UCU anti-Israel fanatics at it again

May 29, 2008 at 9:57 pm (anonymous, Anti-Racism, anti-semitism, israel, Jim D, unions)

I see that the anti-Israel fanatics in the University and College Union (UCU) have voted “overwhelmingly” to call on members to “consider” their links with Israeli academic institutions.

The weasely-worded motion is typical of the UCU’s professional Israel-haters, like SWP’er Tom Hickey of the union’s NEC and Brighton University: he has a long record of trying to dress up boycott resolutions as merely “suggestions” that union members “consider” the situation…this year, in typical slimy form, he told delegates: “Being a student or teacher in Palestine is not easy…we are talking about not just impediment but serial humiliation and that’s the order of the day in Palestine.”

“In the face of accusations of anti-semitism and legal threats we refuse to be intimidated. We will protect the union from legal threats but we will not be silenced.”

A typical dishonest rant from this charlatan. Firstly, he had nothing to say about positive solidarity with the Palestinians, only about boycotting Israel; secondly, he didn’t mention the fact that he and his organisation (the SWP) rejects the right of Israel to exist, even within pre-1967 borders; thirdly, his references to “legal action” against the union are nothing to do with anti-union legislation, but to do with the Race Relations Act 1976 – which the union (so it has been advised), would be in breach of, should it attempt to implement a boycott of Israeli institutions – and, therefore (inevitably) of Israeli Jewish individuals.

This boycott rubbish has already been thrown out by the membership of the old (pre-merger) union, the AUT,  when put to a ballot of the membership (noticeably, the pro-boycotters are vehemently opposed to a ballot); and the new union has been advised that any boycott would probably be in breach of anti-discrimination legislation…and other unions’ (eg: the T&G and UNISON) boycott policies have been noteable for their lack of effect. Yet still, the UCU anti-Israel fanatics persist.

The left has a long-standing principle against involving the law in unions’ internal affairs. Fair enough. I do not suggest legal action against the UCU itself; but the Race Relations Act 1976 can be used against individuals as well as institutions and employers. I strongly suggest that someone initiates action against Tom Hickey, on grounds of direct and indirect Race Discrimination.

P.S: see also a UCU conference visitor’s eye witness account of the “debate”, here.

This is also relevant and worth reading…

…so is this

28 Comments

  1. modernityblog said,

    I see that that salivating cranks at Lenin’s Tomb are momentarily happy, http://leninology.blogspot.com/2008/05/ucu-hits-back-on-boycott-hysteria.html and http://www.haloscan.com/comments/lenin/9222466820819047037/

    little do the adolescents of Lenin’s tomb appreciate how such motions bring trade unionism into disrepute, falling foul of anti-discriminatory legislation is something that no trade union should willingly bring upon itself, not only does it weaken the union, it causes confusion and resentment amongst the members

    UCU as the sole Union in academia doesn’t have a very high take-up rate (they won’t release the figures) but the percentage of academics and technical staff in UCU is not as high as it could be (given its the only trade union) and looks set to decrease by the day

    the motion is nothing if not a posturer’s delight, it achieves nothing, is negative and discriminatory, in practice

    so when UCU is weakened and unable to negotiate with the college and university authorities, then the “activists” who brought about that situation will have to ask themselves, what did we achieve? and why is the union declining under our influence?

  2. lazysu said,

    Some reject use of the courts in labour movement disputes as almost a matter of principle. What else are Jewish members supposed to do when their corporate body discriminates against them and they get no redress through the institutions own complaints procedures? All that is left is the courts.

  3. modernityblog said,

    it would be preferable if the Courts were not used and the Labour movement managed to sort out these issues internally

    however, if the UCU decides that it wishes to invoke (or promote) discriminatory policies against Israelis (and only Israelis) then I see how someone might well be tempted to take the issue to Court, I think we shouldn’t welcome it because it may mean the end of UCU

    after all what valid trade union wishes to be known as one that deliberately instigates discriminatory policies? or is known as “an institutionally antisemitic organisation”?

    I don’t think that is a good prospect for trade unions or in any way desirable, but that might be the eventual outcome, it is not to be welcomed either way

  4. lazysu said,

    The nec are likley to drop the motion at the next meeting. They do not want to go to court – for exactly the reasons you give – what union leader wants to be best remembered for loosing a case under the RRA?

  5. Dr Paul said,

    I’m not in favour of an academic boycott of Israel, but Jim D’s call for someone to be done under the Race Relations legislation on this issue is quite unacceptable.

  6. lazysu said,

    Dr Paul
    How come so?

  7. d.z. bodenberg said,

    How would you like them then to be “done” instead, Dr. Paul? With a fist in the head round the back of a campus bar? I’d prefer the legal route over violence, though both are almost equally insatisfactory.

  8. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Richard Seymour seems to have gotten rather hysterical when Jim asked him about the “Right of Return” for the Jews thrown out of other Middle Eastern nations, comparing him to David Irving (on the basis that Jim accidentally missed a zero off one of the figures which he gave) and calling him a “ranting alcoholic piece of shit”. Most un-academic language from the SWP’s up-and-coming Great White Hope.

  9. Dr Paul said,

    I’d rather deal with the boycott issue through rational and civilised discussion, rather than by behaving like a cut-price Engage or Anti-Defamation League. Threatening to take socialists to court and making accusations of anti-Semitism is, in my opinion, not the way to deal with this ill-thought-out campaign on Palestine/Israel.

  10. sackcloth and ashes said,

    The thing is, Dr Paul, you can’t really have a ‘rational and civilised discussion’ with the pro-boycotters, because they’re not interested in peace in the Middle East. People like Tom Hickey and cyberspace parrots like Richard Seymour and John Game don’t give a flying fuck about the Palestinians – they’re just a cipher for their armchair ‘anti-imperialism’, and I certainly don’t think the SWP (who are the main force pushing for a boycott in UCU) can be defined as ‘socialists’. They are anything but.

    At the end of the day, these fuckers are cut from the same cloth as the BNP. Their bigots, they thrive on inciting confrontation and race hatred (in this case anti-Semitism), and they intent on disgracing British academia. If it takes a court action to kill this racist boycott, so be it.

  11. lazysu said,

    Dr Paul
    The dispute isnt anymore only about P/I. Its about the rights of Jewish members not to be harrassed and discriminated against and for Israeli academics to be defended against harassment. Its about institutional antisemitism.
    Also the motion asks individual ucu members to consider no longer collaborating with Israelis. This is a silent boycott. It cannot be monitored or controlled. It is not under any sort of democractic influcence. That makes me uneasy.

  12. resistor said,

    Israel has no such qualms.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7427983.stm

    Gaza students denied by blockade

    By Wyre Davies
    BBC News, Jerusalem

    “I regret to inform you that the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State will not be able to finalise your Fulbright Student Scholarship for 2008.”

    With those words, in a brief letter from the United States Consulate in Jerusalem, the dreams of seven talented and ambitious young people from Gaza were dashed.

    and

    http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/martin-bright/2008/05/israel-british-iran

    Iran is now a constant source of fear in the Israeli psyche. Mark Regev, spokesman for Olmert, said that Britain, like the rest of Europe, needs to wake up to the reality of the threat: “The governor of the Bank of Iran needs to understand that because of the nuclear programme, his daughter can’t study at Cambridge.”

  13. Jim Denham said,

    This is very interesting (and before some professional “anti-Zionist” complains: Yes! I am aware that the source is far from being left-wing; but it’s still worth reading, OK?):

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1181813047545

  14. Johnny Rook said,

    SWP’s up-and-coming Great White Hope

    that’s a little unfair

  15. Lobby Ludd said,

    “The left has a long-standing principle against involving the law in unions’ internal affairs. Fair enough. I do not suggest legal action against the UCU itself; but the Race Relations Act 1976 can be used against individuals as well as institutions and employers. I strongly suggest that someone initiates action against Tom Hickey, on grounds of direct and indirect Race Discrimination.”

    Direct or indirect racial discrimination, on the grounds that he advocates a boycott of Israeli academic institutions?

    You “strongly suggest that someone initiates action against Tom Hickey”?

    Go ahead then, Mr Denham.

  16. modernityblog said,

    Hickey was not only an advocate for boycotting Israeli academic institutions, would also for a silent boycott of Israelis on British campuses, see the motion

    this is demonstrated as Hickey wishes the complete termination of research links between British and Israeli institutions, those research links are peopled by humans, often Israelis, sometimes Jews, many institutions have specialist links, as with UCL’s Jewish Studies department, which is key to their functioning and so the effect is ultimately on individuals and is discriminatory.

    there is on top of that plenty of anecdotal evidence that members are leaving UCU because they feel it is an institutionally antisemitic organisation, (and no that does not mean everyone in the organisation is antisemitic or racist, just that the conduct of the organisation over the last few years appears to be hostile to many Israeli (or Jewish) academics who are members.)

    clearly all of this (along with solid legal advise, see Lord Lester on this topic) makes a very strong case that such a negative and hostile climate is discriminatory and counter to EU directives, equal opportunities statements, etc by the UCU and Universities.

    thus is bringing UCU into disrepute.

  17. Lobby Ludd said,

    “Hickey was not only an advocate for boycotting Israeli academic institutions, would also for a silent boycott of Israelis on British campuses, see the motion”

    OK, I do not have the motion to hand, not being an academic. Can you show me (us) the bit which calls for a ‘silent boycott of Israelis on British campuses’.

    (What is a ‘silent boycott’?)

    Meanwhile, Mr D should continue with his legal action, shouldn’t he?

  18. modernityblog said,

    [sigh]

    the motion is on-line, can be found at http://mystical-politics.blogspot.com/2008/05/text-of-resolution-ucu-25.html and other places

    read it yourself now, and then make your own mind up

  19. modernityblog said,

    ops my previous comment seems to be stuck in the moderation queue.

    here’s the link http://mystical-politics.blogspot.com/2008/05/text-of-resolution-ucu-25.html

    read it first, then make up your own mind

  20. modernityblog said,

    the WordPress filter is chewing up my posting of the links to the motion, you’ll have to find via google, it is motion 25

    it is also on the stop the boycott site

  21. tim said,

    Why does Hickey want to breach th Race Realtions Act?

  22. lazysu said,

    the motion is on the awl site.
    the legal opinion is via the engage site
    the silent boycott is the term given to actions carried out in private, without democratic control, by individuals acting behind closed doors – its creepy and uncontrollable and unchallengable because no one knows about it.
    Brighton University, like many sizable institutions has links to Israel. I dont think Hickey has campaigned to break these links – maybe he has but Ive not seen a record. Odd that isnt it?

  23. modernityblog said,

    “I dont think Hickey has campaigned to break these links – maybe he has but Ive not seen a record. Odd that isnt it?”

    could be a case of “do as I say, not as I do”?

    it is a shame that the debates were not televised in any way, has they been we could have seen Hickey’s speech on the matter via something like YouTube

    damn pity in the age of the Internet that UCU can not find the wherewithal to increase knowledge of and access to the conference debate by means of some fairly cheap and easy technology?

    still that will probably come by 2080 or later, on past form :(

  24. Dr Paul said,

    Here’s the offending motion:

    Congress notes the

    1. Continuation of illegal settlement, killing of civilians and the impossibility of civil life, including education

    2. Humanitarian catastrophe imposed on Gaza by Israel and the EU

    3. Apparent complicity of most of the Israeli academy

    4. Legal attempts to prevent UCU debating a boycott of Israeli academic institutions; and legal advice that such debates are lawful

    – Congress affirms that

    5. Criticism of Israel or Israeli policy are not, as such, antisemitic;

    6. Pursuit and dissemination of knowledge are not uniquely immune from their moral and political consequences;

    – Congress resolves that

    7. Colleagues be asked to consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions, and to discuss the occupation with individuals and institutions concerned, including Israeli colleagues with whom they are collaborating;

    8. UCU widely disseminate the personal testimonies of UCU and PFUUPE delegations to Palestine and the UK, respectively;

    9. The testimonies will be used to promote a wide discussion by colleagues of the appropriateness of continued educational links with Israeli academic institutions;

    10. UCU facilitate and encourage twinning arrangements and other direct solidarity with Palestinian institutions;

    11. Ariel College, an explicitly colonising institution in the West Bank, be investigated under the formal Greylisting Procedure.

  25. Dr Paul said,

    Re Sackcloth and Ashes’ comments. One can have a civilised discussion with pro-boycotters. I know, as I’ve talked to quite a few of them (including SWP members) about the subject, and, moreover, I have no doubts whatsoever about their political integrity and commitment to finding an equitable solution to the question of Palestine and Israel. Pro-boycotters such as Moshé Machover have spent decades trying to do this: to say that they’re little different to the fascists of the British National Party is a disgrace. To say that SWPers don’t care about the plight of the Palestinians is the sort of stale red-baiting I recall over the years aimed at left-wing union activists (including those in the Alliance for Workers Liberty) that we weren’t really concerned with the interests of the union members, but just wanted to cause trouble.

    My problem with them is not their commitment or integrity; it’s their tactics, of which the UCU motion is a classic example. Clause 7 leaves a nasty taste: ‘Colleagues be asked to consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions, and to discuss the occupation with individuals and institutions concerned, including Israeli colleagues with whom they are collaborating.’ This could lead to all sorts of problems and unpleasantness, and I can imagine the real Jew-baiters, of whom there will be some sneaking around in Britain’s colleges will be rubbing their hands with glee at this; also, well-meaning but politically ignorant people will almost certainly find themselves in dangerous territory (I’ve found that it’s amongst these sort of people, rather than committed left-wingers, where chatter about the ‘Jewish Lobby’ and so on can be heard).

    In short, this resolution can open the doors to a witch-hunting atmosphere with very possible anti-Semitic overtones. This is not what the proposers want, but this is what could happen.

    The other issue here is that this boycott campaign is bound to be ineffectual. How can it work? If anyone is so rash as to ask an Israeli academic what he thinks about Palestine before they converse about, say, nuclear fission, global warming, mad cow disease or whatever, such a person will almost certainly soon find himself up before his head of department on a disciplinary. Most academics will ignore the matter, seeing the UCU leadership as out of touch with its members, rabbiting away about one of its hobby-horses rather than taking up more pressing issues, and therefore be less likely to take seriously the leadership on other issues (I’ve seen this happen in other unions).

    The best way to deal with this ill-conceived idea is therefore to discuss it with the pro-boycotters in a way that puts them on the defensive, point out what the resolution’s consequences are in respect how it helps the Palestinians — it can’t, the possibility of encouraging anti-Semitic attitudes — it could, and how it could help build an effective union — it doesn’t.

    One must make sure that a campaign against the boycott proposal does not end up getting mixed up with people who have no interests in obtaining justice for the Palestinians or building effective trade unions here.

  26. modernityblog said,

    thanks Dr Paul and what about the amendments which were defeated ? surely they provide some context?

  27. Jim Denham said,

    Lobby: as I am not a member of the UCU, or an academic, or Jewish, I am not likely to be effected by this discriminatory policy, and so will not be initiating any action. But I’d gladly help and support anyone who does. But let’s hope that the UCU’s NEC see sense and either disown the resolution, or put it to a ballot of the membership. But I see no objection, in principle, to using the RRA against individuals who seek to harass and discriminate against Jewish people (both Israeli and British), and the likes of Hickey and the scum who post at Seymour’s anti-semitic “Lenin’s Tomb” are clearly intent upon doing just that. They deserve all they get.

  28. sackcloth and ashes said,

    Dr Paul, with all due respect (and I’m not being sarcastic), but if the pro-boycotters were sincere about ‘finding an equitable solution to the question of Palestine and Israel’ they would not be supporting a course of action which stigmatises all Israeli academics, regardless of their political views and their opinions on the Palestinian question. They would also pay as much attention to calling on Hamas and other rejectionists to cease their attacks on civilians as they would for the IDF, and indeed they would take the same critical approach on human rights abuses for Fatah, Hamas et al as they would do for the Israeli state.

    I concede from your comments that there are pro-boycotters with genuine intentions, but the swuppies and others associated with them are not cut from the same cloth. I also reject the charge of ‘red baiting’ because I don’t actually happen to believe that the SWP are socialists. They (or at any rate the party leadership) are a bunch of opportunistic shits who will sell their souls if they think it gives them a shot at the big-time. Their participation in the RESPECT farago proves this beyond a doubt.

    I appreciate the fact that you are anti-boycott as well, but as far as I can see your recommendation that the best way of dealing with this is to persuade pro-boycotters that their proposals don’t help Palestinians, don’t help UCU and don’t help the cause of Middle Eastern peace will come to nothing. Because when it comes down to it, the people who are the main movers behind the boycott don’t give a flying fuck about any of these things.

    Yours,

    S&A

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