On May 29-30, 2011, the University and College Union (UCU), which is “the largest trade union and professional association for academics, lecturers, trainers, researchers and academic-related staff working in further and higher education throughout the UK” , held its annual congress. In keeping with its tradition of support for Palestinian rights and in maintaining effective pressure on Israel to abide by international law, the UCU congress adopted the following motions:
36 Composite: Threats to academic freedom in Israel and Palestine - National Executive Committee, LSE
- Israel's continued illegal occupation of Palestine and daily oppression of Palestinian teachers and students
- the restrictions on the free movement of Palestinian Academics within the Occupied Territories and crossing between the Territories and Israel and on foreign travel
- Israel's ongoing construction of settlements
- the current witch-hunting of Israeli academics, civil rights campaigners and NGOs who are deemed to be damaging Israel's economic interests by their political activities
- the recent alarming moves in the Israeli Knesset to penalise Israeli academics who support boycott action or even just provide information which may assist boycotts; this law will lay academics open to fines of £5000 with 'no need to demonstrate that injury was done' and to unlimited damages if losses are caused.
- the petition from 155 Israeli academics expressing their 'unwillingness to take part in any type of academic activity taking place in the college operating in the settlement of Ariel', calling Ariel an illegal settlement whose existence contravenes international law and the Geneva Convention.
Congress deplores these attacks on the academic freedom of our Palestinian and Israeli colleagues.
Congress instructs NEC to:
- circulate to all members
- the call by the Israeli academics
- the PACBI call for academic and cultural boycott of Israel
- information about the current legislation passing through the Knesset threatening heavy fines and other penalties on Israelis taking non-violent action against the occupation.
- seek a delegation to meet the Israeli Ambassador to raise our concerns
- press the Foreign Office to protest to the Israeli Government
- raise the issue with Education International and press them to seek similar action by all affiliates
- publicise these threats and our actions in response.
B27 Detention of Ahmad Qatamesh by Israeli security forces - National Executive Committee
Congress notes with dismay that:
- Palestinian academic and writer Ahmad Qatamesh was arrested by Israeli security forces on 21 April from his brother's home in Ramallah
- Qatamesh's wife, her daughter, her sister and her young niece were held as hostages in their home until Qatamesh was arrested
- Qatamesh is now being held as an administrative detainee, allowing him to be detained indefinitely without charge.
Congress expresses its condemnation of this fundamental breach of human rights, instructs the General Secretary to raise the matter urgently with the FCO and the Israeli Embassy, and agrees to circulate the Amnesty appeal for Dr Qatamesh to all members, urging them to write to MPs and the Israeli embassy calling for Qatamesh to be either released or charged and given a fair trial.
Congress further instructs the General Secretary to call on the Israeli authorities to end the use of administrative detention.
70 EUMC working definition of anti-semitism - National Executive Committee
Congress notes with concern that the so-called 'EUMC working definition of antisemitism', while not adopted by the EU or the UK government and having no official status, is being used by bodies such as the NUS and local student unions in relation to activities on campus.
Congress believes that the EUMC definition confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine antisemitism, and is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus.
- that UCU will make no use of the EUMC definition (e.g. in educating members or dealing with internal complaints)
- that UCU will dissociate itself from the EUMC definition in any public discussion on the matter in which UCU is involved
- that UCU will campaign for open debate on campus concerning Israel's past history and current policy, while continuing to combat all forms of racial or religious discrimination.
Posted on 03-06-2011