[Marxism] AUT Vote ends Israeli boycott

Jack Cade jack.cade at btinternet.com
Fri May 27 06:16:27 MDT 2005

Vote ends Israeli boycott

Matthew Taylor
Education correspondent
London Guardian, Friday 27 May

Lecturers voted last night to overturn a controversial boycott of
Israeli academia which had provoked a backlash at universities
around the world.

The Association of University Teachers had moved to sever links
with two Israeli universities which it claimed were complicit in
the abuse of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, at its
conference in Eastbourne last month.

But yesterday, after a four- hour emergency meeting in London,
officials announced that delegates had voted to "revoke all
existing boycotts of Israeli institutions".

Anti-boycott campaigners said this was a victory against
"leftwing anti-semitism".

Jon Pike, a senior philosophy lecturer at the Open University and
founder of anti-boycott group Engage, said: "I am relieved that .
the membership has mobilised and made clear its view that the
boycott was an infringement of academic freedom and contributed
nothing towards peaceful resolution of the conflict."

But Birmingham University's Sue Blackwell, who proposed the
original boycott, said that despite the result the "genie was out
of the bottle".

"This is the start not the end as far as the boycott campaign is
concerned. We have put this issue firmly on the map and we have
shown that people in British academia do care about what is
happening in the occupied territories.

"There has been a massive and well-funded campaign against us and
incredible pressure put upon members in the run up to this

The AUT had voted to boycott Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities, and
said it was considering severing links with a third pending

All three institutions denied the allegations and Haifa has
threatened to sue the AUT for defamation.

Yesterday, Wendy Sandler, a professor at Haifa University, said
she was relieved the decision had been overturned. "Certainly
everyone at Haifa will be very relieved that we can start to put
this issue behind us. Of course the fear is that the fanatics
will continue to push their agenda of delegitimising Israel."

Delegates at yesterday's meeting supported a resolution calling
on the AUT to give practical support to Palestinian and Israeli
trade unionists and academics, and committed the union to a full
review of its international policy.

In a statement, the AUT general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "It
is now time to build bridges between those with opposing views
here in the UK and to commit to supporting trade unionists in
Israel and Palestine working for peace."

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