Divisions over boycott 2

June 15, 2007

Much has been written and said since delegates to the University and College Union Congress passed Motion 30 regarding a possible boycott of Israeli universities. Unfortunately, more heat than light has been generated, particularly by opponents of the boycott.

It would be helpful first to understand what the motion actually calls for.

The national executive committee is instructed to "circulate the full text of the Palestinian boycott call to all branches and local associations for information and discussion". It does not commit the union and its members to participate in a boycott.

Many who voted for the motion appreciate that no boycott, whatever its merits, can be implemented unless there is broad and deep support for that course of action. It is recognised that many members are opposed to a boycott on both principled and pragmatic grounds. Therefore, an honest and considered discussion needs to take place at all levels of the union, free of rancour and threats of legal action.

Undoubtedly, both those who voted for and those who voted against the motion feel strongly that a just peace must be achieved for Palestinians and Israelis alike. It is time for those outside the UCU who purportedly champion academic freedom to cease their attempts to intimidate members who support a boycott and let the union decide the best way forward through its established procedures.

Ronald Mendel
UCU branch secretary
Northampton University

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