Posted by: Lister | May 31, 2007

UCU votes to boycott Israel

The vote, 158 to 99, has been condemned by Yitzhak Herzog — Israel’s minister “responsible for the government’s handling of issues related to anti-Semitism”. Supporting the oppressed is one-sided. Kind of like boycotting apartheid South Africa was one-sided.

The vote now goes out to the full membership of the UCU.

In 2005, Fraser acted to overturn another boycott against Israel, which had been approved by the Association of University Teachers (AUT.) That decision was overturned a month after it was passed. In 2006, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) also moved to boycott Israel, but its decision became invalid shortly thereafter when NATFHE and AUT merged to form the UCU.

In another story, Four Israeli university presidents and several high-profile authors today called on the Israeli government to lift its restrictions on Palestinian students.

The group said Israel should lift a ban that prevents all Palestinian students in Gaza from studying in the West Bank. Several courses, including medicine, occupational therapy and health administration are only available in the West Bank, but Gazan students are not given permission to travel there to study. Israel usually cites security concerns.

The motion was proposed by Philosophy lecturer at Brighton University Tom Hickey, his motive being the “barbaric” occupation of Palestinian territories.

He claimed that only a “handful of academics had separated themselves from collusion with the occupation”, adding that justice must not be limited to home.

[…] University of East London delegate Philip Marfleet acknowledged the issue was a “highly charged” one and explained how he was a convert to the boycott campaign. He said he had visited universities in Israel and in the occupied territories, and that the difference between the two was striking. While the Israeli university was functioning well, the Palestinian university he saw had been closed for 51 consecutive weeks because of arrests and incursions by Israeli forces, he claimed.

Another delegate, Sue Blackwell from Birmingham University, described how during a visit to her campus, the mayor of the Palestinian town of Ramallah had said: “People are beginning to starve now. But for Israel it is business as usual.”

Journeys across the West Bank which had taken 20 minutes now took several hours because of all the army checkpoints, Ms Blackwell said.

“It is only that change on the climate of opinion which will in the end, as it did in South Africa, create a lasting and just change in the Middle East.”

The 2006 NATFHE vote asked for a boycott of Israeli lecturers and academic institutions who do not publicly dissociate themselves from Israel’s “apartheid policies”. I think a selective boycott would be better than a blanket ban.

Some of those policies can be illustrated by the good news of the opening of a mixed school in Galilee, back in 1997.

Established in 1997, it was the first mixed school in Israel to host fully integrated classrooms teaching in both Arabic and Hebrew.

[…] Arab citizens of Israel make up 20% of the population, but the schooling system has traditionally remained rigorously segregated, with separate languages and curricula for Jewish and Arab students.

[…] it’s impossible to tell the Arab from the Jewish students.

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