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CRIT-GEOG-FORUM  September 2007

CRIT-GEOG-FORUM September 2007

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Subject:

Re: UCU motion to discuss Israel academic boycott

From:

Marc Welsh <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Marc Welsh <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 27 Sep 2007 14:35:50 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (239 lines)

a quick perusal of the UCU guidance to branches on the motion is instructive.

http://www.ucu.org.uk/circ/html/ucu31.html

Whilst some pro-zionist advocates have successfully conveyed to the media
the impression that the motion was TO boycott (this is how many of the
armchair warriors of cyberspace characterise it, all part of the evidence of
rising anti-semitism and mass conversion to islam across "eurabia" and its
new capital Londinistan in the minds of some reactionaries in the west), the
UCU motion and subsequent action is more classically middle/chattering class
centred, its about having a debate and discussion on the pro's and con's of
a boycott and what forms of censure or support the academy could provide
that would assist Palestinian institutions/unions affected by the
occupation. Specifically the debate is supposed to centre on the text of the
'Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel'
statement. Having held the "Big Conversation" the General Secretary of the
UCU proposes to report back the results of it to the NEXT congress in 2008.

A number of regional discussions are supposed to have already taken or be in
the process of taking place, organised by the UCU and its branches, and
seeking contributions from supporters and opposers of the Palestinian call
for a boycott.

If you read Annex 4 in the text of the link above you will see expressed
Sally Hunts (UCU Gen Sec) views on the matter. These strike me as about
right. The issue as framed (as a boycott) is not one of major priority for
UK UCU members as an institution, but they should be of importance and
priority to those members as individuals. The moral ambiguities associated
with potentially closing down dialogue within a community that is actually
all about dialogue, or of inadvertently harming those within Israel that act
positively to change the current situation arising from a boycott make this
something it is very tricky to enact. Unless the UCU was to take on some
sort of policing role (its not going to do that!); i.e. "this person is on
the good guys list, this one is on the bad, and this one has not expressed
any opinion ever so we must insist they do so", its pretty hard to see how
anything other than tokenistic efforts could be made on the back of this
resolution.

I agree with Salvatore, in many ways the 'boycott motion' is a distraction,
and ironically has provided much ammunition and raised the profile in the UK
of the "pro-zionist" lobby and perhaps provided some inadvertent
legitimisation for those like Richard Littlejohn who are raising concerns
about rising anti-semitism in the UK.

It is worth reading the actual text of the motion :

"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"

It seems eminently reasonable, though self-evidently partisan. Remove the
first instruction and in my view it is hard to see how Dershovitz et al
could so easily have shifted this debate to being one solely about a
complete academic boycott of an entire nation by the anti-semitic hordes of
british academia in quite the way it is perceived by many. A discussion of
"the moral implications..." etc might well have resulted in the sort of
actions Salvatore and Walter outline anyway, or even a decision to
selectively boycott, but PREDICATING the discussion on a boycott seems to
have been a strategic mistake.

_________________________________

I think Salvatore and Walter are on to something important here.
But, that said, the profoundly chilling effect of the 'wankers' needs
to be acknowledged and contested. I remember being involved in the
boycotts of apartheid South Africa: this was much easier than seems
the case with Israel.

On 26-Sep-07, at 11:09 AM, Salvatore Engel-DiMauro wrote:

> seems like this sort of boycott diverts attention from more
> pressing issues, to me. one more pressing issue is about effective
> freedom of movement and speech for Palestinians generally and
> Palestinian academics in particular within Israel, in the occupied
> lands, and in the US, as well as the end of closures and financial
> boycotts and throttling by the Israeli state of Palestinian
> education institutions. how does such discussion of a possible
> boycott on Israeli academic institutions make any headway toward
> those issues? is there no movement on the part of UK universities
> to pressure the UK government into boycotting companies that aid
> and abet the military operations of the Israeli government against
> Palestinians?
>
> in the US, i have participated in trying to get universities to
> boycott companies that furnish weapons and equipment (which is also
> used to demolish Palestinian homes) to the Israeli government. this
> is a more worthwhile boycott strategy to me. but not much has been
> accomplished so far. the boycott struggle, as usual, has been
> conveniently attacked as antisemitic by the sort of wankers
> Nicholls describes, who will use the anti-zionism = antisemitism
> line as much as they can to evade any discussion or debate, or, in
> other words, to stifle any political alternatives to the status
> quo. is something similar happening in the UK? it is a pity
> otherwise to see efforts in the UK foundering in terms of strategy,
> boycotting the ideological messengers instead of those with real
> powers to cease and desist seems odd to me. This is especially the
> case because there are not a few Israeli academics and public
> intellectuals that have been much more critical of the Israeli
> state than most academics in the US or UK. perhaps a better
> strategy would be to invite, give prestigious awards, otherwise
> reward those Palestinian and Israeli academics that are struggling
> for an end to Israeli oppression and colonialism, equal rights for
> all in a truly democratic single state, the right of return for
> Palestinians, etc. a more proactive engagement, i think, would be
> more worthwhile and effective than a boycott (which is hard to
> imagine in actual application, given how well networked military
> R&D in Israel is with US and UK, including universities).
>
> cheers,
>
> saed
>
> Walter Nicholls wrote:
>>
>> Thanks for this article Nick. The article focuses on the hypocrisy
>> of university presidents concerning the boycott. While the
>> hypocrisy is certainly there, we have to separate that out from
>> the question of whether academic boycott&#65533;s are strategic
>> techniques for addressing the injustices in the occupied
>> territories. The article makes clear that it is not a strategic
>> technique. Rather than motivating Israeli universities and
>> academics to put pressure on the state to change its policies
>> (which is the intended goal of a boycott), the mere mention of the
>> boycott has provided reactionaries like Alan Dershowitz an
>> opportunity to organize a pro-Israeli block among American and
>> Israeli academics. This &#65533;debate&#65533; has seemed to benefit the
forces
>> of reaction much more than those seeking to end the Israeli
>> occupation of Palestine. So, while I certainly sympathize with the
>> goals of those pushing this debate, an academic boycott is not a
>> strategic means for achieving those goals. It seems more
>> counterproductive than anything else.
>>
>> walter
>>
>> *From:* Nick Blomley [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
>> *Sent:* Wednesday, September 26, 2007 8:43 AM
>> *To:* Walter Nicholls
>> *Cc:* [log in to unmask]
>> *Subject:* Re: UCU motion to discuss Israel academic boycott
>>
>> As I understand it, the motion does not call for a boycott. Rather
>> it calls on local branches to *discuss* the issue.
>>
>> There's an interesting article on this from a North American
>> perspective at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article7124.shtml
>>
>> I don't think I favour a boycott. However, cutting off a debate
>> (as many university presidents have essentially said, in response
>> to the motion, or a misreading thereof) seems to compromise some
>> important academic freedoms.
>>
>> Nick
>>
>> On 26-Sep-07, at 8:07 AM, Walter Nicholls wrote:
>>
>>
>>
>> Pardon me for my political ignorance, but I don&#65533;t get the motive
>> behind a boycott of Israeli academics. Cutting people off from
>> active intellectual exchanges would seem politically
>> counterproductive (by reinforcing a sense of &#65533;us&#65533; versus the
>> &#65533;rest&#65533; sentiment) and against the academic tradition of free
>> speech. Also, it punishes a particular segment of the population
>> that really has little power to change state policy while
>> alienating natural allies in that country. If we boycott Israeli
>> academics for the bad polices of their state, in all fairness we
>> should also boycott American academics whose government has
>> created a fair degree of mayhem and injustice in the world. Iraq
>> is just the most recent example of how US foreign policy has
>> devastating effects on whole regions. Oh yeah, we can&#65533;t boycott
>> American academics because many of us are employed by American
>> universities and/or depend on journals and events that operate out
>> of this country.
>>
>> Walter
>>
>> *From:* A forum for critical and radical geographers [mailto:CRIT-
>> [log in to unmask]] *On Behalf Of *D F J Wood
>> *Sent:* Wednesday, September 26, 2007 7:36 AM
>> *To:* [log in to unmask] <mailto:CRIT-GEOG-
>> [log in to unmask]>
>> *Subject:* Re: UCU motion to discuss Israel academic boycott
>>
>> There seems to have been nothing here (at Newcastle or indeed in
>> North-east UK universities more broadly). Why, I am not sure - I
>> sense a distinct apathy and ennui rather than anything
>> particularly motivated in either direction!
>>
>> David.
>>
>>
>> ---------------------------------------------------------------------
>> ---
>>
>>     *From:* A forum for critical and radical geographers
>>     [mailto:[log in to unmask]] *On Behalf Of *Nick
>> Blomley
>>     *Sent:* 26 September 2007 15:29
>>     *To:* [log in to unmask]
>>     <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
>>     *Subject:* UCU motion to discuss Israel academic boycott
>>
>>     Has there been any discussion within UK universities concerning
>>     the pros and cons of a boycott, as suggested by the UCU motion?
>>
>>     Nick
>>
>>
>> *^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^
>>
>>     Nicholas Blomley,
>>
>>     Professor,
>>
>>     Department of Geography,
>>
>>     Simon Fraser University,
>>
>>     Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6, CANADA
>>
>>     778-782-3713
>>
>>     [log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
>>
>>     http://www.sfu.ca/geography/people/faculty/Faculty_sites/
>> NickBlomley/index.htm

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