Thursday, May 31, 2007

UK lecturers’ union votes to back Israel boycott

Lecturers’ union votes to back Israel boycott-Life & Style-Education-TimesOnline

Britain’s lecturers’ union gave its backing to a boycott of Israeli
universities and academics yesterday, in protest over Israel’s
treatment of the Palestinians.

Delegates to the inaugural
congress of the University and College Union (UCU), which represents
more than 120,000 academics, condemned Israel for denying Palestinians
their “educational rights” and accused its academics of being complicit
in “the occupation”. They voted by 158 to 99 in fa-vour of a
pro-boycott motion.

Two years ago the Association of University
Lecturers (AUT) caused worldwide outrage when it demanded a similar
boycott. The union eventually overturned the resolution later that
year. The other main union, Natfhe, continued to support a boycott at
its conference last year, but the policy was abandoned when it merged
with the AUT to form the UCU soon afterwards.

Last week, Steven
Weinberg, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, cancelled his visit to
Britain in protest against calls for boycotts of Israel by journalists
and doctors and the UCU motion. Jewish organisations in Britain
condemned the UCU vote as an attack on academic freedom. Jeremy
Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, an umbrella
group of leading Jewish figures, said: “This is a full-fron-tal assault
on academic freedom. It defies common sense and undermines the
priorities and freedoms on which British academia is based.”

called on Sally Hunt, the UCU joint general-secretary, to honour her
election pledge to hold a referendum before implementing any boycott.

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