Today the university and college lecturers’ union UCU passed a motion supporting the campaign for an academic boycott of Israel (158 for, 99 against, 17 abstentions) and a further motion calling for a “moratorium on research and cultural collaborations with Israel”.
Quite apart from the affront to such notions as academic freedom, human solidarity and Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation that the boycott campaign represents, it is also worth noting that motion #30 (“Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions”) contains the following extraordinary statement: “Congress believes that in these circumstances passivity or neutrality is unacceptable and criticism of Israel cannot be construed as anti-semitic“. Now what the hell is that supposed to mean? That no criticism of Israel can ever, possibly be anti-semitic? Or that not all criticism of Israel is necessarily anti-semitic? It could be read either way, couldn’t it? Which is a bit worrying, coming as it does from university and college lecturers, who might be expected to know a thing or two about writing clear English.
But of course, they also know a thing or two about dissembling, covering their tracks and hiding their true motives. Just like the superficially plausible UCU member Tom Hickey, interviewed on BBC radio today. It was very regrettable, he said, that the union had to even consider the question of a boycott, and all the union had done today, in fact, was to vote for an ongoing discussion about the possibility of a boycott, to be decided once such a discussion had taken place. Very reasonable: until Mr Hickey made it clear that the entire purpose of such a “discussion” was to endorse the boycott. This, it turns out, is the same Mr Hickey who “invited” NATFHE members (immediately before it merged with the AUT to form the UCU last year) “to consider the appropriateness of a boycott of those (Israeli academics) who do not publicly disassociate themselves (from Israel’s “apartheid” policies). It is also the same Mr Hickey who was filmed last year giving a talk in front of a screen upon which was displayed a recommended reading list, which included the holocaust-deniar Roger Garoudy’s “The Case of Israel”. Not surpisingly, it turns out that Mr Hickey is a member of that leading purvayor of “left-wing” anti-semitism the “S”WP.
No doubt it is also the “S”WP who are behind a similar bid to commit UNISON, at its conference in June, to support a boycott of Israel.
As David Hirsh of Engage, the left-wing campaign against anti-semitism, comments (refering to the UCU vote): “…this vote demonstrates that we live in dangerous times. The zeitgeist is now such that a representative body of te British intelligensia is prepared to say, in all seriousness and after due consideration, that criticism of Isreal can never be anti-semitic”.
On a positive note, however: whenever the arguments of the boycotters and the “left” anti-semites have been subjected to proper debate amongst rank and file union membership (as they were in the AUT, and are at the moment within the NUJ), they have been resoundingly defeated. That’s what must happen now within the UCU.