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Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Academic Boycott Victory in UCU - Numerus Clausus in Israeli College

The Boycott motion at the British Universities & Colleges Union began the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions in 2005. Then it called down a hail of fire from the pro-Zionist lobby. This year it has passed with barely a murmur, although the National Secretary, Sally Hunt, declared it was unlawful, the moral victory is ours.

More importantly it gives strong backing to Boycott actions already underway in academia. No lawyer can stop that and the fact that the motion was passed overwhelmingly is further proof that the cause of Zionism and Israel is now a lost cause amongst all except the careerists and opportunists in the largely irrelevant National Union of Students.

Below is an article in the Guardian from a Palestinian academic and also a report from the main organisation advocating boycott, BRICUP.

Also included is an article from the Alernative Information Centre about how a course was closed down rather than have too many Arabs. Numerus Clausus were one of the major weapons of the anti-Semites against Jews in Europe. It is interesting how Israel is once again using the same weapons used against Jews against Palestinians.

Tony Greenstein

Why Palestinians are calling for a boycott of Israeli universities
A Palestinian academic union urges British colleagues to back a boycott in support of 'our struggle for justice'

Palestinian academics have been heartened by the outpouring of solidarity with our people on the part of British academics and students – the latter attested to by the creative "student occupation movement" in the wake of the brutal Israeli war against the Palestinian people in Gaza last December and January.

What does the Palestinian academic community expect from international colleagues?
It has sometimes been suggested that solidarity with Palestinian academics is best expressed in fostering academic links between British and Palestinian universities, with the aim of strengthening the capacity of Palestinian academic institutions that have suffered from the long siege imposed by Israel's colonial regime.
While we value academic and institutional forms of support, we feel that this is not sufficient. Decades of life under military occupation have taught us that no sustainable development, including in the academy, is possible without freedom from occupation and oppression.

We are keenly aware that British intellectuals and academics have been at the forefront of many international campaigns for justice, the most illustrious and successful of which was the fight against the apartheid regime in South Africa. What we ask for is moral consistency: if it was acceptable for British academics to support unreservedly the academic boycott of South Africa with a view to ending the system of apartheid, then the same should apply in the case of Israel.
It is the duty of civil society to shoulder the moral responsibility of isolating Israel in the international arena through various forms of boycott and sanctions to compel it to obey international law and respect Palestinian rights.

It is well documented that Israeli academic institutions are deeply complicit in Israel's colonial and racist policies against the Palestinian people. Not only do Israeli universities and research institutions co-operate closely with the security-military establishment through research and other academic activities, they have never dissociated themselves from the occupation regime, despite the more than four decades of the systematic stifling of Palestinian education.

Israeli universities have never condemned the entrenched and institutionalised system of discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel within the Israeli polity, society and even the academy.

Israel and its supporters have argued that the Palestinian call for institutional boycott infringes the universal principle of academic freedom. Palestinians find this argument biased and hypocritical – not to mention based on false premises.

The privileging of academic freedom above more basic human rights conflicts with the very idea of universal human rights, as it assigns far more importance to the academic freedom of a sector of Israeli society than to the fundamental rights of all Palestinians to live in freedom and dignity. Is upholding the academic freedom – in our view, the privileges – of Israeli academics a loftier aim than defending the freedom of an entire people living under a brutal and illegal occupation?
"Constructive engagement" with the Israeli academy is often suggested to us as a more effective mechanism to address the injustice inflicted upon us by Israel. We have tried this method, only to realise that as long as the terms of the relationship between the Israelis and the Palestinians are those of occupier and occupied, and oppressor and oppressed, the engagement process only results in normalising the occupation on the ground and whitewashing Israeli atrocities abroad.
I can give an example from my own personal experience. Once, as I was crossing one of the hundreds of military checkpoints on my way to my university, I was stopped by an Israeli soldier who turned out to be a fellow mathematician at an Israeli university. But our collegiality ended here: he told me that I could cross the checkpoint if I was able to answer a mathematics question correctly! What kind of engagement can be possible here?

As to the charge that the boycott is discriminatory, it is completely false. The Palestinian boycott call is institutional; it simply does not target individual Israeli academics and cannot, therefore, be "discriminatory" in any real sense of the term. Endorsing and applying the boycott does not in any way prevent individual Israeli academics from participating in international academic conferences and research projects, so long as the projects themselves are not based on institutional links with Israeli universities and research centers.

Moreover, being enshrined in universalist values and principles, the boycott call adopted by an overwhelming majority in Palestinian civil society categorically rejects all forms of racial discrimination and racism, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

Finally, we of course recognise and deeply appreciate the steadily increasing support for the boycott we are witnessing among Israeli academics, who have reached the conclusion that only sustained pressure on Israel and its complicit institutions can bring about a just peace.

Our struggle for justice and peace is best supported through actions that aim at ending Israel's impunity by compelling it to respect international law and our rights. Boycott is the most effective among those.

• Dr Amjad Barham is president of the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE)
 
BRICUP - British Committee for Universities of Palestine
UCU Congress endorses boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel despite legal warning
Boycott campaign "now reaching critical mass" say activists


The University and College Union, representing approximately 120,000 teaching and related staff in colleges and universities in the UK, today passed a number of strongly-worded resolutions in support of the human rights of the Palestinian people and condemning Israeli atrocities in Gaza.

The motions had been submitted by a range of bodies within the union.

Motion 24, from the National Executive along with two branches in Further Education colleges, condemned the Israeli military attacks on Gaza and called on UCU to affiliate to the national twinning campaign; to organise events to mark the UN International Day of solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29th November; and to collect information on academics and students prevented from travelling to or from Palestine.

Motion 25, from the Disabled Members’ Standing Committee, pledged solidarity to Palestinians left injured by the Israeli assault in Gaza.

Motion 26, from UCU Scotland, agreed to disseminate the report of the President of UCU Scotland, who had recently taken part in the STUC visit to Palestine. That visit had resulted in an endorsement of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) by STUC Congress. The motion also welcomed the student campaign for disinvestment from arms companies such as BAe.

Motion 27, from the Black Members’ Standing Committee, called for "recognition of the democratically elected Gaza government" and for Israel to be tried for human rights violations.

All the above motions were carried overwhelmingly, as was Motion 28 from two regional committees of UCU. This motion demanded that the British government ban "arms sales and economic support to Israel", called for a ban on imports of all goods from illegal Israeli settlements in the OPT and demanded the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. Controversially, Congress also voted overwhelmingly for an amendment to this motion which affirmed support "for the Palestinian call for a boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign" despite a statement from the General Secretary that on legal advice this amendment would be treated as being "void and of no effect" if carried.

Motion 29 was brought by two branches at universities and one at an FE college. Tom Hickey, proposing the motion on behalf of a University of Brighton branch, stated that his branch wished to amend its own motion, changing the words "Congress affirms support for the Palestinian call for a boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign" to "Congress urges branches to discuss prior to Congress 2010 the Palestinian call for a boycott, disinvestment and sanctions campaign".

Hickey explained that this change was only being made in order to accommodate the current legal advice and prevent the motion from being ruled "void" like motion 28. This was accepted by Congress, who voted to support both the amendment and the motion. The outcome is that UCU has voted to host a Trade Union conference in the Autumn to "investigate the lawful implementation of the strategy, including an option of institutional boycotts".

Sue Blackwell, a BRICUP member who is on the National Executive Committee of UCU, commented,

"This was a smart piece of tactical voting by supporters of academic boycott of
Israel and other forms of BDS. We made it quite clear that we support BDS in
principle, whatever the law says about implementing it. There is nothing
illegal in discussing boycott campaigns, and we will now be doing just that
along with activists in other unions, including people from Scottish TUC who
have just passed a BDS resolution at their Congress."

Hickey suggested in his summing-up speech that the time had come for UCU to obtain a court ruling to settle the question once and for all and to put a stop to the legal threats to which the union has been subjected over the past few years. He expressed his "extreme disappointment" with members of his own union who resorted to such threats instead of pursuing their arguments through the union’s internal democratic processes.


BRICUP members will now be encouraging trade unionists to attend the forthcoming BDS conference in order to broaden the campaign.


BRICUP’s fringe meeting before the start of Congress heard speeches from Ewa Jasiewicz (co-ordinator of the Free Gaza Movement), Samia al-Botmeh (BirZeit University, Palestine) and Prof. Haim Bresheeth of the University of East London. At the meeting, a statement was read out from a group of Israeli academics who were calling on international colleagues to boycott their institutions. "We are now reaching critical mass", said Blackwell. "Boycotts, disinvestments and sanctions against Israel are breaking out everywhere, from South Africa to Norway and even within Israel itself. BRICUP is very proud to be playing a part in the growing campaign alongside our Palestinian brothers and sisters and their supporters worldwide."

Dr. Amjad Barham, President of the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, is attending UCU Congress as an official guest of the union. He will address Congress tomorrow (Thursday).


2. The full text of all the motions, except for late motions and late amendments, can be read here on the UCU website:

3. The PACBI (Palestinian BDS campaign) press release is here:

4. The national Twinning campaign website is at:

The Free Gaza Movement website is at:

The Carmel Academic Center in Haifa Closes Academic Track As Too Many Palestinian Students

The Alternative Information Center (AIC)

The Carmel Academic Center in Haifa shut down the concentration in accounting within its Department of Business Administration because a majority of the students applying were Palestinian citizens of Israel. This was revealed in a news item reported on Israeli news Channel 10 on 24 May (in Hebrew only).

According to this report, just over one week before studies were to commence, the center administration announced that the accountancy concentration would not open. According to a student (S.), "I was told […] that the students for accounting did not pay tuition, and later that there were not enough students."

Dr. Amos Baranes, a senior lecturer at the Carmel Academic Center and head of the Accounting Concentration, held a conversation about this decision with Gil Reshef, the entrepreneur behind the for profit Carmel center, which opened in the current academic year:
In this recorded conversation, Reshef said

"If it is a majority Arab, we can’t allow ourselves, because we can’t allow
ourselves an institution that will be categorized as Arab. Haifa University has
this image and has a big problem [as] it is perceived as a university of Arabs
[…] We are not funded (by the state) and if we will be seen as Arab, [students]
will not come […]"

Shocked by this conversation. Dr. Baranes met with Carmel Academic Center President, Professor Yehezkel Taler, formerly the Deputy Chair of the Israel Council for Higher Education. The conversation was recorded:

Dr. Baranes: "Yesterday I had a conversation with Gil; Gil also raised the issue about which you spoke, the Jewish/Arab issue, that we shouldn’t be an Arab majority […]"
Taler: "Here there was also a problem."
Dr. Baranes: "What?"
Taler: "Here there was also a problem. Of all those who registered, three were Jews, the rest Arab."

A horrified Baranes turned to the Israel Council of Higher Education, which accredits all institutes of higher education in Israel, including the Carmel center. In a written response, the Council noted that "it was clarified beyond doubt that the college didn’t open the program due to financial considerations."

However, when Carmel College President Taler learned that Dr. Baranes contacted the Israel Council for Higher Education, he removed Baranes from the center’s academic council and told him his future at the college is unclear. Taler told Baranes (in a taped conversation):


Taler: "I don’t want you there (Carmel’s academic council) […] I am not prepared that someone from the academic council will correspond with Ahmad Tibi (Dr. Tibi, Knesset member from the Ra’am Ta’al party) and the Israel Council for Higher Education."

Carmel College’s website (in Hebrew only) provides a telephone number (*5745) that can be dialed only from the areas under Israel’s control. When calling this number, the AIC was told that no telephone number exists that can be dialed from abroad, and that no fax number is available. However, we found their email and fax number, which you may find below.

The Alternative Information Center encourages Palestinian, Israeli and international activists for justice to contact the Carmel Academic Center and the Israeli Council of Higher Education to protest this blatant case of institutionalized racism by the Carmel Academic Center, and the lack of an in-depth investigation of this case by the Israel Council for Higher Education.
Carmel Academic Center:

E-mail: carmelcam@carmel.ac.il This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Fax: +972 (0)3 533-1645Telephone: *5745 (For those able to call from areas under Israeli control)Israel Council for Higher Education: Secretariat of the Council Fax: +972 (0)2 5679955 Telephone: +972 (0)2 5679911 Quality Assessment Unit: adi@che.org.il Fax: +972 (0)2 5611914 Telephone: +972 (0)2 5611914

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