FFIPP-UK mailing,15th June 2006
This FFIPP-UK mailing
1. Draws attention to the new FFIPP website
2. Contains a brief summary of and links to some of the contributions around the Natfhe boycott debate and the wider situation of Palestinian academics.
A: The Natfhe debate
a) The Natfhe emergency resolution on Palestine and the General Secretary’s report on Palestine
b) The actual boycott debate
(1) Benjamin Joffe-Walt’s Guardian report, Lecturers back boycott of Israeli academics, 30th May 2006
(2) Speech of General Secretary Paul Mackney against the motion
B: Reflections on the debate
a) Birzeit University Right to Education Campaign , The Boycott of Palestinian Education: Can the Anti-Boycotters Please Stand Up?
b) Brian Klug, Spare us the analogies, 30 May
c) John Pike A travesty of democracy, 1 June
d) Victoria Buch, On the Academic Boycott, Occupation Magazine, 3 June
C: Boycott the boycotters?
a) American Anti-Defamation League call for US academics to boycott British lecturers who boycott Israeli universities
b) David Hirsh Engage has a categorical rejection of this call on the Engage website
D: A wider view
Matthew Taylor and Duncan Campbell, “The great divide”, Education Guardian 6 June
E: Related academic issues
a) Ha’aretz, news report on Shin Bet’s proposed degree at the Hebrew University
b) Johnathan Cook, “Academic Boycott: Shin Bet training program highlights academic complicity with occupation”, Electronic Intifada
c) Right 2 Education, “An-Najah University denied educational equipment”
F: The apartheid analogy
John Strawson, Zionism and Apartheid: The Analogy in the Politics of International Law
The Natfhe conference took place over the last long weekend in May, with the boycott resolution hogging the limelight. Not so well known is that the General Secretary’s address included a substantial section on the situation in Palestine and that the conference passed an emergency resolution on the subject, brought forward by the Executive::
“Conference notes the humanitarian disaster threatened by the withholding of EU, US and other funds from the Palestinian Authority following the election of a Hamas government and also the recent AUT Commission report on grey listing and boycotts.
“Conference urges UCU to develop as quickly as possible a coherent policy of concrete assistance to Palestine universities and civil society.”
Whatever else came out of the conference this, together with steps taken by the AUT since its rejection of the boycott motion last year at its recall conference, have laid the foundations for a strong trade-union involvement with the situation in Palestinian academic institutions and society in general. It provides a major opening for FFIPP-UK supporters to get stuck into positive solidarity work.
On the boycott resolution itself, outgoing General Secretary of Natfhe, Paul Mackney, spoke against. He said that, while he understood the anger over the occupation and recent developments the motion 198C before the conference was not the way to develop a sustainable policy of support for Palestinian rights; that any motion to boycott required the highest level of legitimacy and collective support – which this one lacked; that resolutions were needed that could involve members at branch level, and not empty gestures…
Despite this the motion was carried by 106 votes to 71 with 21 abstentions.
But, as Paul Mackney had pointed out at the time, it was to have a mere three days shelf-life anywat, falling into disuse with the merger of the AUT and Natfhe into Ucu on 1st June.
The detailed notes of Mackney’s speech are on the FFIPP-UK website
The Guardian’s report of the conference debate by Benjamin Joffe-Walt, Lecturers back boycott of Israeli academics; and the Independent’s report by Richard Garner Lecturers’ union supports boycott of ‘apartheid’ Israel
The Right 2 Education in Bir Zeit issued a forceful appeal The Boycott of Palestinian Education: Can the anti-boycotters please stand up?, arguing that ‘the reality facing the other side of the coin, that of Palestinian academics, researchers and educational institutions, has been ignored’. It chronicles the repression that Palestinian academics and institutions have faced in recent years and asks: ‘in the absence of a sizeable and meaningful denunciation of Israeli clampdowns on Palestinian education, what other mechanisms are there to awaken the pro-dialogue, pro-peace camp?’
Brian Klug sees the Natfhe motion as ‘fatally flawed’ in two ways – unclear as to what it calls for and ‘vague and paradoxical’ in motivation. In so far as it is underpinned by the analogy with South Africa, Klug believes that ‘the differences between the two situations are greater than the similarities. And in the end, any political action that is aimed at ameliorating the conditions of the Palestinians must be based on an analysis – not an analogy.’
John Pike tries to understand the mechanics of the Natfhe conference decision and sees it as ‘a gesture forced through by a tiny, SWP-organised minority’ showing ‘contempt for the members and a travesty of democracy’.
From Israel Victoria Buch, Prof of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry at the Hebrew University, and an editor of the on-line Occupation Magazine wrote there of her mixed reactions to the Natfhe decision, wondering how Brits, “Citizens of a country implicated in the murderous occupation of Iraq – how come these people feel sufficiently self-righteous to censure Israeli academics for oppression of Palestinians?”
In the meantime the American Anti-Defamation League has called on US academics to boycott British lecturers who boycott Israeli universities – a call which David Hirsh on Engage has categorically rejected in his Comment is Free Guardian blog.
According to Matthew Taylor and Duncan Campbell (Education Guardian, Tuesday 6th June in an article entitled The Great Divide): “The episode also underlined the increasingly significant role that political events in Israel, Iraq and beyond are having on the lives of lecturers and students in the UK.”
Just before the Natfhe debate, an article in Ha’aretz followed up earlier reports about a new Hebrew University programme, approved the previous week, ‘to grant undergraduate degrees to Shin Bet [Israeli intelligence] security services personnel’. It had been lengthened form 16 to 24 months after Ha’aretz had carried the original report under the heading ‘Shin Bet recruits to enter fast-track undergraduate program”. Now it has to go to the Israeli Council for Higher Education for approval.
Subsequent reports conflict, with one suggesting that the programme is being dropped as a result of the exposure…
Jonathan Cook’s Academic Boycott: Shin Bet training program highlights academic complicity with occupation on the Electronic Intifada in an article goes deeper . In it he cites an article by Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling, the day after the NATFHE vote, that the fast-track Shin Bet degrees would be devised by Shin Bet itself and comments that “As Kimmerling notes, the most likely result will be a “professional studies” programme relating to the Shin Bet’s work, that such a programme clashes with the very values of free speech and free thought supposedly embodied by his university.” Kimmerling further claims that such arrangements are nothing new in Israeli academia. Cook cites the case of Arnon Sofer of Haifa University who advocates ethnic cleansing of Palestinians; and says that ‘Kimmerling offers his own high-profile example of this “partnership”. Menachem Milson, the dean of the humanities faculty at Hebrew University, was in the 1970s and 1980s head of the military government — misleadingly known as the civil adminstration — in the West Bank.’
Where Cook parts company with Kimmerling is over the latters’ objection to boycotts because “no one dared propose a boycott of American or British academic institutions after the invasion of Iraq, or Chinese academe for human rights violations.” It is an argument heard often in the British debate and Cook’s rejoinder to it is relevant.
A story about An-Najah University denied educational equipment is posted on the Right 2 Education website.
Briefly, the Industrial Engineering Department of the University have been unable to upgrade their equipment since October 2000 because of Israeli government policy; and also unable to send its students to visit the industrial zones in West Bank cities to see the implementation of engineering projects on the ground because of the roadblocks around Nablus.
John Strawson’s Zionism and Apartheid: The Analogy in the Politics of International Law is a serious addition to the literature on the apartheid analogy.
Links to other articles on the topic may be found on the JfJfP website