Wednesday, May 27, 2009

UCU Moves

David Hirsch live-blogged the UCU Congress where they debated, among other things, a measure calling for a boycott of Israeli academics. It is a bit hard to follow (being quite stream of consciousness), particularly if you aren't up on the details of the controversy. One major issue was the possibility that the UCU's boycott call might be illegal under British law. There were some calls to amend the motion to reflect this, otherwise, the official UCU line was that the motion would be considered null upon passage. I can't quite gather from Hirsch's writing what exactly happened, but it is evident that the Conference passed some form of anti-Israel motion.

Some other "highlights":

A request to forward the boycott proposal to the broader UCU membership was widely mocked and rejected. Proponents of the boycott claimed that the argument from democracy was inappropriate given (a) that opponents of the boycott "are not willing to respect the views of the Palestinian people who voted for a democratic government," i.e., Hamas, and (b) this is not the sort of issue which should be resolved by a vote anyway ("We cannot rely on votes. Lets not make this a bureaucratic procedure.").

The supporters were pretty clear that their proposal stood in contrast to "constructive engagement", which they characterized as "the worst thing." Those of us who still cast our lots behind building bridges instead of burning them ought to take note.

Several other agenda items dealing with Sri Lanka and Columbia were added at the last minute, with condemnations of government violence (linked, typically, to Western imperialism). There were, however, no other boycott motions forwarded with regard to any of these countries.

The UCU resoundingly voted down a motion "not[ing] with concern the rise of anti-Semitism in the UK and resignations of UCU members apparently in connection with perceptions of institutional anti-Semitism" and resolving "To investigate the number of recent UCU resignations and the reasons for them, and to report its findings to next Congress." What a huge surprise.

Oh, I almost forgot: At a "fringe meeting" of BRICUP (the leading pro-boycott group in Britain), one UCU leader referred to legal threats stemming from lawyers backed by those with "bank balances from Lehman Brothers that can’t be tracked down." This refers to a conspiracy theory that Jewish investors looted LB prior to its demise and redirected billions of dollars to Israel. But clearly, the above motion on anti-Semitism is totally unnecessary.

* * *

One of the academics speaking in favor of the boycott apparently said "We need to build on this anger". I can't end this post better than by reprinting one of the Engage commenters:

"We need to build on this anger"

Let us crank up the rage.
Let us not spend time to reflect.
Let us unleash the mob……….
Let us become "the people"……..
Let us pick up our torches…….
Let us go to where they live………
Let us make them feel our righteous anger…….
Why did everyone let us……?
I don't mean it to go that far. I only meant…….I only meant
My God, what have we done?

1 comment:

Cory said...

What strikes me most about this is what seems to be a contradiction between seeking justice, fairness and equality, but the idea of an organization consulting its membership to decide on a controversial issue? Out of the question. Don't these ideas stand in conflict with each other?

What of the refusal to investigate antisemitism within their own ranks? Is a group that seeks justice, etc. immune from such diseases as racism, prejudice and antisemitism?

The next question I would ask is, how is such apparent hypocrisy best confronted?