Oxford UCU Repudiates Motion 25

oxfordThe following motion was passed nem. con. by Oxford UCU on 12 February 2009:

Oxford UCU,

DEEPLY REGRETTING the loss of life and the suffering that has resulted from the renewal of violent conflict in the Middle East;

RECALLING that its predecessor, Oxford AUT, passed nem. con. on 10 May 2005 a motion affirming its support for the Principle of Universality of Science and Learning, which requires academics to refrain from discrimination on the basis of ‘such factors as citizenship, religion, creed, political stance, ethnic origin, race, colour, language, age or sex’;

FURTHER RECALLING that at a meeting on 6 February 2007 Oxford UCU reiterated nem. con. its support for this Principle, which is not only a cornerstone of academic freedom but also a contribution towards lessening tension between hostile peoples;

NOTING that the University’s Equal Opportunities Policy prohibits discrimination on the grounds of ‘age, colour, disability, ethnic origin, marital status, nationality, national origin, parental status, race, religion or belief, gender, or sexual orientation’;

NOTING ALSO, however, that on 28 May 2008 the Annual Congress of UCU passed a motion entitled ‘Palestine and the occupation’ (‘Motion 25’);

REAFFIRMS its adherence to the Principle of Universality of Science and Learning;

REJECTS attempts to hold all academics of a country responsible for the actions of their government;

REPUDIATES Motion 25; and

APPLAUDS the University’s unequivocal assurance that nobody applying for, or appointed to, a post in the University will suffer discrimination on the grounds of his or her nationality.

Proposed by Michael Yudkin

Seconded by Denis Noble

Passed nem. con. (24 votes in favour, 0 against, 1 abstention).

BRICUP’s advice to its supporters…

Mike Cushman

Mike Cushman

Mike Cushman of BRICUP, the pro-boycott organisaiton, has sent out the following advice to his supporters, attached to the Engage list of who we think people should vote for in the UCU NEC elections:

Dear supporter
If you are not a member of the Universities and Colleges Union you can safely ignore and delete this message.
If you are a member of UCU then we urge you to vote in the current round of elections, you will have received ballot papers in the last couple of days or will receive them shortly.
Engage, the group set up specifically to oppose any move towards an academic boycott have helpfully circulated a list of candidates they support. UCU uses a preferential voting system.
We ask you, whatever else you do, to place each of these candidates at the bottom of your preference list

Bricup has received great assistance from UCU left in promoting support for Palestinian rights inside UCU and in particular in getting UCU to resist the efforts of lawyers employed by friends of Engage to overturn Congree decisions.
You can read the UCU left election statement and details of the candidates they are supporting at http://www.uculeft.devisland.net/nec-elections-2009.html

MIke Cushman

Remember how Mike Cushman was so outraged when people criticized the person in UCU who sent links to David Duke’s website around the union? here’s a reminder.

Cushman, remember, is also the man who came up with the following stereotype about Jews and their relationship to universities:

“Universities are to Israel what the springboks were to South Africa: the symbol of their national identity.”

And here is a flavour of Cushman’s fawning account of his trip to Hamas-ruled Gaza:
A scrum of reporters, ministers and worthies on the dockside – pretty
impressive but we are the 4th trip so less manic that it has been. We
eventually left the dockside in a coach to our hotel with, for the first
(and last?) time in my life a police escort – flashing lights and all.
At the hotel we were met by the British vice-cosul, another first for
The hotel is very comfortable and has its own generators and wifi – so I
can get email for the next couple of days rather than texts – and good
food in the restaurant, wonderful as all I’ve had is airline food and a
couple of snacks since Sunday.

We have a very busy schedule set up until we leave. Meeting ministers,
more interviews, visiting universities, school hospital and civil
society groups, althjough it is Eid of course, so a lot of things are

Reads a bit like a visit to the DDR c. 1971, no?
And here’s Mike Cushman oiling the wheels of Iranian state propaganda.

Conservative Party does not oppose boycott of Israel

conservativelogoIn an interview with TotallyJewish.com Chris Grayling, the Tory Shadow Home Secretary, went all vague and contradictory when asked about whether he supported boycotts of Israel.

First he said one shouldn’t give “broad brush answers” over these things.

Then he said that he didn’t think that “the language we should be using is about boycotts”.

Then he said that he didn’t want to say whether a boycott of Israeli academia or goods was right or wrong.

So can we assume that the Tory Party would not understand the exclusion of Israeli scholars from British universities to be a violation of the principle of academic freedom and the norms of scientific co-operation?

Does the Conservative Party not understand that the boycott campaign wants to single out Israelis – and only Israelis – for exclusion from the global academic, artistic, economic, sporting and cultural community – but has no valid reason for discriminating in this way?

Is it unaware that experience shows that the campaign to exclude only Israelis brings antisemitic rhetoric with it – such as the demonization of Israel by saying that ‘Zionism’ is essentially racist or apartheid or Nazi; such as the grotesque magnification of the influence of the ‘Zionists’ on the global media; such as the portrayal of Israel as a state which murders non-Jewish children out of pure evil. It also brings with it lies about Israeli universities and misrepresentations of the Israel/Palestine conflict.

Is the Conservative Party unware that campaigns in Britain to exclude Israelis begin by focusing hostility on Jews in Britain who oppose such campaigns?

It is often said that disproportional hostlity to Israel – and the antisemtic ways of thinking which often result from it – is a phenomenon of the left. But it isn’t.

There is also a political tradition on the right which understands opposition to antisemitism to be against the British national interest; which understands Jews to be overly “touchy” about “criticism”; which supports a policy of appeasing anti-Israel political currents in the Middle East because it is thought to be good for business.

In February 2008, Peter McKay, a columnist, claimed in the Daily Mail that the reason British schoolchildren were taught about the Holocaust was so that it would “make them always take Israel’s side.” Jews, goes the claim, engineer a consciousness of antisemitism in a dishonest bid to protect Israel from criticism.

There is nothing left-wing about the “Israel Lobby” argument of Mearsheimer and Walt. It is an argument which appeals to a rather conservative notion of America’s “national interest” and which holds that the “Lobby” skews the US state to act against its own interest.

There is nothing left wing about the Liberal Democrat anti-Zionism of Jenny Tonge or Chris Davies or about Green anti-Zionism.

Someone in the Conservative Party should explain the issues to its new Shadow Home Secretary.

And people should be prepared to see anti-Zionist hostility emerging, increasingly, not only from the left, but also from the political centre and right.

The whole interview with Grayling is here and the two questions about the boycott are here:

What are your views of those who call for academic or trade boycotts of Israel?

CG: I think you should not give broad brush answers over those things. My view is that over the years the Israelis have done things that are wrong, the Palestinians have done things that are wrong. Actually right now, I don’t think the language we should be using is about boycotts, I think the language we should be using is all about how the International community can help broker, mediate a long term solution… The language should not be about boycotts, the language should be talking about constructive engagement.

Do you oppose boycott proposals when it comes to academic or just general Israeli goods?

CG: I think it’s not an area we should get involved in discussing because I think the moment you start to say I want a boycott or I don’t want a boycott or it’s right or it’s wrong, you’re putting yourself in a position where you can’t be that honest broker. So I think people can suggest what they want but I think the job of the government in this country is to be part of an international effort to try and take the Middle East towards peace.

UPDATE: Bizarely, for a man who seems unable unequivocally to criticize the boycott campaign, Grayling has a whole comment piece in the JC, saying how tough he’s going to be against antisemitism!!

On resignation from UCU – Sarah Annes Brown

Sarah Annes Brown

Sarah Annes Brown

I was firmly opposed to an academic boycott of Israel when I first became aware of such a move back in 2005. This wasn’t because I had strong views about Israel – it was simply because it seemed wrong to single out one country in this way and because I wasn’t at all convinced it would achieve anything positive. I wasn’t a member of a union at this point, though I had been in the AUT in the past. When I moved to Anglia Ruskin I was asked by a colleague to join the union. I agreed but explained at the time that I would probably resign if there was another boycott move.

When the UCU leadership elections took place I registered my support for Sally Hunt and subsequently voted for her. Even though she had seemed to be the candidate who was most opposed to the boycott that did not of course prevent Motion 25 being passed. I waited a while after the Motion was passed in the hope it would be overturned but eventually gave up and resigned. Before resigning I emailed Sally Hunt expressing my concern but had no reply (despite being one of her registered supporters). If, at that stage, I had had some kind of response, even if only to point out that I could perhaps do more to change the Union from the inside, I might not have resigned. I also had no response whatsoever to my subsequent resignation email.

The UCU claims to be concerned that Engage is trying to persuade people to leave the Union – even though it isn’t doing anything of the kind. This is ironic seeing that the UCU appears to show complete disdain for its members, and not to care whether they feel driven to leave or not. This attitude is exemplified by a reader’s comment posted in a thread in response to a piece in the Guardian -10.12.08 – reporting last December’s not-quite-climb down from the not-quite boycott.

“If you did not agree with a properly constituted Union policy you were, of course perfectly free to resign your membership – in my opinion any union is better off without members who are prepared to bring it into disrepute in order to force their own agenda upon it, particularly when that agenda is driven by loyalty to other than Union and colleagues.”

I’d argue that it’s the boycotters who are trying to force their own agenda on ordinary members. (The boycotters’ opposition to a ballot of all members on this issue is revealing of course!)

One of the things I find particularly irritating about some of the boycott zealots is their assumption that only those who are actively pro-Israel and who support its policies uncritically could possibly disagree with Motion 25 – note the way the comment posted in the Guardian invokes the idea of conflicting loyalties.

I was minded to rejoin the UCU after its position on Israel seemed to have softened last December and my inclination to do so was strengthened by David Hirsh’s really eloquent response to a comment I posted on Engage. So, to conclude, the only people who have actively encouraged me to rethink my decision to leave the UCU have been David and Mira. (And the only reason it’s taken me so long to do so is because it took absolutely ages to get an answer from the UCU to a very simple technical question I had about the process of rejoining!)

Professor Sarah Annes Brown
Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge

Why is UCU treating so many of its members who oppose antisemitism with contempt?  click here

Ran Greenstein reflects on academic sanctions

This piece is briefly promising, then it has a relapse. The end result is something which, in the detail, is a departure from the slothful and facile PACBI boycott call and instead a call for something smarter (“sanctions should be applied to practices rather than opinions”), less pompous, more effortful, and more involving of Israeli academics and students. However, his proposals completely fail to engage with Israel’s larger predicament – its enemies, its defencists with their insistence that unilateral withdrawal will not earn respite from attacks. In this respect Ran Greenstein, with his common-sense condemnation of Israel and selective espousal of  “pressure”, turns out to be just as good as any PACBI boycotter at ghosting out the implacable elminationist, inciteful, sometimes genocidal, tendencies within what is often taken for Palestinian resistance.

Advocates for Palestinians need to realise that concentrating only on what Israel should do serves to entrench the dichotomy between Israelis and Palestinians. This is not to deny the asymmetry between the force that Israelis and Palestinians level at each other – it is to argue that there are two sides to this conflict and the way out of the occupation cannot be unilateral.

Some British people who are very pleased with themselves

Student occupations

The recent and ongoing student occupations on University campuses are not being conducted because university officials or lecturers have been using the board rooms or auditoriums as a platform to launch attacks on the students. And they’re not being conducted because the students want to set up home in these places, or because they think they have a right to be there. So what is their purpose – beside the fact that they are fun? Regretfully, this is a too-brief scan which doesn’t adequately examine demands or institutional responses.

A correspondent on the subject of Bradford student occupation observed:

Following a 24-hour occupation of the Boardroom at the University of Bradford, the VC of the University has issued a statement. Apart from setting out a potentially pro-boycott stance what is interesting is that the statement claims that “The University condemns violence wherever it occurs and wishes to express its commitment to the principles of peace, justice and the rule of international law.” That in itself is fine and very honourable. What does not quite fit is that the Bradford University students union have as a heading for their story “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free “.

So, in 2009 it’s still normal and tolerated for what passes as Palestine solidarity to be about eliminating Israel. In the same vein, the occupation at Queen Mary neglected to condemn the targetting of Israeli civilians with Qassams, obliging Jaqueline Rose to intervene with a polite request.

Judging from the posted demands, Gaza protest seems to be a convenient vehicle on which to piggyback other grievances. You can campaign against your campus Starbucks, like Nottingham. Maybe you can negotiate a lasting deal to use some rooms for free (too right), like SOAS. And you can demand that your institution divest from the arms trade, as in Queen Mary‘s new improved manifesto. Then there is the anti-Israel stuff such as “Victory to the Intifada” and the (usually separate, which is illustrative) pro-Palestinian stuff. Then there are some other demands, such as scholarships for Gazans and surplus or “old” equipment for Gazans. These are well-meant and potentially useful, although if you were from Congo, Zimbabwe or Darfur you might be wondering “Why all this effort for them and not me?” and that would be a very good question.

While these occupations have been going on, the Lords Resistance Army has been at work; they have killed 650 civilians in Congo since December 24th to no popular condemnation. In Sri Lanka, combatants are shelling a hospital. Aid workers in Darfur are resigning themselves to a long conflict and no silver bullets. Why do people get so intense about Israel?

Are the occupations basically the same or do any stand out? For example, there are signs of smart boycott of settlement products in particular, listed among the (sometimes wild) Birmingham demands, which is a departure.

Update: Strathclyde has one demand which stands out – singling out Israeli academics: “Oppose Israeli academics who promote military research at Strathclyde University”. In other words, discriminate on grounds of nationality. Other occupations have opposed military presence more generally (Strathclyde is in a group of Scottish institutions providing military education, so this would be unfeasible). Strathclyde also demands 50 scholarships for Palestinian students. I’m not sure how this compares to students from other war-torn countries.

Update 2: Bob from Brockley on Goldsmiths’ occupation. Transpontine, in the comments, is right that the occupations are “overdetermined by anti-Zionism”.

Howard Jacobson on the “Israel Must Lose” letter

Howard Jacobson

Howard Jacobson

This piece by Howard Jacobson is from The Independent.

How does he get that dimple in his tie? Obama, I mean. Who else? Obama the beautiful. Obama the sonorous. Obama the Messiah.

I don’t make a habit of admiring people younger than me, unless they are of another time and long dead, in which case their anteriority makes them older. You can love someone younger – for love is part protectiveness – but it is not seemly to admire them. That way dotage lies. The trouble is that after a certain age there isn’t anybody older than yourself left standing. So Obama it is. He’ll be pleased to know he enjoys my esteem.

In fact I know how he gets that dimple in his tie. He ties it by a method known as the four-in-hand, a phrase that might have something to do with the horse-drawn vehicle of that name. Maybe it describes the way coachmen tied their cravats or hitched their reins. Whatever the etymology I am taken with the effect, and spent most of last week following instructions on how to achieve it on YouTube. You start with the wide end (“W”) of your tie on the right, then cross it over the narrow end (“N”), ensuring that “W” is kept about a foot longer than “N”. Then you…

It was only when I’d completely mastered the four-in-hand, holding a mirror to my computer and getting my wife to check me over every step of the way, that I realised I was being taught how to tie a tie in the way I have always tied a tie. Only I can’t get the Obama dimple. The narrowness of the knot, yes. The insolent asymmetry of the knot, yes. But not the dimple in “W” just below the knot.

It still isn’t clear how he manages it, but I suspect the secret lies in hauling the tie tight into the hot V-shaped hollow of your collar, and for that you need exactly the right spread of collar – not English Bufton-tufton cut-away, and not with the points limp and close together in the manner of mafiosi and art dealers. It goes without saying that you also need exactly the right amount of neck. Too little and you concertina the collar (think Cameron), too big and the dimple is lost in pleats of flesh (think Kenneth Clarke).

Here again Obama is perfection. The neck slender, but not wasted. The shirt white. (Only a fool wears a shirt of any other colour and only a scoundrel wears stripes.) The suit black, two buttoned, with long lapels. And thus tailored he will set about solving the problems of the world. Don’t laugh. I attach immense significance to the tailoring of Messiahs. There lingers in the British psyche – particularly the left side of it – a sentimental belief that political conviction must come in an untidy package. Michael Foot overdid it even for a socialist, but there remains an ideological association of dishevelment with truth. You can’t go on a march in a black suit bought from Hartmax in Chicago and a dimple in your tie. You can’t go on a march in a tie full stop. And there, reader, is the rub.

I measure a man’s seriousness by the degree of moral ambivalence he is able to intimate in his appearance. Here is surface, the subtle politician and thinker says, here is my homage to gorgeousness, worldliness and good manners, but don’t suppose I do not have that within that passeth show.

Too much attention to exterior show and the man is trivial; too little and he is a fanatic. The person who cannot smile urbanely even when the world is falling apart is no better than the person who can do nothing else. And those who think they prove their integrity by looking shabby by the standards of their own society, or by adopting the dress of the oppressed (as though the oppressed are a model by virtue of their oppression), only demonstrate the narrowness of their sympathies.

Showing just the right amount of white shirt cuff – inviting them to tea, as it were, in the Oval Office – Obama addressed the world’s political villains – “We will extend a hand, if you are willing to unclench a fist.” The metaphor is good. In the midst of war it reinstates the civilities. I’ll dimple my tie, you dimple yours, and we will talk it over. But it contains the necessary threat within the wit as well, for if they don’t unclench their fists…

Well, we shall see. In the meantime, in the far less sophisticated moral world we call our own country, the intellectually challenged who staff our universities are down on their knees kissing every clenched fist that will consent to their sycophancy. Take as an example plucked at random – trust me, reader, it just fell to hand – the letter written to The Guardian last week, demanding that Israel lose. Not withdraw, not seek a truce, not radically change its thinking – as many of us wish – but lose. Lose to the clenched fist of Hamas.

It was signed by those who exist to sign such things – professors of Media and Communications, lecturers in Visual Cultures and Gender Studies (gender studies and Hamas: get that!), boycotters, sandal-wearers, banner wavers, professionally ashamed Jews. As an exercise in simple-mindedness – what else do universities teach now? – it could hardly be excelled.

Israel had been waging war against the Palestinians for 60 years it said, omitting to mention the war that Arab armies had been waging against Israel, 60 years ago promising “a war of extermination” – extermination, note, not a two-state solution – culminating in the joyous prospect of “feeding the fish of the Mediterranean with the bones of Jews”. (Imagine starting a history of the Second World War with the bombing of Dresden and you have the picture.) Thus decontextualised, Israel, the letter continued, must now accept that its security depends on “peaceful co-existence with its neighbours”. Gosh, why hasn’t anyone thought of that before. Peaceful co-existence. You hear that, Mr Obama?

There is no monopoly on compassion. Signing a letter doesn’t make you a humanitarian. I too don’t want to see another dead Palestinian child. Not a one. But peace won’t come just because, ignored and impotent in your campuses of moral simplicity, with only the young and the like-minded to address, you wish for it.

Regard Obama. You have to work at truth. What seems isn’t always what is. And what will be waits on more than the velleities of the ill-informed. In the taut and intricate resolution of Obama’s dimpled tie is our most realistic hope for peace.

This piece by Howard Jacobson is from The Independent.

More critique of the “Israel must lose” letter from David Hirsh here.

Ilan Pappe confirms what we learnt from events at SOAS: the ‘institutional’ boycott is really an exclusion of Israeli academics

“I think what’s really important,” says Pappe, diplomatically, “is that
a growing number of individual academics feel they can no longer
tolerate co-operating with their Israeli counterparts, except for those
who oppose current government policies.”

He also supports, therefore, a political test for Israelis before they are allowed to be part of the global academic community.

Here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/jan/20/interview-ilan-pappe-historian

See Steve Cohen on the political test here.

See Jon Pike on the myth of the Institutional boycott here.

A boycotter turns pragmatist

Passing over some bum notes about Jews needing to condemn things, I thought this in Malaysia’s The Star made sense. After a resumé of the author’s earlier boycott of American products in response to Iraq, the piece ends with the resumption of relations with A&W root beer and:

“We must be willing to attack ourselves in a louder voice than when we attack each other. Peace cannot be a one-sided thing where we proudly criticise the Goliath while continue to turn a blind eye to catapults that continually pester him (please pardon the biblical irony).

I feel that a more effective route than a boycott is to seek like-minded people from the other side who also agree that we should seek peace above all else. Don’t go to a masjid to hear an anti-Israel ceramah; go to a synagogue to find Jews who condemn the war. Make friends with them, take the first step together towards a common goal.”

Read it all.

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