Monday, October 01, 2007

"With dismay, but not entirely with surprise..."

Palestinian academics respond to UCU ban

FIRST a Palestinian under-19 football side was refused visas to travel to Britain, then the University and College Union (UCU) uses legal advice to ditch its conference resolution, and cancels a visit by a Palestinian delegation.
All this after Israel cut off services to Gaza declaring it "enemy territory" to collectively punish the Palestinians.

Whatever you think of the boycott campaign against Israel, it seems British Labour is contributing magnificently to the boycott of Palestine.

There's room for a debate about the boycott tactic. But not apparently in UCU! With leadership behaving in such a shabby way how confident can union members be that it would defend their own rights when they come under attack?

Anyway here's what Palestinian academics have written in response to the UCU decision:

Open Letter to Ms. Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the University and College Union

PFUUPE September 29, 2007

Dear Ms. Hunt,

We have received with dismay, although not entirely with surprise, your letter of September 28, 2007 to members of the delegation of Palestinian academic trade union members informing them of the decision by the University and College Union's leadership to cancel their speaking tour to the UK to discuss the academic boycott of Israel with their colleagues at universities there.

We wish to state clearly that we believe that our British colleagues have been deprived of an opportunity to better inform themselves about an issue which is of concern to conscientious academics and intellectuals the world over. Moreover, we are disappointed to see that the leadership of a prominent organization of academics such as yours has not defended the right of its members to engage in debate on this matter.

Open debate and discussion are the foundations of academic freedom, and thus we cannot understand why the door to open consideration of controversial ideas has been so abruptly closed.We shall continue to pursue other avenues to make our case heard in the academic community in the UK, and shall not be deterred by the cancellation of the invitation extended to us by the UCU.

While we do not have the resources of the Israel lobby in the UK, we do think that fair-minded British academics will be willing to listen to our case and give it thoughtful consideration. Truth is stronger than power, and we trust in the integrity of British academics to know that instinctively.We do not think that your members are unaware of the significant role played by the UCU's predecessor, the AUT, in upholding academics' commitment to justice. During the struggle against the odious apartheid regime in South Africa, British academics were at the forefront of the academic and other boycotts of the racist state. We do not see why considering ways of fighting Israeli oppression of Palestinians should be subject to different considerations.We appreciate the sentiments expressed in your letter about "finding a way of opening a dialogue with the Palestinian academic community on building solidarity."

The best form of solidarity with Palestinians, whether they are academics or ordinary people, is direct action aimed at bringing an end to the occupation and the regime of apartheid in Palestine. Isolating Israel in the international arena through various forms of boycott and sanctions and forcing it to obey international law and respect Palestinian rights is one of the strategies open to international civil society, including members of the academy. We are confident that our British colleagues will begin to realize that true solidarity with Palestinian academics requires a political commitment to bringing about an end to oppression and injustice.

Sincerely,Dr. Amjad Barham
The President of Federation of Union of Palestinian Universities' Professors& Employees
--------------------------------------------------------- is an address of the Palestinian Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel (BDS).For more information about this Campaign and support of the 2005 Palestinian Civil Society BDS Call, please see:

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