On May 30, the British Academic Union, UCU, passed two motions supporting the rights of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. The UCU is a merger of the AUT (Association of University Teachers) and NATFHE (National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education)and represents over 120 000 academic teachers.
The first resolution regarding academic boycott requires the Union to:
– circulate the full text of the Palestinian boycott call to all branches
– encourage members to consider the moral implications of links with Israeli universities
– organise a UK campus tour for Palestinian academic trade unionists
– issue guidance to members on appropriate forms of action
– actively encourage branches to create direct educational links with Palestinian educational institutions including nationally sponsored programmes for teacher exchanges etc.
The second resolution targets the academic and research cooperation programs of the European Union with Israel and requires the Union to campaign:
1. for the restoration of all international aid to the PA and all its rightful revenues
2. against the upgrade of Israel’s status with the EU while the occupation and human rights abuses continue
3. for a moratorium on research and cultural collaborations with Israel via EU and European Science Foundation funding until Israel abides by UN resolutions
The first resolution has been passed by 158 votes in favour and 99 against while the latter call has been passed by an even clearer majority though no vote counting has been done.
Both motions provide the institutional support and backing for further awareness raising and campaigning on the Palestinian BDS call and will hopefully lead to its full implementation among British academia.
These historic motions are the result of years of discussion, lobbying and political awareness-raising. The AUT had already passed a motion in 2005 calling for the boycott of three Israeli universities, singled out for their particular role in sustaining the occupation and colonisation of Palestine. However, the motion was invalidated by a re-call meeting after a massive campaign lead by the Zionist movement that set-up a commission to investigate the legitimacy of boycott motions. One year later, the NATFHE passed a boycott motion recommending their members to take into consideration the Palestinian BDS call.
The first Annual Congress of the newly formed UCU had thus to take into account this legacy of solidarity. It thus first approved a motion setting guidelines on when boycott can legitimately be endorsed by the union. This statement, resulting from the work of the AUC commission undertaken after the recall meeting, outlines:
‘The commission believes, after careful consideration, and noting that we are not capable of policing the academic world in a pro-active way, that triggers for actions leading to greylisting and boycott can only result from a request from a legitimate organisation within the state, or within the occupied territory or institution in question. Legitimate organisations would include a trade union movement, a recognised higher education union or other representative organisation. Exceptionally, a decision to impose greylisting or boycotting might be taken following consultation with Education International in circumstances where legitimate organisations cannot be lawfully established within the state or institutions in question, or in circumstances where institutions or branches of institutions, are established in territories under unlawful occupation as defined by UN resolutions.â
In the case of Palestine, not only the Higher Education union but also trade union movements and civil society at large are calling ever more insistently for concrete action and the implementation of the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions. Palestinian unions, campaigns and civil society had gathered in the wake of the UCU congress in support of the boycott motion https://stopthewall.org/worldwideactivism/1464.shtml. The guidelines deriving from the Commission formed under the pressure of Zionist lobbyists, de facto underlined the need to endorse the Palestinian boycott call, keeping in line with the above recommendations.
The UCU now stands together with the South African trade union congress, COSATU, the Canadian Ontario branch of the public service union CUPE and other unions in Norway, Scotland and Ireland in the forefront of a growing BDS movement, as well within the ranks of international trade unionism.