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The Right to Education (R2E) Student Committee in Birzeit University welcomes the motion passed by UNISON, the biggest trade union of public workers in the UK (text below), and calls for student-wide mobilisation on boycotting Israel as a means to defend the right to education of Palestinians and end the occupation.
“We congratulate UNISON on their courageous move to speak out against the Israeli policy of tyranny and isolation of Palestine, especially at a time when the international community is silent and vicious witch-hunts were carried out against those who dared speak up.
As Palestinian students we are suffering from an economic blockade which has impoverished our communities, checkpoints which humiliate us and steal our time daily, pass-systems which prevent us from seeing our families and immigration controls which stop many of us from leaving and prevents international students from accessing our universities. We call on academics and students worldwide to seek the facts and speak out!” – said the Committee in a statement.
The Birzeit University Student Council, representing 7,600 students, also declares its support for the boycott. Last year it famously managed to replace all Israeli products on campus with Palestinian ones or other alternatives. This is a significant feat considering the ‘free-trade’ arrangement between Israel and its occupied territories which effectively allows Israeli products to flood the Palestinian market. Israel also controls all borders of the occupied territories thus controlling all import-export activities.
The R2E Student Committee also points out that the academic boycott is an institutional boycott that does not prevent Israeli academics from speaking or publishing their work. It is not a witch-hunt. It requests the suspension of institutional links and calls for Israeli academics to speak up against the breaches of humanitarian law and basic human rights committed in their name. The message the Committee’s students want to get across to Israeli academics is simple:
“The situation is intolerable. There is currently no outside pressure reining-in Israeli state practice in the occupied territories. Change must come before worse atrocities are allowed to happen.”
TEXT OF UNISON MOTION
(UNISON represents 1.3m public workers in the UK)
Motion 54 – Sanctions Against Israel
Conference notes that, during 2006, Israel invaded Lebanon and Gaza, withheld tax revenues form the Palestine Authority and refused dialogue with the elected Authority following the democratic elections of January 2006, re-sealed the borders of Gaza, expanded illegal settlements in the West Bank, and continued the construction of the illegal Apartheid Wall. Israeli policy represents a calculated defiance of international law and the United Nations (UN), with the collusion of the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK) and European Union (EU) which cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority.
Conference repudiates the Blair government’s consistent stand in support of the Israeli government throughout the shameful events of 2006, even joining the US in failing to call for a ceasefire amidst worldwide condemnation of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
UNISON believes the appropriate response is to support the growing international moves towards a union-based campaign of boycott and sanctions against Israeli institutions, in line with the call from over 170 Palestinian civil society organisations including the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions and individual unions and labour collectives.
UNISON welcomes the moves in 2006 towards implementing the campaign of Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) including those by the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) in Ireland, the Ontario region of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Congress of South African Unions (COSATU), and the open letter from artists supporting a cultural boycott.
UNISON resolves to participate fully in this growing international campaign by:
1) promoting discussion of these issues at branch and regional level through union publications, and involving the membership in conjunction with regional international committees;
2) continuing cooperation with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign at national, regional and local level;
3) investigating how UNISON members may be involved in trade with Israel or with key companies active in this trade;
4) highlighting to members the scope for consumer boycott of such trade;
5) investigating whether pension funds may have investments in Israel or in key companies trading with Israel, and seeking disinvestment from any such pension links;
6) supporting members who are able to take union-based action in line with Conference policy;
7) organising regional conferences where possible in cooperation with other Trades Union Congress affiliates and with PSC, to discuss the BDS campaign;
8) reviewing progress at the Nation Executive Council quarterly.
Conference recognises that the BDS policy will be opposed by the Israeli trade union federation Histadrut. Conference notes that the Histadrut expressed no opposition to the invasions of Lebanon or Gaza, nor to the apartheid wall, throughout 2006 despite its own substantial economic conflicts with the Israeli government. Conference considers that appropriate relations with the Histadrut are based on explaining our union’s policy and encouraging the Histadrut to condemn the Israeli government’s blatant violations of international law.
Conference reaffirms UNISON’s right and desire to act in solidarity with the Palestinian people.