One year after the AUTâs courageous vote for academic boycott, NATFHE, Britainâs second union for educational and academic staff, voted on Monday in favour of a motion recommending its members boycott Israeli academics and institutions that do not publicly declare their opposition to the Occupation and Israelâs racist policies.
The 69,000-member National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) debated the proposal for the boycott at its annual conference in the northern English city of Blackpool. Two parts of the motion passed with a show of hands while a third went to a vote. The motion passed with 106 in favour and 71 against, with 21 abstentions.
Already in the run-up to the unionâs general assembly, Zionist lobbyists had inundated NATFHE staff with petitions and statements trying to pressure the union to back down from support to the Palestinian unified call for boycott, divestment and sanctions. It resembled the costly campaign of Zionist intimidation which led to the AUT measure of 2005 subsequently being overturned.
Paul Mackney, General Secretary of NATFHE stated âMany emails berate threats to deny academic freedom for Israeli professors but fail to mention that academic freedom in Palestine is a hollow joke. Even where staff and students are allowed freedom of movement to attend university, the material basis for a functioning academic life barely exists. [â¦] Actually it is not possible to be ‘even handed’ in the face of such injustice. The Palestinian people and Palestinian civil society including the universities need support and solidarity as never before and I will not be bullied into silence.â
This strong and clear stand by the union has led PACBI (Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott Initiative) to underline that âThe NATFHE vote proves once again that despite all the obstacles, boycotting Israeli academic institutions due to their complicity in maintaining Israelâs special form of apartheid against the Palestinians remains prominent on the agenda of western progressives and human rights activists.â
The NATFHE vote is an important step towards the implementation of the call for academic boycott. It has grown on last yearâs step by the AUT to call for boycott and shows the determination of British academics not to be complicit with or supportive of Israeli Apartheid. While a motion can be overthrown, the call for the isolation of Apartheid Israel cannot be silenced. The movement for effective solidarity and concrete pressure on the Occupation based on realities and in the pursuit of justice for the Palestinian people continues to gain momentum, setting a precedent for other unions in the UK and in other countries.
TEXT OF THE BOYCOTT MOTION
â198C ACADEMIC RESPONSIBILITYâ
Conference notes continuing Israeli apartheid policies, including construction of the exclusion wall, and discriminatory educational practices. It recalls its motion of solidarity last year for the AUT resolution to exercise moral and professional responsibility.
Conference instructs the NEC to facilitate meetings in each university and college, and to circulate information to Branches, offering to fund the speakers’ travel costs.
Conference invites members to consider their own responsibility for ensuring equity and non-discrimination in contacts with Israeli educational institutions or individuals, and to consider the appropriateness of a boycott of those that do not publicly dissociate themselves from such policies.