Israeli boycott refuses to stay off the agenda

January 12, 2007

The proposed academic boycott of Israel is likely to resurface as an issue for the University and College Union during the leadership election, it emerged this week.

A motion passed last year by Natfhe asking members to consider a boycott became defunct when the union merged with the Association of University Teachers, which opposed the stance.

Many UCU candidates would prefer the boycott debate to stay in the background, but they fear it will re-emerge in the campaign.

Tom Hickey, the originator of the Natfhe motion, is standing for president.

He said he did not wish the boycott to play a big part. But he added: "My suspicion is that some people will try to make it a central question to divert attention from problems facing the union."

Sally Hunt, the former AUT general secretary who is standing for UCU general secretary, said it was "inevitable" that the boycott would be an election issue. She added: "The Socialist Workers Party members within the UCU have already said these elections 'affect wider political issues, such as the academic boycott of Israel'.

"My view is that boycotts of this kind are not effective, are hugely divisive and are not what members want us to concentrate on."

Roger Kline, another candidate for general secretary, said: "I do not agree that it is currently possible to demonstrate that a boycott of Israel can be an effective way of furthering the human rights of Palestinians."

The third general secretary candidate, Peter Jones, said: "It is my view that Israel should be securing its own borders peacefully, and I am in favour of anything that might help bring that about."

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