Academic threatens to sue UCU over proposed Israeli college boycott

Politics professor disputes union move on grounds of discrimination and equality. John Gill reports

June 5, 2010

An academic has threatened to take legal action against the University and College Union if it imposes a boycott of an Israeli college with which he is affiliated.

A motion passed at the UCU congress in Manchester this week proposed “commencing the investigatory process associated with the imposition of a boycott of Ariel College”. The union alleges that the college has played a significant role in the colonisation of the West Bank.

The motion noted “the continuing colonisation of the West Bank – construction of illegal settlements…disruption of Palestinian life…[and] denial of educational and scholarly opportunities to Palestinians”.

It also noted “the contribution of Israel’s academy in this process – scientific and social and historical research, siting of annexes on illegally confiscated land, and support for military occupation” as well as “the particular contribution of Ariel College in this process…and the recent decision of Israel to recognise Ariel as a ‘university centre’, on the way to its establishment as a university on occupied territory”.

Geoffrey Alderman, Michael Gross professor of politics and contemporary history at the University of Buckingham and a guest professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at Ariel College, said he would seek to take legal action against the UCU, of which he is a member, if any boycott were imposed.

He said: “If, for example, [the UCU] instructed, advised or encouraged its members not to invite to their campuses any Ariel faculty member, or to boycott lectures given by Ariel faculty members, or if it advised, instructed or encouraged its members who are on the boards of learned journals or learned societies not to consider any publication proposal from any Ariel faculty member, or indeed to expel those who are Ariel faculty members, then I would seek an appropriate remedy under UK anti-discrimination and equality legislation.”

The UCU declined to comment.

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