"Protest vote immediately declared void by university union"
THE GUARDIAN (U.K.)
27 May 2009, on the Web at:
Lecturers voted overwhelmingly to boycott Israeli universities and colleges today. Delegates said Israeli academics were complicit in their government's acts against Palestinians.
But as soon as the vote was carried, the leadership of the University and College Union declared it void. Lawyers had advised the union to rule the vote null and void if passed, to avoid legal action against the union.
The union's general secretary, Sally Hunt, said she "formally and personally commended" having the debate.
The lecturers voted for a "boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign" against Israeli institutions in protest against Israel's policies in the occupied territories and January's incursion into Gaza.
The vote was carried at UCU's annual congress in Bournemouth. It is the ninth time the deeply contentious issue of Israel and Palestine has surfaced.
This year feelings ran particularly deep as the vote came after a wave of student protests at 35 universities across the UK.
Tom Hickey, from the University of Brighton, put forward one of two motions calling for lecturers to "reflect on the moral and political appropriateness of collaboration with Israeli educational institutions".
Martin Ralph, from the University of Liverpool, called for a boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign. He also called for a separate conference to decide how to legally implement a boycott.
But Camilla Bassi, from Sheffield Hallam University, said a boycott would "not help anyone" and would be "part of an anti-Jewish movement". She said: "It is a recipe against all Israelis when we need links between Israeli and Palestinian workers."
Jeremy Newmark, joint head of Stop the Boycott, said: "Whether you are a trade unionist wanting a powerful union or whether you are a longstanding campaigner for peace, it is clear that the UCU has taken leave of its senses. There is the potential for this union to play a remarkable role at this hugely crucial time. If the UCU was a serious union representing their members they would be working to involve Israelis and Palestinians in each other's destiny."