UCU stalls on boycott decision

By Simon Rocker, June 19, 2008

Leaders of Britain’s main lecturers’ union have been accused of failing to throw out a controversial policy denounced by critics as a backdoor move to boycott Israel.

At its annual conference last month, the University and College Union voted to ask academics to “consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions”.

But the UCU executive last Friday put off any decision to implement the resolution, instead referring it for further discussion by a sub-committee.

Last year the union was forced to ditch a boycott motion after being advised by a leading human-rights lawyer that this would be illegal.

But the latest resolution could also fall foul of race-relations laws, according to a legal opinion given to Stop the Boycott.

Lorna Fitzsimons, chief executive of the Britain-Israel Communications and Research Centre (Bicom), who is jointly fronting the anti-boycott campaign with Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Jeremy Newmark, said that if the policy were legal, “the union would not have hesitated in implementing it. It is clearly playing for time.”

A spokesman for UCU, which insists that the resolution would not amount to a boycott, said: “Any question of implementing [it] will need to be looked at” by the strategy and finance committee, which meets next Friday, June 27.

Last updated: 12:21pm, June 19 2008