Why is debate 'illegal'?

October 12, 2007

University and College Union members were to participate in a unique debate: meetings involving Palestinian and Israeli academics discussing the pros and cons of a boycott vis-a-vis Israeli universities.

Now we learn, five months after the UCU congress voted for campus meetings, that such discussion is "illegal". On what grounds? Our branch proposed the resolution that went to congress in May, and we demand to see all information relating to cancellation of the debates.

Under Israeli law it is legal to build settlements and even universities on occupied territory. It is permitted to seize Palestinian lecturers and students at checkpoints, to impose curfews and campus closures, so that educational life is disrupted and sometimes paralysed.

When we attempt to discuss this on British campuses it transpires that even debate is "illegal".

We cannot accept this judgment, which is not only an affront to our freedoms as trade unionists but once more silences our Palestinian colleagues.

Haim Bresheeth
Chair of cultural and media studies

Phil Marfleet
Reader in refugee studies
University of East London.

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