- Tom Hickey, chair of the University and Colleges Union
- Faculty of Arts and Architecture, University of Brighton, Brighton BN2 1RA
The proposal adopted by the University and Colleges Union congress to discuss whether it should boycott Israeli academic institutions has caused a furore. The House of Lords set aside time for a full debate, and the British government dispatched a minister to reassure its Israeli counterparts. Whole page advertisements rapidly appeared in national newspapers condemning the decision. The great and the good were mobilised. Irrational, one sided, anti-semitic, and counterproductive were some of the accusations levelled against us for deciding to debate.
As the motion's mover, I have been subjected to sustained vilification. Eminent American professors, and supporters of Israel, have threatened to bankrupt and to destroy the careers of any union members who support a boycott. The conflation of a boycott proposal and a proposal to debate the appropriateness of a boycott clearly serves the purpose of those who wish to deflect attention from the substantive issue: the plight of people suffering under occupation.
So why has the union brought this predictable condemnation down on …