Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

A tale of two boycotts

UK academic union and Canadian public service union initiate
Israel boycotts … three articles follow

Lecturers back boycott of Israeli academics

By Benjamin Joffe-Walt

The Guardian
30 May 2006,,

Britain’s largest lecturers’ union yesterday voted in
favour of a boycott of Israeli lecturers and academic
institutions who do not publicly dissociate themselves
from Israel’s “apartheid policies”. Delegates at the
annual conference of the National Association of Teachers
in Further and Higher Education (Natfhe) in Blackpool
narrowly backed the proposal, despite mounting
international pressure from those opposed to a boycott,
including a petition from more than 5,000 academics and a
plea from the Israeli government. The decision was greeted
with disappointment and anger by anti-boycott campaigners
last night, but Palestinian groups issued declarations of

Presented on the final day of the Natfhe conference, the
motion criticised “Israeli apartheid policies, including
construction of the exclusion wall, and discriminatory
educational practices” and invited members to “consider
the appropriateness of a boycott of those that do not
publicly dissociate themselves from such policies”.

After failed efforts to prevent the debate, speakers
outlined the litany of difficulties experienced by
Palestinian students and lecturers living under
occupation, including the number of Palestinian schools
shelled by the Israeli army.

“The majority of Israeli academics are either complicit or
acquiescent in their government’s policies in the occupied
territories,” said Tom Hickey, a philosophy lecturer from
the University of Brighton, member of the union’s national
executive committee and proposer of the motion. “Turning a
blind eye to what an Israeli colleague thinks about the
actions of their government is a culpable blindness.”

Delegate John Morgan, who seconded the motion, said there
was no academic freedom for Palestinians.

But the union’s general secretary, Paul Mackney, spoke
against the motion: “Most of us are very angry about the
occupation of Palestine,” he said, “but this isn’t the
motion and this isn’t the way. Any motion to boycott
requires the highest level of legitimacy. As far as I can
see no more than a couple of branches have discussed this
motion. You cannot build a boycott on conference

Natfhe delegate Ronnie Fraser, chair of Academic Friends
of Israel, the primary opponents of the motion on the
conference floor, said he was “not happy at all”, adding
that the vote brought “dishonour and sheer ridicule” upon
the union.

Last year the Association of University Teachers (AUT)
elected to impose an academic boycott on two Israeli
universities. But after an international outcry and a
revolt by members it reversed the decision.

Yesterday’s boycott resolution will have an official shelf
life of less than three days, as on Thursday the two
unions will merge, forming the world’s largest higher
education union with more than 110,000 members. The
resolution will only be advisory to the new union. But
proponents say the Natfhe decision is important and
represents a step change in the wider boycott campaign
against Israel.

Aharon Ben-Ze’ev of Haifa university told the Guardian he
was “very disappointed”, adding: “This … will only serve
to impede the peace process and strengthen extremism on
both sides. I never say to British colleagues if you don’t
subscribe to my beliefs I will boycott you.”

David Hirsh, an AUT member, added: “It may not have
anti-semitic motivations, but if you organise an academic
boycott of Israeli Jewish academics but no one else in the
world, that is an anti-semitic policy. What’s Natfhe going
to do? Set up a committee before which Israeli academics
will be hauled?”

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural
Boycott of Israel sent its support, saying British
academics had “proved once again that they are up to the
challenge of meeting injustice”.

Stephen Rose of the British Committee for the Universities
of Palestine, who began the boycott campaign with a letter
to the Guardian in 2002, said he was delighted, adding:
“We recognise that this has not been an easy decision
faced with the extreme pressure put upon the union by
outside forces.” He said the vote was “a historic step
forward” in “helping persuade our Israeli academic
colleagues that it is time to cease silent complicity with
the illegal acts of the Israeli state”.

But he warned that this was likely to be the start rather
than the end of the debate. “I expect those people who
oppose it to mobilise on UK campuses and around the world
in the weeks ahead.”


The first rumblings of an academic boycott surfaced in
2002 when Stephen Rose, professor of biology at the Open
University, wrote to the Guardian arguing for a moratorium
on European funding of Israeli research. The campaign
gathered pace at last year’s AUT conference in Eastbourne
where delegates voted to boycott Bar-Ilan and Haifa
universities because of their alleged complicity in the
Israeli government’s policies. The move provoked a storm
of international protest and a month later the boycott was
overturned at a special conference.


(4) Palestinians welcome UK vote for Israel academic boycott

Palestinian Academic Campaign for the Boycott of Israel
29 May 2006

Today, British academics proved once again that they are
up to the challenge of meeting injustice with the powerful
message of civil resistance that boycott represents. The
National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher
Education (NATFHE) voted for an academic boycott of Israel
in response to its “apartheid policies.”

This is a significant accomplishment considering the
campaign of intimidation and bullying waged against
proponents of the NATFHE academic boycott initiative by
Israeli networks and powerful Zionist lobbies in the
United Kingdom and the United States. At this stage of the
international boycott movement, Palestinian boycott
advocates, including PACBI, aim first and foremost to keep
alive an open and principled debate on the need for
boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it
fully complies with international law and universal human
rights. The other side primarily works on achieving the
exact opposite result by suppressing all opportunities for
debate and education on this issue in order to maintain
the distorted and deceptive image of the conflict
constructed through systematic misinformation and biased
reporting in a largely compliant western media.

The NATFHE vote proves once again that despite all the
obstacles, boycotting Israeli academic institutions due to
their complicity in maintaining Israel’s special form of
apartheid against the Palestinians remains prominent on
the agenda of western progressives and human rights

The persistence of academic boycott efforts proves that
many academics in the UK and beyond do not buy the
disingenuous claim that boycott of Israeli academic
institutions conflicts with “academic freedom” or
inadvertently promotes anti-Semitism in any way. The first
claim is at best hypocritical as it is based on the
premise that only Israeli academic freedom counts. The
fact that Israeli academic institutions themselves collude
in various ways in their government’s grave violations of
Palestinian human and political rights, which include the
right to education, is lost on those making this claim. As
to the ubiquitous anti-Semitism charge, it is now clearer
than ever that it is mendaciously being used merely to
stifle opposition to Israel’s illegal occupation and
horrific human rights record and to abort attempts at
effectively resisting this decades-old injustice. The
Palestinian Call for Boycott [1] is categorically not
directed at Jews or even Israelis as Jews; rather, it
targets Israel’s oppression and racism with no
consideration to ethnicity or religion.

The Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)
movement is supported by a growing current of social
movements, unions, academics, intellectuals and human
rights activists across the world. For instance, it is
endorsed by the South African Council of Churches (SACC),
the Coalition of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and
by hundreds of South African political and academic
figures, including Ronnie Kasrils, Dennis Brutus, John
Pampallis and Steven Friedman.

All obfuscation notwithstanding, the truth about Israel’s
denial of Palestinian refugee rights, its illegal military
occupation and its system of racial discrimination remains
the fundamental motive behind the expanding BDS
initiatives around the world. Israel’s colonial Wall, its
ever expanding settlements, its indiscriminate killing of
Palestinian civilians, its house demolitions, its
relentless land and water theft and its abuse of
Palestinian human rights are all too real to be ignored by
the international community.

Just as in the South African case, a comprehensive regime
of sanctions and boycotts remains not only the most
politically effective but also the most morally sound
strategy in bringing about Israel’s compliance with
international law and universal principles of human
rights. Only through such effective pressures will there
be hope for a just peace in our region, based on equality
and dignity for all.



(5) CUPE Ontario votes in Support of Boycott, Divestment,
Sanctions Against Israeli Apartheid

Press Release, Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid
29 May 2006

27 May 2006 – The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid
(CAIA) congratulates CUPE Ontario (Canadian Union of
Public Employees) for passing Resolution 50 in support of
the global campaign against Israeli Apartheid. The
resolution passed with overwhelming support at the largest
provincial convention in the union’s history, held May
24-27 in Ottawa, Canada. Over 900 delegates from CUPE
locals across Ontario attended the convention. CUPE
represents about 200,000 public sector workers in Ontario
and is the largest public sector union in the province.

Resolution 50 expresses CUPE Ontario’s support for the
international campaign of boycott, divestment and
sanctions until Israel meets its obligations to recognize
the Palestinian people’s inalieable right to
self-determination and fully complies with international
law including resolution 194 calling for the right of
return of Palestinian refugees.

From the convention floor, delegates spoke out against
Israeli Apartheid and recalled the active role CUPE played
in the campaign against South African Apartheid. This
resolution is part of a growing global campaign initiated
on July 9, 2005 by over 170 Palestinian organizations,
including the Palestinian General Federation of Trade
Unions for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against

The resolution commits CUPE Ontario to educate its members
on the apartheid nature of the Israeli state and Canada’s
support for these racist practices. CUPE Ontario will also
call on the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) to join the
campaign against Israeli apartheid, in particular the
campaign to dismantle the Apartheid Wall.

To join the campaign or inquire about organizing
educationals on Israeli apartheid please contact
[email protected].

Full Text of the Resolution Below:


1. With Palestine solidarity and human rights
organizations, develop an education campaign about the
apartheid nature of the Israeli state and the political
and economic support of Canada for these practices.

2. Support the international campaign of boycott,
divestment and sanctions until Israel meets its obligation
to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to
self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of
international law including the right of Palestinian
refugees to return to their homes and properties as
stipulated in UN resolution194.

3. Call on CUPE National to commit to research into
Canadian involvement in the occupation and call on the CLC
to join us in lobbying against the apartheid-like
practices of the Israeli state and call for the immediate
dismantling of the wall.


The Israeli Apartheid Wall has been condemned and
determined illegal under international law. * Over 170
Palestinian political parties, unions and other
organizations including the Palestinian General Federation
of Trade Unions issued a call in July 2005 for a global
campaign of boycotts and divestment against Israel similar
to those imposed against South African Apartheid; * CUPE
BC has firmly and vocally condemned the occupation of
Palestine and have initiated an education campaign about
the apartheid-like practices of the Israeli state.

The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid first came
together to protest the visit of war criminal Ariel Sharon
to Toronto. We have since decided to continue our efforts
in opposing Israeli Apartheid by building a Toronto wide
divestment, boycott and sanctions campaign. We are a
coalition of grassroots organizations committed to
supporting and sustaining the Palestinian movement for
justice, human rights and self-determination.

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This entry was posted on 30 May, 2006 by in Activism.

Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"