UK lecturers barred from boycotting Israel


London : British lecturers are told not to implement an academic boycott of Israel after the leadership of the University and College Union (UCU) said it had received legal advice that it would be unlawful.

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“It would be beyond the union’s powers and unlawful for the union, directly or indirectly, to call for, or to implement, a boycott by the union and its members of any kind of Israeli universities and other academic institutions,” the advice said.

But Sue Blackwell, a leading supporter of last May’s vote by for a boycott, criticized the claim that it risked risk of infringing discrimination legislation.

“It is quite ridiculous. It is cowardice. It is outrageous and an attack on academic freedom,” said Blackwell, who is a member of the UCU’s executive.

At its first inaugural conference, delegates from the 120,000 member union voted by 158 to 99 for a “comprehensive and consistent boycott.”
“Israel’s 40 year occupation has seriously damaged the fabric of Palestinian society through annexation, illegal settlement, collective punishment and restriction of movement,” said the motion, raised by lecturers of Brighton and East London universities.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, who opposed the vote, said on Friday that the boycott cannot be implemented after seeking legal advice and was calling on members and branches not to go ahead with meeting to discuss the boycott.

Her comments were welcomed by the British government, which has criticized May’s vote that came despite intense lobbying by pro- Zionist groups.

“An academic boycott would not have done anything to further the Middle East peace process, in fact the reverse,” according to Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell, who flew to Israel to limit any fallout.