Boycotters win new motion

By Leon Symons, May 30, 2008

The next time an Israeli academic answers the phone and hears an English voice, there may be a different type of lecture in store.

“What are you doing to help Palestinian academics and universities? What action have you taken to protest about the occupation of Palestinian land? Have you served in the Israel Defence Force?”

This is the sort of grilling that Israel’s lecturers may face after the University and College Union voted through a motion on Wednesday afternoon. It did not contain the word “boycott”, but critics claim that the effect could be similar.

The resolution contains a reference to the “personal testimonies” of members of British and Palestinian academic delegations which “will be used to promote a wide discussion by colleagues of the appropriateness of continued educational links with Israeli academic institutions”.

“Put that, together with the part that talks about academics being asked ‘to consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions’, and you have the reason that we are calling this a boycott resolution,” said Jeremy Newmark, co-chair of the Stop The Boycott campaign.

Immediately after the resolution debate, the anti-boycott group Engage held a fringe meeting where a number of Jewish academics are understood to have told three UCU national executive members that they were ready to resign.

The next two weeks are likely to be significant for both pro- and anti-boycotters. The first meeting of the UCU national executive is due in two weeks, when new members, including Engage chairman Jon Pike, will be on board. The meeting will test the mettle of those in favour.

The anti-boycotters, seasoned by last year’s campaign, have already got their campaign under way and will be looking to rally as much support as possible from across the academic world.

Last updated: 11:10am, May 29 2008