David Hirsh is blogging live from UCU Congress


Sue Blackwell is proposing a motion on the repression of trade unionists in Colombia.  Originally the only overseas issue on the agenda was the boycott of Israelis and solidarity with Palestinians.  This debate appeared as an emergency motion.  So now the boycott is not the only issue interenational issue being discussed here.


No speeches against, no seconder, move straight to the vote.  Motion on Colombia carried.


Mary Davis is proposing an emergency  motion in solidarity with a Kurdish peace activist who was arrested in Turkey following a talk she gave at SOAS and may  be imprisoned for ten years.


A speech, from Bradford UCU, describing the repression organized by Turkey against the Kurds.    He asks congress to support the motion.


Passed unanimously


Another “late” motion, formerly known as emergency motion.  This relates to events in Sri Lanka.  Speaker proposes motion for the NEC. The conflict stems from colonial rule, he says.  The Sri Lankan government tore up the peace process, he argues.  Huge number of civilian casualties have ensued, “carnage and slaughter”.  He argues that the Sri Lankan government were emboldened to do this by the Bush/Blair rhetoric of the war on terror.  Also responsibility goes to the West for arming Sri Lanka.

Hundreds of thousands of people displaced.   Huge crisis of displaced people.  Motion calls for condemnation of the actions of the Sri Lankan government.  Urge Miliband, who has criticized the government to go further.

We should make links with Tamil and other workers.

There was no call for a boycott of Colombo university or of any other academics.


NEC seconds motion, describing the repression against the Tamils.  Argues for a peaceful negotiated settlement in the near future, for the rights of the Tamils and the Singhalese.

Motion passed.


Pete Green, Westminster Kingsway

A speaker this morning mentioned members leaving the union in protest at boycott.  But there is a whole people who are feeling despair and abandonment in Gaza and the West Bank.


If the law says we are not allowed to express our solidarity then the law is wrong.  (applause)

Affiliate to the National Twinnig Campaign.

Twinning group in Camden has achieved: bringing Palestinians to Camden.  Four schools in Camden are now twinned with schools in Abu Dis  – a small community cut off by the “apartheid wall”.

Apalling massacres taking place in Gaza.

Now Israel is passing a law that bans Arab citizens from commemorating the Nakba.


Hilary Curt, Durham College

It is not enough for us to know what is going on.  We have to make sure our students know as well.  We, as trade unionists and teachers have to tell our students.

Our branches should use every possible opporunity to fundraise and galvanize support for Palestine.

The Palestinian people need to know we are doing all we can to show the world that we will not tolerate the behaviour that makes them refugees in their own land.


Michael Cushman, LSE

What this ammendment asks us to do is to explore, document and campaign against a particular aspect of the day to day de-huminisation of occupation.

It undermines education.  It destroys hope.

Israel is not guilty just of restraint of trade, also restraint of life.

EG a UCU member Nicola Pratt was meant to go to Birzeit to give a lecture. She never got past the Allenby Bridge.

Academics only get 3 month visas.  An academic was expelled half way through a course.  No way to complete their study or get credit.

An academic invited to Columbia U in NY, had to get to the American Consulate to get a visa.  But wasnt allowed in to E Jerusalem to get his visa.

It is the way that people cannot engage in the normal academic activities that we expect.

Israeli authorities do not believe that Palestinians have the right to education.

Cushman’s ammendment carried unanimously and motion in solidarity with Gaza.


Motion 25 – Disabled people and conflict

Indiscriminate bombing of civilian population in Gaza.  unlawful us e of white phosphorous.  1400 civilians killed, many of whom children.

Not counting those who were severely traumatized.

The situation for disabled people in Gaza at the moment – increase of disabled people due to attack – their situation is made much more difficult, almost impossible by the continuing blockade.

Infrastructe that disabled people here depend upon doesn’t exist in places like Gaza.

There is one school in Gaza specializes in educating children with hearing impairment – unable to get hearing aids, batteries, transport, fuel to take the young people from all over Gaza to the school.  It is one of the only places where they can communicate through signing.

The motion talks about practical solidarity to disabled people’s organisations in Gaza.


motion 25 carried.

Motion 26

Gordon Watson UCU Scotland

We welcome the fact that our president was part of a delegation to Palesitne.

He wanted to find out what their ideas were about boycott and sanctions – BDS.

That led to a motion being submitted at Scottish TUC.

STUC voted for boyoctt against he state of Israel until it obeys international law.

Alexis…  Dundee University.

I wanted to speak to the second part of the motion to congratulate students who succeeded in winning a disinvestment demand against BAE systems.

Universities had investments in BAE which supplies parts to F16s which participate in bombardment of Gaza.

Students at Dundee occuped but management caved in before we even started.

Experience of students in instructive.  Boycott Eden Springs Water.  Also for solidarity with Palestinian students in terms of educational materials and scholarships.

At Dundee we had our biggest student meeting ever.  This debate encouraged student participation and didn’t put people off.  (speaker is phd student and also ucu member)

Terry Brotherstone President UCU Scotland.

STUC adopted BDS policy (applause)


Constructive engagement would be the worst thing.  The only constructive engagement we can have with the Israeli authorities is one  backed up by the idea that they face isolation.

All that matters is the political campaign to end the occupation.  Nothing else matters. The policy of the STUC can be helpful to UCU.  It is a modest policy.  Consciousness raising.

Vote on motion 26



Motion 27.

I won’t insult your intelligence or your memory because you saw it day after day of the bombing of Gaza.

You saw the duplicity of the spokespeople on the Israeli side.  The denials about killing women and children.  You saw it and you have your opinion.  This union has been consistent in supporting Palestinians over decades.

27 & 28 give you details.  I’m sure your mind is already made up.  I hope there will be total and unanimous support.

whatever you are, Jew, Muslim Buddhist – Comrades, I know you will support.  Thanks for it.

Steve Wilkinson

I’mhere on the pretext that I’m speaking against the resolution.  I have a reservation and that is it.  I agree with 6 of the 7 points.  I donate to medical aid for Palestine.
My concern is the recognition of the “democratically elected Gaza government”.  We can do better than that.  Than a call for support for Hamas.

I beg you read the report produced by Amnesty about Hamas.

Discover what Hamas did to supporters of Fatah.  hamas went round and machined gunned in their hospital bed supporters of Fatah.

That point needs to be made.

Apart from that I support the resolution.

Marion Hersh.  NEC

I broadly support the motion but I’m going to ask to take it in parts.

I’m particularly unhappy with the point two points up from the end.
I’ve got no problem with trying particular individuals for human rights violations.  We should be doing that.  particular generals and politicians should be tried.  But we shouldn’t have something which implies a policy of collective responsibility or guilt of the whole Israeli population.

This can be used negatively very rightly – we argue against collective punishment of Palestinians or anyone else.  And this would imply if we carried it through a collective punishment.


Take the motion in parts?

prposer:  if people felt strongly, we all had adequate time to put in ammendments  This is about people dying in large numbers.  These things are really really important.  So 2 things:

1 you can’t imply we support hamas.  But the palestinian people will vote for who they choose.  we can’t tell them who to support.

2 we have to be careful.  we all know there are academics, Jews, Muslims etc who disapprove of their own government so we’re not accusing everybody in Israel.  We are sensible poeple.  There are great number of people, socialists and comrades, the Jewish people have a storng record in history of supporting oppressed people around the world.   So we’re not slagging off Israel and the entire Jewish community.

Chair:  take the motion in parts?

A call from the floor to remint the motion.

Vote against remitting motion.  Clearly lost.


We now have a proposal that the motion is taken in parts.

congress votes not to take motion in parts.

Now vote on the motion:  carried.

Motion 28.  General Secretary Sally Hunt:

I have to read into the record the statement that is written alongside this motion.

The union received advice from Leading Counsel that to pass this motion would be unlawful because it is likely to be viewed by a court as a call to boycott Israeli academic institutions. The union has previously followed advice from Leading Counsel that such a call would be outside the powers of the union to make. If the motion is amended to remove the affirmation of support for the Palestine call for a boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign, Leading Counsel has advised the union may lawfully pass this motion. If the motion is passed in its unamended form the President has been advised that she will have to treat it as being void and of no effect.

Laura Miles

British government is complicit with repression against Gaza.

Western leaders failure to denounce by shared silence – to endorse attacks and war crimes.

At Bradford we organized a teach in.  Jews for Justice for Palestine came in – we had fantastic discussion, doing an excellent job as educators.

We need to maintain solidarity we’ve already shown.

Urge to support the motion as it stands.

Mary Davis raises point of order.

if this motion if passed is void – what is the point of continuing?  do we debate it or not?  we need some guidance.  it is avalid point of order to know what we’re doing with it and what will happen to it.

Sally Hunt:  If it is passsed amended we will be able to act on it.  if unamended we will not be able to act on it.

University of Salford.  A Palestinian student cried in my office who had not heard from their family.

This was an attack on the people of Gaza for daring to elect a Government.

We have provided a lead on the issue of Palestine.  I’m proud to be in this union.  We need to build on this anger.  Israel is virtually a pariah state now.  This is a fantastic sea change.

We can still move forward.  We can still put presure on the govenrment.  We wil not be the tail end of American imperialism.

Israel held itself up to be the only democracy in the middle East.  But when you get a democratic government, Israel, on behalf of the US absolutely smashes it.  Lets stand with the oppressed not the oppressor.

Liverpool:  Sally’s comments have 2 problems.

1 it is based on legal advice which may be challenged.

2 it is based on an assumption of what this campaign is.

So i continue to urge you to pass the motion unamended.


COSATU (South African TU) told us – if anyone knows what an apartheid regime is – we do.  irish TUC, Scottish TUC are supporting this –

Camila Bassi Sheffield Hallam.

I’d prefer an open debate on the question of political tactics than rely on loopholes to clamp down on boycott.

I think a boyoctt in this instance would be wrong tactically.

1  generally the boycotting of nations is a crude and ineffectual weapons.

2 singling out of Israel ignores reactionary role of bourgeois arab states

3 if a boycott could help then the case would be overwhelming but in practice this boycott would be part of an anti-Jewish movement.

4  South Africa – apartheid was ended by black working class militancy.

We need to do something to help Palestinians but a boyoctt campaign writes off the role of the Israeli working class.  We need solidarity not boycott.  2 state solution.  solidarity between israeli and palestinian workers.

Haim Bresheeth

i am speaking as an Israeli and as a Jew.

Very many Israeli academics are supporting their government 96%

Do not rely upon Jewish academics in Israel.

This is not the way we will resolve the situation.  Not the way South Africa was resolved.

three quarters of Israelis have education.  three quarters of army officers an dsoldiers in tanks and planes and checkpoints have all been through academia.

out of 20,000 israeli academics less than 200 support bds.

To support Palestinians and Israeli academics who are against the war crimes committed you can make history today.  I know Sally and Sasha are not looking forward to calling this null and void.

I urge you to take a moral position.  vote for the amendment.


Ammendment and motion carried.

Chair:Ammended motion (for the boycott) is void.

Tom Hickey:

no apology from any of the branches that we bring these motions back year after year, criticizing the complicity of the israeli colleagues.

Failure of Israeli academics to condemn.

We make no apology in relation to the legal opinion.

it is only opinion.  has not yet been tested.

it is about time that this union tested this opinion in court.

we have been as a union extraordinarily careful.

it is not an easy decision to boycott other academics.


Tom Hickey

we have an obligation to go further in relation to BDS.

that is what Motion 29 called for originally.

But more.  What was rerquired as a union is to continue the process of debate that we have started and that we have an obligation to continue.

Our colleagues should continue to reflect on the moral and political effect of any links that they have.

Investigate how BDS could be carried through within the law and effectively

This legal opinion needs to be tested and we need to challenge it.

We want a Congress – we are in favour of BDS – but make sure that this motion is not also declared void – ammend this motion to take out those elements which would cause it to be called void.

Carry through the intent of this congress.

it is high time that we stopped playing footsie with those who want to use the law in this way.

Haim Bresheeth.

After years of this it is clear what conference feels about  BDS.

this motion will give us a tool to continue our action against the occupation.

Come together with TUs across the country and across the world.

build a movement like the anti-apartheid movement.

it wasn’t just black workers struggle.

It was us – millions of people everywhere that brought apartheid down.

Blair and Bush and Berlusconi are not going to do anything.

The South African moment has arrived.  please support the motion.


Jon Pike

OK congress.  this is only my second speech to ucu congress.

what frustrates me about this debate is the legal restrictions.  It seems to me that the proponents of a boycott are making a clear choice to confront those legal constrictions.

I would like to take this proposal to the membership of the union.

we have been refused the ability to have a ballot.

This is because the membership of this union strongly oppose an academic boycott of israel.

all the votes in branches have indicated 80 or 90 percent of members oppose this call.

Find out.  have a full ballot of the members of the union.

in the absence of that ballot we do not have the moral authority to use members money to organise a conference that the members to not support.

there is a way of finding out.

the proponents of htis proposal avoid that way of finding out because they seek to be defated in the law courts rather than by the membership of this union in a democratic vote.

Jenny…  College of North West London

it does seem ironic that the people who oppose this motion on the basis of democracy are not willing to respect the views of the Palestinian people who voted for a democratic government.

We raised money for Palestine during the Gaza conflict.

300 people at a pulic meeting.

Jews, non jews – the response to what Israel did in Gaza was unprecedented.

We have to take a moral position.

We cannot rely on votes.  Lets not make this a bureaucratic procedure.

What we have seen is a fundamental abuse of human rights.

the world stands by allowing israel to get away with virtual impunity.

it is up to us as delegates from our branches to take the measure of the response.

we’ve had marches.   When you have to take a stand you have to take a stand.  it is not a question to go back to our members.

Tom Hickey

it is interesting when one’s opponents know that they’ve lost the moral ground and the poltiical arguments – they try to change the terms of the debate.

This is the supreme policy making body of the union.

It is disappointing members of the union go to the law to cripple the union.

if we lose an argument here then it is back to here that we should bring the argument because if we don’t do that then we rubbish this union and we rubbish democracy.

we should not walk away, whether threatened by the law or by anything else.

Test the law.

Urge you to support both the amendment and the motionm as amended.

Vote on amendment


Vote on substantive motion


That’s all folks.  People will understand that these are rough notes, not all exact quotes, not all gramatically correct.  I did my best.  DH.

39 Responses to “David Hirsh is blogging live from UCU Congress”

  1. Mira Vogel Says:

    Keep up the good work, David.

  2. James Mendelsohn Says:

    yes indeed, am watching incredulously as the lunatics take over the UCU asylum once again

  3. Absolute Observer Says:

    “the Jewish people have a storng record in history of supporting oppressed people around the world.”

    So, their current crimes are twice as vile.

    Fuck off!

  4. Absolute Observer Says:

    So, Jews are either saints or sinners………..
    And when they are good they are very very good and when they are bad they are very very bad.

    Damn it, why can’t the Jews be more like the Jews!

  5. Democracy? Says:

    They just don’t get it. They have insulated themselves in a protective bubble of cliched rhetoric that would make a real trade unionist squirm.

  6. Absolute Observer Says:

    “We need to build on this anger”

    Let us crank up the rage.
    Let us not spend time to reflect.
    Let us unleash the mob……….
    Let us become “the people”……..
    Let us pick up our torches…….
    Let us go to where they live………
    Let us make them feel our righteous anger…….
    Why did everyone let us……?
    I don’t mean it to go that far. I only meant…….I only meant
    My God, what have we done?

    • Haim Says:

      Dear David,

      Well done for this, it is as ac curate as anyone could be under the circumstances of live blogging. I assume that Mr. Absolute Observer is, in his prose poem, referring to the Israeli massacres in Gaza…

  7. Absolute Observer Says:

    “We need to build on this anger”
    “you can make history today”
    “I urge you to take a moral position”

    What is going on in that room?
    It sounds from here like the atmosphere of the Beirkeller!

    Oh no, it can’t be, there is “a Jew” there. Then that’s ok!

  8. zkharya Says:

    “We can still move forward. We can still put presure on the govenrment. We wil not be the tail end of American imperialism.

    Israel held itself up to be the only democracy in the middle East. But when you get a democratic government, Israel, on behalf of the US absolutely smashes it. Lets stand with the oppressed not the oppressor.”

    So…attacking Israel is attacking American imperialism?

    Surely one could attack American imperialism more effectively, in that case, by boycotting American academics and academic institutions?

  9. Lynne T Says:


    Constructive engagement would be the worst thing. The only constructive engagement we can have with the Israeli authorities is one backed up by the idea that they face isolation.

    Yes, constructive engagement is reserved for countries like Iran, China, Syria….

  10. zkharya Says:

    “the Jewish people have a storng record in history of supporting oppressed people around the world.”

    Do they? They have a strong record of being oppressed, without the luxury of being able to support the oppressed of the world. To represent Jews as historically possessed of such a luxury is, surely, to historically misrepresent them.

  11. Bob Says:

    Well done David for having the stamina to sit through this depressing nonsense.

    Prime peice of nonsense on Sri Lanka: “Also responsibility goes to the West for arming Sri Lanka.” In fact, of course, the main armer of Sri Lanka has China, along with Russia, Pakistan, Libya and Iran. But even the purveyor of that nonsense recognises “the rights of… the Singhalese”, in a way they don’t recognise the rights of the Israeli Jews.

  12. Democracy? Says:

    Jenny… College of North West London – Says, “We have to take a moral position. We cannot rely on votes.”

    Since when was democracy considered immoral. Sure, those two great 20th century titans of anti-semitism weren’t in favour of it, but I’m assuming even UCU don’t consider them to be role models.

  13. zkharya Says:

    Thanks, David.

  14. Absolute Observer Says:

    “it does seem ironic that the people who oppose this motion on the basis of democracy are not willing to respect the views of the Palestinian people who voted for a democratic government.”

    Pike, we’re not being fooled about all your talk of Union democracy and antisemitism. We know you’re real agenda!

    Did Pike mention Hamas? I must have missed it

  15. Absolute Observer Says:

    David Hirsh.
    Thanks for this.

    Reading it all, I guess the best was saved for last,

    We cannot rely on votes. Lets not make this a bureaucratic procedure.”

    A gem!!

  16. Mustachioed German Says:

    “We have to take a moral position.”

    “I urge you to take a moral position”

    “Our colleagues should continue to reflect on the moral and political effect of any links that they have.”

    “We have to take a moral position”

    My, my, what an awful lot of morality there was at UCU congress today!

    Morality and anger. Now there’s a heady mix!

  17. Linda Grant Says:

    I’m confused. What did they just vote for? Is the motion void or not?

  18. Ariel H Says:

    Thanks David.

    I wonder if Hickey really does want to test the law this time, and if Hunt will let him.

  19. Curious Says:

    David Hirsh,
    I am a bit confused. What was the outcome?
    Did the UCU decide to face legal action or not?
    Thank you.

  20. Eve Garrard Says:

    Many thanks, David, for this invaluable reporting – it must have been an absolutely miserable business to sit through. We’re all in debt to you for this.

  21. Mira Vogel Says:

    Canada’s CUPE union is at it too.

    “Though the boycott vote never got to the members, Cohen said a comment from the floor gave a pretty good indication where the activists who attended the meeting stand. Following presentations in support of the motion by two critics of Israel, the chair was asked why no one presented the other side of the debate.

    “‘There is no other side,’” someone in the audience said.

    No one on the executive running the meeting challenged that view or offered an explanation why a rebuttal wasn’t offered, Cohen said.

    It shows how ingrained is the union leadership’s anti-Israel position, she said in an interview.”

  22. Jonathan Says:

    Many thanks David

  23. modernityblog Says:

    great service, David,

    the more scrutiny that pro-boycotters are exposed to, the better

  24. zkharya Says:

    Latest article in the JC:


    Boycott warning at UCU congress


    What the Talmud says about converts
    Why is intelligence head in London?
    Boycott warning at UCU congress
    Kantor wins new EJC term
    Israel to prepare for missile strike

    From The Jewish Chronicle
    Simon Rocker
    May 27, 2009

    Follow the JC on Twitter

    Academics heading for their annual congress this week were warned by their leaders that any call for a boycott of Israel would be declared null and void.

    Half a dozen motions of varying degrees of hostility towards Israel were tabled for debate on today (Wednesday afternoon) on the first day of the congress of the University and College Union in Bournemouth.

    But the union’s executive warned that two of them could bring legal repercussions by targeting Israeli institutions.

    One resolution, from the union’s north-west regional committee, urged support for “the Palestinian call for a boycott, disinvestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign”.

    A second, proposed by the University of Brighton Grand Parade, College of North East London and East London University, sought a conference of BDS supporters to investigate action against Israel “including an option of institutional boycotts”.

    It also called on members “to reflect on the moral and political appropriateness of collaboration with Israeli educational institutions”.

    Both were published in the congress agenda with an explicit warning from the union’s executive, saying that it had received legal advice that to pass the motion “would be unlawful because it is likely to be viewed by a court as a call to boycott Israeli academic institutions”.

    The caveat continued: “The union has previously followed advice from leading counsel that such a call would be outside the powers of the union to make”.

    If the motion were passed unamended, the president Sasha Callaghan “has been advised that she will have to treat it as being void and of no effect”, delegates were told.

    In 2007 the union abandoned moves to boycott Israeli universities after being told that this could be in breach of laws against racial discrimination.

    But the following year the congress reignited the controversy, leading to fresh threats of legal intervention after it passed a motion urging academics “to consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions”.

    Lorna Fitzsimons, who jointly chairs the Stop the Boycott Campaign with Jeremy Newmark, said in advance of this week’s meeting: “It is extraordinary that such a potentially important union seems unable to grasp the concept that the rest of the world… is trying to build bridges and make peace whilst they continually attempt to isolate, alienate and polarise the Israeli educational establishment. Anybody who has had any involvement with Israel’s academia will know of their historic role in Israel’s constant attempt to strive for peace.”

  25. Bill Says:

    I assume that this is just one break-out session (the one on burning bridges).

    If not, gee… not much on workload, contract negotiation, faculty evaluation for promotion, advancement and hiring… Darn, you guys must have it easy if that’s how you spend your union meetings ;-P

  26. EdwardT Says:

    Thank you Gordon Brown for encouraging this nonsense, by being the first Prime Minister in the world to promote separate labelling for goods made by Jewish and goods made by non-Jewish labour on the West Bank

  27. Alex Says:

    Ok, it’s come to this:

    I want to be a union member.

    I tried. I really, really tried. I let my respect for the people on the local branch outweigh my reservations. And I wasn’t just a passive member. I used time I didn’t have to work on the local committee. And even there, I put in extra time working on the LA’s response to various big (local) issues. I have spent time on safety committees.

    And in the last year or two, I have had friends, colleagues, work-mates, office-mates made redundant. I have had a personally difficult (and somewhat expensive) move of jobs and cities to avoid being made redundant myself. Tom Hickey and most of congress spit in my face. They spit in the face of all the colleagues who have been made redundant. They spit in the face of all those who are soon going to be asked to make incredibly tough decisions when asked to take industrial action. They shit (sic, apologies for the language) in the face of all those who are being threatened with redundancy by UCEA.

    I want to belong to a trade union that will fight for workers rights. That will be there when times are tough and when management is intransigent. I look at where the university system is now, and I am told about what universities were like 20-30-40 years ago. The comparison isn’t pretty. All I can conclude is that those who should have been driving the campaign to protect conditions have taken their eyes off the road. We are told that 100 universities in Britain are looking at redundancies. Those who should be driving the campaign to protect the workers are not watching the road.

    I know the hard work of good people trying to stay within the tent, to push the UCU back to workers’ rights, to try to stop self-inflicted wounds. And I respect and appreciate them for it. But I have a young family and a fixed-term contract. I have a finite time to secure my career, and if miss my son’s first words, first steps or even a cuddle in the morning, I will never get them. They are gone. If needed, I have and will spend some of that time precious defending colleagues’ rights and conditions.

    But I won’t spend that precious time trying to fight someone for whom a legal opinion isn’t a guide but a challenge. Someone for whom the race relations act isn’t a wonderful thing protecting all people’s rights, but an obstacle to pursuing an agenda. Someone for whom the union isn’t an organisation to protect workers but a fig leaf to provide him with legitimacy. Someone for whom union money isn’t a valuable resource to be used carefully and thoughtfully, but something to be thrown around like it was a game of monopoly. Someone for whom “moral authority” isn’t conferred by convincing your opponents, the apathetic and the undecided, but is obtained by agreement of political allies in an orgy of assertion. Someone for whom democracy isn’t safeguarded by ballot but by “representative”.

    And if Tom Hickey gets his wish. And the boycott becomes union policy. And it gets challenged. What then: He loses, and he has thrown bad money after bad money, and very little of it his own. And he tries a different formulation next year. And we go through this again and again like Groundhog Day. Or he wins. And he weakens the race relations act. And he provides legal precedent for the exclusion on the basis of race.

    Which one of these options benefits UCU members?

    I want to be a union member.

    But I no longer want to be a UCU member.

    Can anyone recommend a suitable union for a young academic on a fixed-term contract?

  28. Bella Center Says:

    How cynical to include such minimal motions on other international conflicts so as not to be accused of focusing exclusively on Israel.

  29. Inna Says:

    “All I can conclude is that those who should have been driving the campaign to protect conditions have taken their eyes off the road.”

    I think you’re being a bit generous. They have long ago driven off the road, forgotten that there was a road and are now happily (and I do mean happily) driving themselves and honest and suffering union members off the cliff.

    In the name of human rights in a country not theirs.



  30. Avi in Jerusalem Says:

    The scary transcript sounds like a good old intellectual pogrom of the 1970s when I was at University in the UK or one from much earlier in the 20th century. Jew hatred has such a distinguished lineage. In my view, the Nazi’s and their helpers extremism in murdering us wholesale, gave us 40 years of relative quiet, where overt Jew hatred was self suppressed in Europe and the West. This effect has now worn off and we are back to business as usual as the ultimate evil demon figure.

    The depressing aspect is that these people are supposed to be academics. They are a bunch of ignorant slogan shouting Stalinists. I still don’t understand how carrying out advanced research in linguistics or literary criticism or being an electrician at a “University” automatically turns you into an moral authority on anything.

    Happy Shavuot everyone

  31. GideonSwort Says:

    That’s hilarious David, haven’t had such a good laugh in years.

    Academics in that shite little country you reside in, entrust themselves intelectually, politically and legally to a bunch of monolithic morons?

    Tell you what David, they’re not Antisemites, they’re simply malignantly stupid.

  32. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    I suppose that it hasn’t occurred to the numbskulls that if they are forced to boycott “individually”, they are still breaking the law. At least they are as soon as they start refusing to enrol otherwise qualified students on grounds other than their qualifications; as soon as they reject an academic or conference paper on grounds other than the academic content; as soon as they refuse to permit an attendee from an Israeli university into an academic conference to which they are eminently qualified other than the clear (and provable in a court of law) grounds that the conference was already full.

    Trouble is, of course, if they are members in good standing of the UCU, the union will have to expend resources supporting them in court, when they’ve already been told they are in breach of the law.

    What a farce.

    Of course, if they _really_ want to boycott Israel, there’s all sorts of ways they can do that. Trouble is, they would, sometimes quite literally, hurt only themselves: stop taking certain medicines, give up their desk-tops and mobile phones, refuse to read the vitally important advances in their subject carried out by Israelis in Israel.

    Still, there’s no rule in the world that says that contributory negligence can’t be 100%

  33. Jon Says:

    I have a question regarding Brian’s last point on what Hickey and crew could do if they really wanted to boycott their Israeli colleagues. What is to prevent them from taking a boycott action, publically and boldly, while declaring that they are (1) acting in defiance of the law for the sake of principle; and (2) willing to absolve the union of any responsibility to support them in case their action lands them in court?

    Acting on their words while taking full personal, legal and financial responsibility for that decision strikes me as the action of a truly committed person. Trying to get another organization (like the UCU) to take action on their behalf (especially without consulting the membership) strikes me as something entirely different.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Jon, I agree with you completely. It’s just that, old political cynic that I am (among other things, 50 years on and off as a member of the Labour Party – now “off” – as well as 38 in Natfhe, many as a Branch Committee member), I find it difficult to believe that Hickey et al, being such strong and long-serving members of the union, would expect to hang _themselves_ out to dry merely for following through on a resolution passed at Congress.

      If, however, they did just what you suggest, then that would be a truly noble act, and they would become true martyrs for being prepared to face the full weight of the law entirely on their own, with only their own financial resources to support them. _But_, not all martyrs are truly noble, and death is forever. Is death before dishonour _really_ such a strong rallying cry? Supporting a wrong cause doesn’t make one noble, only stupid.

      How long would their resolve last if, faced with the threat of the sack for breaking anti-discrimination law, they were without significant outside support?

      But I was actually referring to those articles (many of us have seen them) which provide a long list of the medical and technological breakthroughs and other advances achieved in Israeli laboratories and research centres, as well as by Israelis working outside Israel who haven’t take an anti-loyalty oath to Israel. Now boycotting _those_ items: _that_ would be truly noble.

  34. Lynne T Says:


    Corporations, whether they are organized for-profit or non-profit all have bylaws that will hold officers and directors personally liable for intentional acts of commission or omission that are harmful to the corporate entity. Liability insurers won’t take the hit for such conduct either.

    I’d be surprised if the UCU is any exception. Naturally, if they were threatened with personal liability, the usual suspects will cry even louder, but I suspect that they will be crying alone. You can’t claim to be acting out of concern for human rights for persons living outside of the UK while flaunting the HR laws of the land. I suspect most members of labour and professional organizations are fed up with the hijacking of their organizations by persons who would entangle the organization in an ideologically-driven law suit or tribunal hearing.

  35. Alex Says:


    I couldn’t care less about the petty little people pretending they are grown ups while playing student politics. It isn’t about them really. What it is is that, because of them, UCU is not an organisation I feel comfortable being part of. While I would love for UCU to be concerned with workers’ rights, and I would love congress to stop using anti-semitic rhetoric (in fact, given that I do consider myself a zionist, I would quite like the anti-zionist rhetoric to stop, too), I don’t see it happening.

    I will happily pay my subs to my trade union. I will attend meetings, do work, put my hand up. But I can’t even pretend that UCU is “my” union anymore. So it gets back to the question: If not UCU, who? I’m hoping someone on here has some suggestions.

  36. NIMN Says:

    But that’s the point isn’t it Jon.
    The SWP and BRICUP can be all radical safe in the knowledge that, a. they will not be liable; and b. that they can then take Sally Hunt to task for giving in to “the Zionists”. For them, the, my, union is just a plaything. They know the membership is opposes to a boycott, they know that should a boycott be instigated they are going to be sued; they know that the legal opinion is against them; but still they play their games.

    Should the boycotters actually think for a moment, they would know that a policy that is thoughtful and effective and which does not a. exclude Jews and only Jews and; b. does not offend the ideas of academic freedom that many of our members hold as sacrosanct, would have the support of almost the entire membership. It might even go some way to actually assist those who they are willing to sacrifice in their anti-democratic , and illegal, persistence.

  37. Malfunction in the University and College Union « Greens Engage Says:

    […] Hirsh’s live blog of the international business of UCU Congress – notes of the […]

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