CIRCULAR UCU/31   4 July 2007

University and College Union

Egmont House, 25-31 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9UT

To

UCU branch/local association secretaries

Topic

Congress resolution on Israel/Palestine: arrangements for implementation

Action

For information

Contact

Please see circular for contacts

 

Dear Colleague

 

I am writing to update you on the implementation of resolution 30 passed at UCU Congress.  The resolution deals with a range of issues, including circulation and discussion of the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.  A copy of the resolution is appended, together with resolution 28 on international greylisting and boycotting (Appendix 2).   A copy of the Palestinian boycott call is attached (Appendix 3).

 

At its meeting on 8 June the national executive committee (NEC) remitted the resolution to the Strategy and Finance Committee (SFC).  The SFC met on 29 June.  Its decisions on the implementation of resolution 30 are attached (Appendix 1). 

 

The subject matter of the resolution has led to widespread comment and publicity throughout the world.  Members, branches and local associations have naturally been anxious to receive guidance from the union as soon as possible.  It is important therefore that branches and local associations are made aware of the SFC decisions without delay.

 

The general secretary will also be writing directly to members via email about the plans for its implementation and inviting their views (see paras 9 and 11 of the SFC decisions).  The text of her letter to members is attached for information (Appendix 4) and will also be available on the UCU website.

 

As a result of potential legal ramifications and challenges to the union, advice has been taken about how best to minimise any possible risks to the union and its officers and members arising from the implementation of resolution 30.  The decisions of SFC have been informed by that advice (para 6).

 

You will see that SFC has instructed the general secretary to seek to ensure that the debate within the union on the issues raised by resolution 30 is fair and even-handed (para 1).

 

The union nationally will organise the regional meetings referred to in para 4 and will arrange for speakers from Palestine and Israel to address those meetings, as described in paras 2 and 3.  The programme of regional meetings will be circulated to branches and local associations as soon as the arrangements have been made.

 

Any branches or local associations wishing to organise their own meetings should ensure that the organisation and conduct of those meetings conforms with the principles of fairness and even-handedness.  If external speakers are to be invited, advice should be sought first from UCU headquarters who will be able to suggest suitable speakers from both sides of the debate.  Any expenditure on the meeting should be restricted to the facilitation of a balanced debate and must not be used to promote partisan views.  A factsheet on the legal responsibilities referred to in para 5 of the SFC decisions will be circulated shortly.

 

It is essential that all activities associated with resolution 30 take place strictly within the terms of the decisions made by Strategy and Finance Committee.  If branches or local associations have any concerns or questions about these decisions, they should contact headquarters for advice before making any local arrangements for meetings.  The contacts are:

Matt Waddup on arrangements for holding local meetings and the arrangements for the nationally organised regional meetings (mwaddup@ucu.org.uk);

Michael Scott on legal issues (mscott@ucu.org.uk).

 

Resolution 30 also instructs the NEC to encourage and support branches to create direct links with Palestinian educational institutions.  Separate advice on that aspect of the resolution is being prepared.  The contacts for this work are Paul Bennett (pbennett@ucu.org.uk) or Brian Everett (beverett@ucu.org.uk).

 

Yours sincerely

 

Sally Hunt

General secretary


APPENDIX ONE

 

Decisions of the Strategy and Finance Committee (SFC)

 

1        That, in line with the wishes of congress and the national executive committee (NEC), the general secretary shall seek to ensure a fair and even-handed debate within the union of resolution 30 and that union expenditure to support one side in the debate shall also be offered to the other.

 

2        That, consistent with resolution 28 as passed by congress, the general secretary is asked to ensure that contributors to the debate from both Palestine and Israel shall be trade unionists representing either bona fide faculty trade unions or representatives of the bona fide national trade union centres.

 

3        That, consistent with the safety and security of our colleagues in both Palestine and Israel, the general secretary shall approach the recognised trade union centres in the UK, Palestine and Israel and the ITUC for assistance and shall use best endeavours to ensure that legitimate representatives of both sides of the debate are available to speak.

 

4        That, in recognising the instability of the current situation in Palestine and the consequent difficulty in free movement between there and Europe, the debate called for by congress is best facilitated by a serious of major meetings at regional centres: London, Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham, Manchester and a location in the South West, and that while the specific timing of this shall be subject to the general secretary following her approach to the national trade union centres, the aim shall be to conclude the debate in time to report to a November meeting of the NEC.  The SFC will review this situation in September.

 

5        That arising from the regional debates, branches and regional committees shall be issued with guidance by the general secretary which, taking account of our legal advice, shall set out the principles SFC has agreed for a fair and even-handed debate, responsibilities of the local union under current legislation and guidance on ensuring the safety and security of members and others during any local meetings.

 

6        That we note with concern the risks to the union potentially arising from resolution 30 as set out in the legal advice by the director of legal services and ask the general secretary both to minimise the union’s exposure to such risk and to continue to monitor the risks to the union arising both from the resolution itself and from any subsequent decision of the union.

 

7        That in the light of our legal advice the union creates a separate expenditure heading to facilitate the execution of resolution 30 and that increases in this expenditure beyond that already identified shall only be agreed by this committee.

 

8        That the general secretary shall provide a full report of the debate initiated by resolution 30 to the November 2007 NEC meeting. 

 

9        SFC encourages branches to seek members’ views directly and in addition asks the general secretary to make it as easy as possible for members both to participate in the debates and to make their individual views known to the NEC.

 

10      SFC recognises that following the debate on the Palestinian call to boycott in resolution 30, the union's future policy on this general issue needs to be decided in such a way to ensure that members on both sides of the debate have maximum confidence in the process. It therefore asks the general secretary to provide a report to the 2008 congress  setting out the results of the resolution 30 consultation.

 

11      The general secretary to summarise these decisions in a letter to members which will also seek to encourage the maximum participation in the debate around resolution 30.


APPENDIX 2

Congress Resolutions 30 and 28

 

Motion 30 as amended

        

Congress notes that Israel's 40-year occupation has seriously damaged the fabric of Palestinian society through annexation, illegal settlement, collective punishment and restriction of movement.

Congress deplores the denial of educational rights for Palestinians by invasions, closures, checkpoints, curfews, and shootings and arrests of teachers, lecturers and students.

Congress condemns the complicity of Israeli academia in the occupation, which has provoked a call from Palestinian trade unions for a comprehensive and consistent international boycott of all Israeli academic institutions.

Congress believes that in these circumstances passivity or neutrality is unacceptable and criticism of Israel cannot be construed as anti-semitic.

Congress instructs the NEC to

·              circulate the full text of the Palestinian boycott call to all branches/LAs for information and discussion;

·              encourage members to consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions;

·              organise a UK-wide campus tour for Palestinian academic/educational trade unionists;

·              issue guidance to members on appropriate forms of action.

·              actively encourage and support branches to create direct links with Palestinian educational institutions and to help set up nationally sponsored programmes for teacher exchanges, sabbatical placements, and research

 

Motion 28

 

Congress endorses the policy on international greylisting and boycott in UCU/16.

 

Policy on International Greylisting and Boycotts

[AUT document, May 2006]

 

The Investigative Commission on Israel/Palestine established by Special Council in May 2005 makes the following recommendations regarding the action that may be taken in relation to the boycotting of higher education institutions in another country i.e. an international boycott. 

 

In drawing this proposal together, the commission has been very much aware that the AUT, while being a significant player in higher education terms worldwide, is a relatively small organisation in international terms with limited resources.  It is not capable of policing the academic world or of imposing its own policy at a global level.  AUT needs, therefore, to work in collaboration with the national and international organisations to which it is affiliated (notably the TUC, ETUC, Education International) and like-minded unions in order to secure the implementation of its policies.

 

The commission also looked carefully at the domestic greylisting and boycotting procedures that AUT has established in relation to institutions in the UK and felt that these procedures provided a useful model around which international greylisting and boycott procedures could be developed.   The commission also agreed that international procedures would need to be at least as rigorous as procedures for greylisting and boycotting institutions in our own country.

 

Any action taken against academic institutions in other states must be in line with the current international policy of AUT.  Further to the meetings of Council and Special Council in 2005, the following was adopted as an interim international policy by the Executive Committee from the 2nd December 2005 as recommended by EIA committee:

Interim International Policy 

In considering the provision of solidarity to colleagues abroad, the AUT shall ensure that the main intention of any proposal is:

 

1.       The protection and extension of academic freedom to teach, research, and otherwise collaborate with fellow academics around the world

 

2.       The protection and extension of trade union rights as defined by the ILO within education, and the support of fellow trade unionists in their practise of those rights.

 

In order to pursue this policy at international level, the commission considers that action taken against institutions in other states needs to be:

 

          1.       Carefully thought through with a view to understanding the                               purpose and outcomes.

 

          2.       Developed as part of a wider campaign with support from other                         external organisations.

 

          3.       Capable of having an effect or creating an acceptable result.

 

The commission believes that it is essential therefore to engage with other organisations, particularly Education International, when considering international greylisting or boycotting of institutions in other countries.

 

Mechanism

 

An international greylisting or boycotting of academic institutions needs three elements.  First there has to be a trigger that sets up the activity.  Second there has to be a graded or stepped approach during which checks can be made as to whether the action is being effective or whether it is damaging collegial interests more than creating results.  Third, there must be a practical possibility of generating activity to secure collective support for effective action.

 

1.       Trigger

 

The commission believes, after careful consideration, and noting that we are not capable of policing the academic world in a pro-active way, that triggers for actions leading to greylisting and boycott can only result from a request from a legitimate organisation within the state, or within the occupied territory or institution in question.  Legitimate organisations would include a trade union movement, a recognised higher education union or other representative organisation.  Exceptionally, a decision to impose greylisting or boycotting might be taken following consultation with Education International in circumstances where legitimate organisations cannot be lawfully established within the state or institutions in question, or in circumstances where institutions or branches of institutions, are established in territories under unlawful occupation as defined by UN resolutions.

 

It is recognised that this is a difficult area. We are aware of great wrongs being committed throughout the world against colleagues in other countries.  But there is always a balance to be drawn between boycotting and damaging those colleagues in the hope that the state will address the harm that it is inflicting on academia, and the harm that the boycott itself inflicts on academia.

 

2.       A Graded Approach

 

The purpose of an international greylist or boycott of academic institutions is to make either those institutions’ managements or the government of the country concerned think again about their policies in relation to academic issues and human rights.  A stepped or graded approach is, therefore, recommended as the best way of creating the greatest response.  The commission sees this as a gradual process starting with actions intended to exert influence but leading ultimately to coercive action up to an including a total boycott of all academic activity. 

 

(i)       A decision can be made by executive or council to impose an international greylisting as a result of the trigger described above.  The first action will be to notify the institution concerned that they are about to be placed on a greylist, i.e. a list of censured institutions which will be made public across the world.  The censuring of an institution will be initially an alerting mechanism such that the international community worldwide will be made aware that the AUT is concerned that the institution is not abiding by generally recognised international standards of academic freedom and human rights.  Censured institutions will be contacted and asked to explain where they stand in relation to the issues on which concern is being expressed. 

 

(ii)      On receipt of an explanation from those institutions, a judgement will then be made as to whether it is appropriate to impose the sanction of greylisting.

 

(iii)     If the decision is no then the institutions will not be greylisted and the organisation triggering the action will be contacted with a view to asking what other actions might be considered.

 

(iv)     If the explanation is not satisfactory or if there is no response, then contact will be made with other national and international organisations, in particular ETUC, TUC and Education International to establish whether they are also considering action in relation to the greylisting of the said institutions.

 

(v)      If there is a consensus that action needs to be taken, then AUT will join with those organisations in developing a common approach to the greylisting and boycotting of the institutions concerned. The common approach must include a clear statement of what the institution must do to secure the ending of sanctions.  Within that approach AUT will continue to urge that regular checks are made as to the impact of the greylisting/boycotting and the attitude of the institution’s management in relation to the issue about which there is concern.

 

(vi)     Where there is no consensus among like-minded organisations and AUT appears to be considering acting alone, then a further judgement will be made as to whether this is acceptable. The triggering organisation will be contacted to ascertain whether it is advantageous to their aims that AUT continues to consider greylisting and boycotting in isolation. 

 

(vii)    In the event that AUT decides to take action in isolation, further actions beyond greylisting will be considered by the national executive committee and/or council.  These will be actions moving towards a full academic boycott of the institution/s concerned, but such will not be implemented without a further decision of Council. 

 

(viii)    In the event of sanctions being imposed, it is recommended that AUT should establish an action committee in relation to the greylisting/boycotting which draws up a programme of activities that are to be boycotted.  AUT should communicate these proposed actions to the institutions concerned and ask for a response.  In the event of a negative response AUT should implement the agreed actions and issue appropriate guidance to members.

 

(ix)     Throughout this process contact will be maintained with the triggering organisation so that a judgement can be made as to the appropriate time to end sanctions.


APPENDIX 3

 

Text of Palestinian Boycott Call

 

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)

Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

 

Whereas Israel’s colonial oppression of the Palestinian people, which is based on Zionist ideology, comprises the following:

 

• Denial of its responsibility for the Nakba -- in particular the waves of ethnic cleansing and dispossession that created the Palestinian refugee problem -- and therefore refusal to accept the inalienable rights of the refugees and displaced stipulated in and protected by international law;

• Military occupation and colonization of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza since 1967, in violation of international law and UN resolutions;

• The entrenched system of racial discrimination and segregation against the Palestinian citizens of Israel, which resembles the defunct apartheid system in South Africa;

 

Since Israeli academic institutions (mostly state controlled) and the vast majority of Israeli intellectuals and academics have either contributed directly to maintaining, defending or otherwise justifying the above forms of oppression, or have been complicit in them through their silence,

 

Given that all forms of international intervention have until now failed to force Israel to comply with international law or to end its repression of the Palestinians, which has manifested itself in many forms, including siege, indiscriminate killing, wanton destruction and the racist colonial wall,

 

In view of the fact that people of conscience in the international community of scholars and intellectuals have historically shouldered the moral responsibility to fight injustice, as exemplified in their struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa through diverse forms of boycott,

 

Recognizing that the growing international boycott movement against Israel has expressed the need for a Palestinian frame of reference outlining guiding principles,

 

In the spirit of international solidarity, moral consistency and resistance to injustice and oppression,

We, Palestinian academics and intellectuals, call upon our colleagues in the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid, by applying the following:

1. Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions;

2. Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions;

3. Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;

4. Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;

5. Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.

 

Endorsed by:

Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees; Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions; Palestinian NGO Network, West Bank; Teachers’ Federation; Palestinian Writers’ Federation; Palestinian League of Artists; Palestinian Journalists’ Federation; General Union of Palestinian Women; Palestinian Lawyers’ Association; and tens of other Palestinian federations, associations, and civil society organizations.


APPENDIX 4

Text of General Secretary’s Letter to Members

 

Dear colleague

 

Important information - UCU and the circulation and debate of a call to boycott Israeli academic institutions

 

I am writing to let you know what UCU intends to do about the motion passed by our recent Congress requiring the union to circulate and debate a call to boycott Israeli academic institutions.  Apologies if you have already received this letter by other means – I wanted to make sure everyone knew what the union was doing about this important issue.

 

The motion in question was considered by the Strategy and Finance Sub-Committee of the UCU Executive on Friday, 29 June and they agreed a number of recommendations made by me about the conduct of this debate, including that:

 

1. I should ensure a fair and even handed debate; including the provision that any union expenditure to support one side in the debate shall also be offered to the other.

 

2. I organise a series of regional debates in the autumn term including London, Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham, Manchester and a location to be chosen in the South West with the aim of concluding in time to report to a November 2007 meeting of the Executive Committee.

 

3. I should ensure legitimate representatives of organisations from both Israel and Palestine and on both sides of the debate are available to speak at the Regional meetings.

 

4. I should issue guidance on holding fair and even handed debates to branches and associations who wish to hold local debates in addition to the regional meetings.

 

5. The union creates a separate expenditure heading to facilitate the execution of the boycott resolution and that increases in this expenditure beyond that already identified can only be agreed by the Strategy and Finance Committee.

 

6. The union encourage branches to seek members’ views directly and in addition make it as easy as possible for members both to participate in the debates and to make their individual views known to the Executive.

 

I hope, whatever your personal views on this matter, you will agree these measures are a sensible basis for the carrying out of the motion passed by Congress.

 

Many members have also contacted me in my capacity as general secretary to ask what my view on this issue is.  In addition to being UCU general secretary, I am also the TUC’s spokesperson on international matters and I am very aware of the need to support fellow educators and trade unionists around the world.

I do believe our union has a vital role in supporting colleagues at risk and promoting education as the bedrock of democratic civil society in Colombia, in Zimbabwe, in Israel/Palestine and anywhere where these values are under threat.

 

It is to state the obvious that UCU has a great deal of work to do here and overseas, besides debating the rights and wrongs of an international boycott.  I have been saddened but not surprised, for example, that media coverage of the boycott issue has overshadowed very important campaigns to save jobs at Harlow College and elsewhere and struggles against unacceptable contract changes as at Bournemouth University and beyond.  The boycott issue has also, unfortunately, overshadowed UCU’s emerging work to link up Palestinian and Israeli academics and trade unionists. 

 

Let me be as clear as I can.  I do understand the strongly held views on both sides, but I do not believe that the majority of members – whatever their personal views - see this issue as the major priority for our union.  I have also many times set out my personal view that members should be balloted before any implementation of an international boycott. I remain of that view and expressed it once again to the Strategy and Finance Committee.   

 

Whatever side of the debate, if any, you are on personally; I hope you will support me in ensuring the debate is respectful and inclusive.  It is your union, and in the end only you can decide.

 

I have today also written to branch Secretaries and local association Presidents setting out advice on ensuring a fair debate and on making sure that individual members have their say.  I know they will also do their best to ensure that branches remain united and focused upon our priorities during this period.  You can view the circular we have issued to branches here: http://www.ucu.org.uk/circ/rtf/ucu31.rtf.

 

I give you my personal assurance that I will ensure as far as I can that the union continues to focus on supporting you at work and on constructive engagement with the wider world while we resolve what everyone recognises as the hugely divisive issue of boycott.

 

I will write again at the beginning of the autumn term.  Thank you for your continued support for the union.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Sally Hunt

General secretary

 

Ps. you can let me know what you think of this or any other aspect of UCU’s work by hitting "reply". I will ensure the Executive are also made aware of your views.