I imagine you are aware of the AUT proposed boycott against two Israeli universities, which is covered in excellent detail at Engage; I hope I need not state that I am (along with many others) utterly opposed to it. I was a signatory of a letter put out by David Hirsh, an academic who has been instrumental combatting the boycott from a reasoned left perspective. Today I attended a meeting organised by the anti-boycott meeting, which is described in brief below.

I was at the Public meeting against the boycott at University of London today; speakers there seemed confident the boycott would be overturned tomorrow with a fairly large majority. The underlying mood was that this was just one battle in a long war, another front being the motion soon being voted on by NATFHE – in this case for a straight boycott of all links between universities in the United Kingdom and those in Israel. There was also a mood of hope that the real left would shake up the ‘pretend left’ and the groupthink which has led a cartoon rendition of the complexities of the Middle East situation. Many speakers expressed solidarity with Palestinians and condemned current Israeli policy – this was truly no Trojan horse for neocon perspective – and to the extent it was raised, a plurality of opinion on Iraq.

What brought them together was opposition to the snaking, repeated attempts to shove through a discriminatory motion that draws a scar across the face of British academia, impedes the pursuit of knowledge, corrodes the good faith of Jews worldwide for causes of the left, and hurts the very institutions that are working their hardest to improve the sitation on the ground. (Who else are, like the lecturer from Bar Ilan, educating the next generation of civics teachers who will make both Israelis and Palestinian aware of the value of democracy?) Finally, as one attendee put astutely, what could more betray the spirit of a trade union than the endorsement of political tests in order to get jobs? If this boycott were a cheque you’d never get it to the Council floor – it wouldn’t stop bouncing.

5 Replies to “Boycotts”

  1. It’s just been overturned. Let’s hope that this will lead to action, rather than sticking to reaction – a lot of people are energised by this and the seams in the ‘idiot anti-colonials’ as someone at the meeting characterised them, are beginning to show.

  2. Where does this leave someone like me who wants to join a union. Should i avoid the AUT, or should I join and try and make sure that things like this don’t get as far as they did?

  3. My advice would be to definitely join, and to be an active and vocal member to steer the union away from extremism, engender reform within its organisation and campaign for the issues that matter. By the latter I guess I mean principally focusing on what a union should be doing- fighting for good working conditions and rates of pay for the people within it – but also, if foreign policy has to be dealt with at all, supporting sensible and balanced motion such as that put forward by Engage. I can’t recommend them highly enough – have a read through their website to get a sense of where they are coming from.

    As I’m still a student (albeit one with a large amount of teaching duties) I’m not a member of any union, but I would join and I think the AUT would be the obvious choice, not just in spite of the boycott proposal, but because of it, to (as you say) prevent things from happening again.

  4. Alex — I’m sorry to put this comment in the wrong place, but I’d like to talk to you about my pledge at which you commented on today.

    Since I don’t have your email address, my only way of contacting you is via this page. I’ve set up a spam-resistant email address at, and it would be great if you could send me an email so we can communicate directly.

    In your email, it would be great if you could clarify whether your one word comment — “genius!” — was serious or sarcastic. If it was serious, I’d be honoured if you could sign the pledge. If not, I’d be happy to talk the issues through with you.

    Best wishes,



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *