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UCU Calls Off Israel Boycott Debate


Alex Miller

The 120,000 strong University and College Union (UCU) has called off a planned debate on a possible academic boycott of Israeli universities as well as a speaking tour of the UK by Palestinian academics. UCU delegates at the union’s annual Congress in May 2007 had voted to circulate and debate a proposal for an academic boycott of Israel issued by Palestinian trade unions, NGOs and community organisations.

However, in a press release issued on September 28, the union announced that it was cancelling the debate following the receipt of legal advice according to which “making a call to boycott Israeli institutions would run a serious risk of infringing discrimination legislation” and “The call to boycott is also outside the aims and objectives of the union”. The press release stated that according to the legal advice “to ensure that the union acts lawfully, meetings should not be used to ascertain the level of support for such a boycott”.

Sue Blackwell, a member of the UCU national executive, and a member of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), told Green Left Weekly: “The resolution passed at UCU Congress did not call for a boycott, only for a debate which involved Palestinian academic trade unionists coming to the UK for a speaking tour. The
cancellation of this tour on spurious legal grounds is an attack on free speech as well as a further kick in the teeth for Palestinian students and teachers. Most UCU members have never had the opportunity to hear direct from a Palestinian colleague what oppression and indignity they have to suffer every day of their lives, as a result of the occupation with its roadblocks, checkpoints, arrests, shootings and arbitrary restrictions. BRICUP will do its best to ensure that despite the cowardice of the UCU's leadership, a tour of Palestinian
trade unionists will take place in the near future”.

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