worth noting that the UCU, implementing a decision taken at its congress in 2007, recently hosted representatives from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees on a UK-wide speaking tour. But the UCU is not alone, certainly not in the UK. The largest two trade unions, Unison and TGWU, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP), the National Union of Journalists, the Church of England, among others, have all adopted diverse measures supporting boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel in recent years. Some of Britain’s most prominent cultural figures, including Ken Loach, John Berger and Nigel Kennedy, have expressed publicly their support for the Palestinian call for boycott*. The efforts of our colleagues in the British Committee for Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) also deserve mention. Since its inception, BRICUP has worked in a determined and principled way to defend and spread the message of the academic boycott. We are proud to be associated with such a distinguished group of academics.
The UCU has proven beyond doubt that effective solidarity with the oppressed is the most morally and politically sound contribution to the struggle to end oppression and to promote human rights as well as a just and peaceful future for all.