This document is aimed at members of the University and College Union (UCU) who wish to take action within their union branch on questions of Palestinian education and rights. It explains what steps to take to build a campaign at a local level and provides links to UCU’s recent national policies relevant to Palestine. Although aimed at UCU members, the general approach and resources will also be useful for members of other unions.
This document is therefore divided into two sections. The first contains background materials, resources and information on the academic dimension of the BDS. The second section is more specific and it is targeted at UCU members who might be wanting to take action in their union branch. To avoid repetition and overlap with other sources we have focussed on a selection of links and background information.
SECTION 1: Background – Why the academic Boycott?
BDS Academic boycott page https://bdsmovement.net/academic-boycott
- Case study 1: the establishment of Hebrew University in Jerusalem
- Case study 2: Palestinian universities and the denial of the right to education by Israeli authorities.
SECTION 2: Taking action in UCU
UCU members can play an important role in support of the Palestinian struggle for freedom. UCU has been at the forefront of the fight. Local UCU branches can do a lot too. Find out how in this section.
- Find out if your university is complicit with the Israeli occupation. British universities can be complicit in different ways, from investing their money into companies that support and allow the Israeli occupation and the violation of Palestinian human rights, to partnering with Israeli universities.
Is your university investing in complicit companies?
- University Complicity Database: https://www.palestinecampaign.org/university-complicity-database/
- UN database on of companies operating in Israeli settlements: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25542&LangID=E (report with the list is a word document downloadable at the of the press release)
- War on Want report on ‘UK bank complicity in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people’ https://waronwant.org/resources/deadly-investments
Does your university have a research partnership with an Israeli university? Universities usually list their links on their websites in the collaborations or partnerships section.
Is your university complicit? Time to do something about it! Find out how here.
1) Find out what is going on at your university. The first step is to find out who is doing what on campus. PSC and other BDS activists are present on many university campuses, and they can be your best allies.
2) Propose and pass a motion in support of Palestine in your UCU branch.
All members can put motions on their branch’s agenda, you just need to find out when the next general meeting will be! There is likely to be a deadline for motion submission before the meeting so that the proposed motion can be circulated in advance to the membership. Check your local branch rules to find out what this is or ask a member of your branch committee. However, it is often a good idea to approach your committee beforehand and find out a) whether your branch already has passed a motion on this topic b) whether they would be able and willing to support the motion. You may also want to look at the record of UCU’s national Congress to see what relevant motions have been passed. It will help make a case for your motion at local level if you can point to relevant national policies which have already been agreed at Congress.
UCU’s current national policy on Palestine was passed at the annual Congress in 2021. The full list of motions can be found here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/Congress2021
The relevant motion on Palestine in 2021 was L3 and was carried by 192 votes in favour, 15 against, 20 abstentions (p58 in this document: https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/11576/Congress-Motions/pdf/Voting_report_Congress_29and31.05.21_1.pdf).
Committee members will be able to advise you on the specific procedures of the branch (this will often be also included in a document on the UCU local branch website).
- Case study: Some examples of motions on Palestine which were passed at a general meeting of the Leeds University branch of UCU: https://www.leedsucu.org.uk/motions-passed-at-extraordinary-general-meeting-17-june-2021/
3) Your motion has been approved. What now?
Approving a motion is a great first step, well done! Now you can use this as a springboard for future steps.
Organise a campaign. In recent years, several British universities have divested from companies complicit with the Israeli occupation. And this as a result of well organised campaigns run by staff and students. UCU local branches can play an important role.
Read about organising a campaign in academia: https://www.palestinecampaign.org/wp-content/uploads/AOC-guide-2020.pdf
Read about recent successful divestment campaigns at UK institutions:
- University of Leeds (2018) https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20181105-in-first-uk-university-divests-from-firms-supplying-israel-army/
- University of Manchester (2020) https://bdsmovement.net/news/university-manchester-divests-nearly-2million-from-companies-complicit-israels-oppression