UNISON approves watered-down boycott of Israel

UK Minister Rammel says he will help develop relations with Israeli and Palestinian academics.

rammell 2 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
rammell 2 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Delegates of UNISON, UK's largest trade union decided on Wednesday to declare "an economic, cultural, academic and sporting boycott" on Israel. UNISON said it supported "a campaign of sustained pressure to end Israel's occupation of Palestine." However, Wednesday's decision was only a watered down version of the original proposal. Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini said the current boycott was "less harsh but still problematic." The sanctions that were not approved include a call to boycott products of Israeli companies as well as those produced by UK firms that trade with Israel. Another measure that was dropped was a call to cease investments in Israel. Meanwhile, UK Minister of State for Higher Education Bill Rammell said this week that the British government was opposed to any academic boycott of Israel. At a meeting with MP Louise Ellman (Labor) and members of the Jewish Labor Movement (JLM), he pledged to help develop relations with Israeli and Palestinian academics. There was "no justification for singling out Israel" with a campaign of boycotts, Rammell said, adding that such a campaign was inherently discriminatory and threatened to undermine social cohesion. "Education is a tool for increasing awareness and drawing people together," he said. "An academic boycott would drive people further apart and would not assist the peace process." Rammell said his department was prepared to host a seminar of Israeli, Palestinian and British academics. He invited the input of the JLM. Universities UK (UUK), the executive of all UK university institutions and some colleges of higher education, had clearly opposed a boycott, Rammell said. UUK president Drummond Bone had made that clear on a recent visit to Israel, he said. Rammell said his department would continue to build better community cohesion through antiracist and multi-faith education and by working with other government departments. The meeting was attended by JLM members Judith Bara, Henry Smith, Adrian Cohen and Alon Orbach. The JLM was established in 2003. It is the successor to Poale Zion and has been affiliated with the Labor Party since 1920. Its main policy focus is fighting racism and anti-Semitism and promoting a fair and just settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.