Boycott call continues to divide 2

June 29, 2007

I can well understand Tom Hickey's need to backtrack and fudge around his shameful motion, but neither he nor the congress representatives who voted for it can revise history. One would be using very strange language indeed to claim that the motion aimed only to achieve a debate.

What Hickey proposed and what was approved by congress was a plan to put Israeli policy and (through guilt by association) individual Israeli academics before a kangaroo court set up in more than a hundred UCU branches. UCU members would hear only the prosecution case, the "Palestinian call to boycott" - no question of an Israeli response.

Alongside this, the UCU would organise a tour of branches by Palestinian academic trade unionists. If, after this rather one-sided "debate", members or branches felt that a boycott of Israeli institutions was justified, then the UCU executive would supply advice and guidance on appropriate action.

No question, in the motion, of waiting a year for a decision of the next congress.

The UCU and its senior representatives cannot bluster and pretend that the real interest was to have an open and informed debate. The union's chief decision-making body approved a course of action in which prejudice was a prerequisite and the first victim was academic freedom. The reputation that the new union would aspire to, one that might demonstrate the values of free and open inquiry, was thrown out in its very first congress. It might yet rescue some small part of that reputation by recalling the congress for the sole purpose of disowning that original, disreputable motion.

Andrew Morgan
President, UCU, Swansea University and NEC member

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