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Press Release | October 20, 2008

BRICUP denounces supporters of Israelís attempt to suppress free speech

The British Committee for Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) today denounced the effort by unnamed members of the University and College Union (UCU) to prevent free debate of Israelís actions in the union. The legal challenge to the UCU, said BRICUP, demonstrates the desperation and the hypocrisy of those of those who wish to defend Israelís illegal occupation of Palestine.

The attack on UCU is aimed at defending the Israeli universities and colleges that are complicit in that occupation. This challenge to motion 25, which was passed overwhelmingly at UCU Congress in 2007, shows that it is not academic freedom that is the concern of four UCU members who conceal their identity but desperation to prevent any and all criticism being levelled at Israeli policy.

It is not the first time that law firm Mishcon de Reya has sent threatening letters to a trade union to attempt to deflect them from democratically debated and agreed actions. Following conference decisions by the Association of University Teachers in 2005, the union received no fewer than four legal challenges.

Motion 25 falls far short of the motion that, in BRICUP opinion, would be appropriate to the circumstances. It does not call for a boycott by UCU members of those Israeli universities and colleges which fail to dissociate themselves from the occupation. That is the policy that BRICUP believes might succeed in causing the Israeli academic community to question its Governmentís actions.

ďMotion 25 only asked members to reflect on the moral and political implications of continuing links with Israeli educational institutions and to discuss the occupation with any of their individual academic and scholarly collaborators in Israel.Ē said Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead of BRICUP. ďWe maintain that critical reflection is the duty of all academics. We are amazed that anyone should seek to make free thought illegitimate.

The motion also called for an investigation of the operation of one particular college (Ariel) which is illegally situated on occupied land, and is designed to further entrench the illegal occupation of the territory. Professor Jonathan Rosenhead said, ďIt is a looking glass world where those seeking to end an illegal act should find themselves in the dockĒ

Professor Haim Bresheeth, an Israeli born academic working at the University of East London commented, ďOpposition to this motion can be interpreted as little else than a determination to support an illegal occupation, and to prevent any debate or discussion of Israeli policy in the occupied territories, or of Israelís human rights record in those territories.Ē

There is a further, and equally shocking, aspect of this legal challenge. Dr Sue Blackwell a member of the UCU national executive said, ďI am horrified that members of my trade union should seek to use the courts to overturn a democratically decided policy of our own union rather than to argue their case through the democratic forums of the union and win or lose it on its merits. I welcome such a debate. Sadly this is not the first time that UCU and its predecessor unions have experienced such legal threats. I look forward to the real issues being debated so that the public can see what bullies these people areĒ

BRICUP believes that all members of the UCU must have the freedom of a trade union to debate issues of concern. This applies to every member: those who support motion 25 and those who wish to overturn it; those who defend Israel and those who condemn it.
For more information contact
Mike Cushman

More information
BRICUP is the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine
BRICUP is an organisation of UK based academics, set up in response to the Palestinian Call for Academic Boycott. Its twin missions are:
- to support Palestinian universities, staff and students, and
- to oppose the continued illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands with its concomitant breaches of international conventions of human rights, its refusal to accept UN resolutions or rulings of the International Court, and its persistent suppression of Palestinian academic freedom.

In support of this call for a boycott, BRICUP will:
- Continue to put pressure on the EU and the UK government for the exclusion of Israel from the European Research Area.
- Develop a policy which encourages individual academics to break their professional links with Israel by such actions as:
1 - Refusing research collaborations with Israeli institutions or to referee papers or grant applications issuing from such institutions
2 - Refusing to attend academic conferences in Israel
3 - Supporting Israeli academic colleagues working with Palestinian colleagues in their demand for self-determination and academic freedom
- Work within our trades unions and professional organisations in support of such actions
- Explore forms of support to Palestinian academic colleagues
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Posted on 21-10-2008

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