Yep, it's hotting up. The hypocrisy is being exposed. We might not win this but to get so much attention for the Palestinian cause is a victory on its own. This "critical mass" thing, of which Dr Hirsh has spoken, now puts us in a win-win situation.Both letters published yesterday condemn the University and College Union for something it has not done. While I support the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, I am delighted UCU conference delegates voted (with roughly 61% in favour) to promote not the boycott, but further discussion of it, and to encourage measures to enable our Palestinian colleagues to make their voice heard in the UK. The pro-Israeli lobby, now deployed like a juggernaut against any rational discussion, threatens to drown out entirely the voices of our Palestinian academic colleagues and their students, who have called for just such a boycott as part of a wider campaign of boycott, disinvestments and sanctions.
Both letters also suggest the UCU has been "captured" by a minority on the left - representing "0.15% of the membership". Hardly. This was a vote taken, in the normal way, by national delegates, on motions (and amendments) brought to the conference from branches all over the country, where the thousands of ordinary UCU members were able to shape the discussion.
University of East Anglia
Bill Rammell, the minister for higher education, on a mission of reassurance to Israel last weekend to reject the UCU boycott (Report, June 8) delivered some admirable reflections on academic freedom, that universal value so readily invoked by the boycott's opponents. What a pity, then, that Mr Rammell could not find time to cross the border and visit Bir Zeit University, the leading Palestinian university on the West Bank. There he would find an institution starved of funds because of economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority and often physically inaccessible to its students and teachers because of roadblocks and piles of rubble. It seems academic freedom and the right to be educated belong exclusively to the occupying power.
When those who oppose an academic boycott of Israel fail to condemn an occupation that denies Palestinians the right to a normal education, whether it's schoolchildren suffering daily harassment from settlers in Hebron or students in Gaza blocked from travelling to universities in the West Bank (Letters, June 12), all their fine talk of academic freedom is as dust in the mouth.
Wembley Park, Middlesex
Yesterday you carried two letters attacking the proposed UCU boycott. You also reported the successful campaign by the pro-Israel lobby to get a Jewish academic sacked (University denies tenure to outspoken Holocaust academic, June 12). It is good to know the various friends of Israel are such avid defenders of academic freedom.
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