Expel Israeli ambassador, UCU Congress will demand

Conference motion will call on Government to support Palestinian self-determination, but an academic boycott of Israel is not on the agenda. Melanie Newman reports

April 21, 2009

A motion due to be debated at the University and College Union’s annual Congress in May will call on the Government to expel the Israeli ambassador from the UK.

The motion, put forward by the North West Regional Committee, also demands that the Government bans arms sales to and economic support for Israel, and asks it to “support self-determination of the Palestinian people”.

However, there are no motions calling for an academic boycott of Israel’s universities.

In 2008, the UCU Congress passed a motion calling for members to “consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions”.

Speaking after the debate last year, Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU, said: “Because of the constant misreporting of the motions considered by UCU’s Congress,

I feel I have to state that we have passed a motion to provide solidarity with the Palestinians, not to boycott Israel or any other country’s academic institutions.

“I made it clear to delegates that the union will defend their right to debate this and other issues. Implementation of the motion within the law will now fall to the national executive committee.”

The Stop the Boycott campaign, which is run by UCU members seeking to halt any attempt by the union to cut links with Israeli universities and academics, had earlier produced a legal opinion from two QCs.

The opinion found that the 2008 motion was illegal as it would “expose Jewish members of the union to indirect discrimination”, and also fell foul of the UCU’s own rules. After the debate, a group of UCU members wrote to the union via law firm Mishcon de Reya demanding repayment of any union funds spent implementing the motion. The litigants warned the UCU that they would consider suing its trustees individually for recovery of the money.

This year’s motions, contained in the first report of the Congress’ business committee, may be amended before the event in Bournemouth, which is scheduled for -29 May.


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