Monday, October 01, 2007

Israel boycott defeated

I am very pleased that my trade union, the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) has dropped its proposed boycott of Israeli academics. I was completely opposed to the boycott, and would have been forced to act against my union if it was implemented.

The boycott has been dropped due to strong advice that it would have been illegal. For full details, see the Guardian, or go to Engage, which describes the boycott as "defeated - morally, politically, legally".

However, I am not totally happy about the nature of the defeat. It seems to me it was defeated legally, but was it defeated morally and politically?

The legal nature of the decision leaves the taste that this was a technical defeat. But maybe I'm wrong to be dissappointed, for reasons Shalom Lappin articulates well:
The Jim Crow laws in the United States were overturned in the 1950s and 1960s through Supreme Court decisions and civil rights legislation, rather than by popular referendums in southern American states. The civil rights movement did not attempt to argue with segregationists to give up their misguided commitment to discriminatory practices. It invoked legal authority in order to compel them to respect the human rights of African Americans. In a liberal democracy the rights of individuals and minorities against racist exclusion are ensured by legal guarantee. They do not depend upon the consent of groups who refuse to acknowledge these rights as indefeasibly binding. That the UCU has now been similarly compelled to recognize that the boycott proposals that it has been entertaining violate the country's anti-discrimination laws is a cause for celebration rather than regret. It places the discussion of these proposals in precisely the right context, and it provides clear vindication of the strategy of opposing the boycott on legal grounds as an exercise in discrimination.
Nevertheless, the fact the decision was taken at executive level in the union - and the executive has always been clear that it opposed the boycott, even if, as Lappin notes, it failed to give leadership on that opposition. This fuels the (effectively anti-semitic) allegation that the union executive somehow gave in to Zionist pressure, and the ultra-leftist accusation that the decision was that of union bureaucrats not the rank and file. If a decision has actually been taken by the mass of the rank and file, there is no doubt the boycott call would have been overwhelmingly defeated - as even the SWP has admitted.

However, as Snoopy and Modernity's posts, for example, make clear, this was also the result of a long and hard-fought political struggle by Engage and its allies.

Blog comment: Ophelia, Norm 1 & 2 , Yourish, Flesh is Grass 1 & 2, The Plump, El Neuvo Pantano, The Boycotted Academic, The Brooks Blog.
Added blog comments 3rd October: Norm 3, The Bewilderness, John Strawson.

1 comment:

jams o donnell said...

Glad to see that the boycott was defeated Bob. It was an idiotic idea in my view