Friday, October 05, 2007

Ahmadinejad and international law

THE JERUSALEM POST Oct. 2, 2007, by Irwin Cotler:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent visit to the United States and the UN was no less than a three-act play in the Theater of the Absurd. While it has been argued that his command performances at the UN, Columbia University and in the media further exposed his absurdity, critics need to look behind and beyond the on-stage theatrics, lest we ignore the depth of his regime's criminality and the suffering of the Iranian people.

...First, President Ahmadinejad should have been declared an inadmissible person and placed on the "United States's Watchlist" of persons barred from entering the country. For American law excludes from entry any person who has engaged in, or incited to, terrorist activity, or who "has used his position of prominence to endorse or espouse terrorist activity in a way that undermines United States' efforts to reduce or eliminate terrorist activities."
The evidence of Iran's complicity in terrorist activity is clear and compelling. Ahmadinejad's Iran has recruited, trained, financed, instigated and armed its terrorist proxies such as Hamas, Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad, whose platforms and policies are replete with genocidal calls and terrorist activity that outdo even its Iranian patron.
Moreover, Ahmadinejad is in standing violation of the Genocide Conventions prohibition against the "direct and public incitement to genocide," which alone should be cause for exclusion. If it be argued that no precedent exists for excluding an sitting president, it should be recalled that Austrian president Kurt Waldheim was placed on the "US Watchlist" for his participation in the persecution of civilian populations during the Second World War.

THE SECOND Act in this Theater of the Absurd was the invitation extended to Ahmadinejad to address Columbia University. This was not a matter of academic freedom. Columbia was not obliged to give Ahmadinejad a podium; rather, given his criminality, it was obliged not to give him a podium. Nor was this a matter of "free speech;" incitement to commit genocide is not protected speech. Indeed, it is a violation of international criminal law - including not only the Genocide Conventions but the International Criminal Court Treaty.
In fact, the best evidence for not inviting Ahmadinejad to Columbia was set forth in the "introduction" by Columbia's President Lee Bollinger of Ahmadinejad , which was more indictment than introduction, and appeared more as an exculpatory disclaimer - however discourteous - for the wrongful judgment to invite Ahmadinejad to begin with.
Further, the "justification" offered for the invitation by Columbia University Dean John Coatsworth - that he would have given Hitler a platform - was devoid of any moral compass.

Third, and most disturbing, Ahmadinejad should not have been a welcome guest at the United Nations General Assembly. He should have been - and should be - the object of a criminal indictment, the elements for which can be found in Lee Bollinger's own introduction.
A PERSON who incites to genocide; who is complicit in crimes against humanity; who continues the pursuit of the most destructive of weaponry in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions; who warns Muslims who support Israel that they will "burn in the umma of Islam;" who is engaged in a massive repression of human rights in Iran; who assaults the basic tenants of the UN Charter - such a person belongs in the dock of the accused, rather than the podium of the UN General Assembly.

....State parties to the Genocide Convention, such as Canada, have not only a right, but a responsibility, to enforce the convention, particularly as regards the prevention of genocide.
State parties should therefore refer the criminal incitement to genocide by President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders to the appropriate UN agencies. It is astonishing that this criminal incitement has yet to be addressed by the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly, or any other body or agency of the United Nations, though it has found fit to give him a podium.
  • State parties should initiate, in the International Court of Justice, an inter-state complaint against Iran - for its "direct and public incitement to genocide" in violation of the Genocide Convention, to which Iran is party.
  • The crimes of President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders should be referred by the UN Security Council to the special prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for investigation and prosecution.
  • State parties should prepare criminal indictments of President Ahmadinejad, former president Rafsanjani, and other Iranian leaders on the basis of the "Universal Jurisdiction" principle embodied in the Genocide Convention.
  • The UN Secretary General should refer President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders to the UN Security Council, on the basis of their threats to international peace and security, pursuant to Article 99 of the UN Charter.
  • PRESIDENT Ahmadinejad and other designated Iranian leaders should be placed on a "watchlist" by concerned countries, preventing their entrance as "inadmissible persons." There is presently discussion about holding Iran accountable for its defiance of UN Security Council resolutions calling for the suspension of its uranium-enrichment process. The recommended options have included everything from UN sanctions to possible military strikes.

It is time that the above juridical options was initiated, which might also embolden progressive forces within Iran while holding the responsible individuals accountable. Indeed, recent history has taught us that sustained international juridical remedies can bring about the indictment of seemingly immune dictators, such as Slobodan Milosevic and Augusto Pinochet, and such actions are clearly preferable to military options.

This is an opportunity for countries such as the United States and Canada to exercise necessary leadership in regard to one of the most important threats confronting the international community today.

The writer is Opposition Critic for Human Rights and former minister of justice and attorney-general of Canada and professor of law at McGill University.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Shemini Yahrzeit

...and now, something personal, written 2 October 2007:

I returned a few weeks ago from a visit to the site of the Mauthausen concentration camp in North Austria and the nearby sites of various “death-by-work” sub-camps where my father had been a prisoner. He would have certainly died there, in Gunzkirchen near Wels, but for the 71st Infantry Division of the US Army who discovered the forest camp where he had been marched in the last days of the war, along with thousands of other prisoners, to be starved to death in wooden barracks, a short walk from Red Cross stores laden with food.

Several people have commented that this emotionally-charged visit must have been difficult for me. It wasn’t. I stayed at a business-class hotel in Linz, overlooking the Danube, and I moved around the various sites, museums and the documentary archives in Vienna, in physical comfort and safety, despite remnants of anti-Semitism that are still obvious in the area. I feel privileged to research, explore and better understand what my father experienced.

Last year at the time of Dad’s Yahrzeit[1], on Hoshana Raba, the seventh day of Sukkot[2], I felt that that seventh Yahrzeit was a very important milestone; a significant new stage in my life. I asked myself: what is my responsibility? What is my mission? What can I learn from Dad’s life?

Now Dad’s eighth Yahrzeit is approaching, tomorrow. What does this shmenini[3] milestone mean to me?

The day after tomorrow is Shemini Atzeret [the Eighth Day of Assembly]. At the time of the Temple the nation gathered in Jerusalem for Sukkot. Afterwards the nation will not gather again in Jerusalem until Pesach. Shemini Atzeret adds to Sukkot and delays the dispersal briefly. We linger in the sukkah, reluctant to part. We express the same feeling by reciting Yizkor that day. We are reluctant to part with our loved ones…

The eighth day of Pesach is also a shemini milestone. On the seventh day of Pesach the Red Sea split… a miracle so great that the entire Jewish people declared ze Eli (“This is my G-d”). So why do we say that the eighth day of Pesach surpasses the seventh? In Parshat Beshelach[4] it is written that “… Israel saw the mighty hand which the Hashem had wielded against the Egyptians, and the people revered the Hashem[5], and believed in the Hashem,” why is “believed” used? If we actually “saw” the miracle why did we have to also “believe”? But even a miracle doesn’t fully express Hashem’s essence: the promise of a better world to come. We saw the miracle, and we also believed in a better future. This is also why on that day we read a Haphtorah [6]with prophecies of when “a wolf will dwell with a lamb” and “a small child will lead them”. So the eighth day of Pesach is at a higher level than the seventh.

Yet another shemini milestone is Parshat Shemini[7], which is read on the Shabbat[8] immediately after Pesach. Here shemini refers to the eighth day of the consecration of the altar in the temple. During the seven preceding days Moses ministered in the consecration, but on the seventh day Hashem told Moses that his brother Aaron would take over. He was to be the Cohen Hagadol (High Priest). The words ki hayom Hashem nira uleikhem (“for to-day the Lord appears to you”) indicate that despite all the sacrifices and efforts of the inaugural seven days, Hashem’s presence was felt only when Aaron put on the robes of Cohen Hagadol, on the eighth day. The inaugural seven days of consecration refer to the ultimate of human efforts. However, the eighth day refers to a level that transcends human efforts…a greater potential. And “all the people saw and gave praise and fell on their faces.”

And so shevi’i (seven) refers to the complete natural order. (Seven days in a week, seven years to the Shmitta[9] year.) Shemini (eight) refers to a level that transcends the natural order: is not bound by finite constraints. It hints at the better world to come, the ultimate achievement of tikkun olam. This is why the Mashiach[10] is also called the 8th of the princes of men; and why the Temple kinor (violin) had 7 strings, but the kinor in the days of Mashiach will have 8 strings.

And so on my father’s shemini Yahrzeit, I feel able to rejoice in his memory. I feel confident in the future.

I’m proud of his resilience and consequent survival; proud that he emerged from the Shoah, like steel from the hottest fire: a paragon of strength and determination. I’m proud that he rushed from Europe to Eretz Yisrael [11]to defend the rebirth of the nation. He has led us, by his example, to continue to defend the nation and Klal Yisrael[12].

I’m thankful that he chose a safe haven in Australia, a land of freedom in which our family is regaining its strength and numbers, and a land which is amongst Israel’s best friends. I truly believe that I, and my children, can and will make a difference in contributing towards tikkun Olam[13]. We are all privileged to build on his achievements and thankful for the capability to now act in his stead.

[1] Yahrzeit – the Jewish custom of annual commemoration of the death of a parent, sibling or child. The commemoration is in accordance with the lunar calendar, as is the determination of the Jewish festivals.
[2] Sukkot – the feast of the Tabernacles.
[3] Shemini – eighth
[4] Parshat Beshelach – portion of the Torah: Exodus 13:17-17:16
[5] Hashem – “the name” (the Almighty …)
[6] Haphtorah – a reading from the Prophets
[7] Parshat Shemini – portion of the Torah: Leviticus 9:1-11:47
[8] Shabbat – the sabbath
[9] Shmitta – the sabbatical year (every seven years) when the land lies fallow.
[10] Mashiach – the Messiah
[11] Eretz Yisrael – the Land of Israel.
[12] Klal Yisrael – refers to the Jewish world globally and all-inclusively.
[13] tikkun Olam – “repairing the world”, refers to doing good deeds and making the world a better place for all.

Why are we [USA] funding the U.N.'s “human rights” nonsense?

From National review Online, September 28, 2007, by Anne Bayefsky [emphasis added]:

When President Bush told the United Nations General Assembly this week “the American people are disappointed by the failures of the Human Rights Council,” his words could not have been more timely or deserved. He pointed out “This body has been silent on repression by regimes from Havana to Caracas to Pyongyang and Tehran — while focusing its criticism excessively on Israel.” On Friday, the Council piled the dung heap higher. It wrapped up another session in Geneva by adopting two more resolutions against Israel and no resolutions critical of the human-rights record of any of the other 191 U.N. member states.

This brings the total of anti-Israel resolutions and decisions adopted by the “Human Rights” Council — in only the first 15 months of its operation — to 14. Another four very weak decisions and resolutions have been applied to Sudan. And the Council finally decided to hold a special session of the Council on Myanmar. So adding up the highly selective concerns of the U.N.’s lead human-rights agency: 74 percent of the Council’s moves against individual states have been directed at Israel, 21 percent at Sudan, 5 percent at Myanmar, and the rest of the world has been given a free pass.

European diplomats openly predict that within a year all U.N. special investigators dedicated to uncovering and reporting on human-rights violations in specific states will be abolished by the Council. These key mechanisms for human-rights protection were created with enormous difficulty over the past two decades.

The axe wielded by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) was first used in June to terminate the human-rights investigations on Cuba and Belarus. Then came the dithering over Sudan. While genocide continues in Darfur, the Council couldn’t decide this week whether a Sudan investigator was worth keeping. The matter was deferred for another three months. All other such investigators are on the chopping block — all that is, but one. The only exception to the “rule” is the investigator assigned to Israel. The Council has extended the life of the Israel rapporteur until Council members deem the occupation to be over — notwithstanding that the controlling faction believe all of Israel to be occupied land. At the same time, there is no shortage of outbursts from the OIC railing against any other human rights investigator.

....There was a dandy resolution on the Durban II racism conference — the newest U.N. forum for anti-semites from around the world being planned for 2009. The resolution calls for the Libyan Chair of the Preparatory Committee to come to New York to present a report in person to the General Assembly. (Distributing the written report is not good enough.) The cost of the visit? $8,400 according to the Secretariat — for a 15-30 minute presentation. In case you were wondering, American taxpayers will pay 22 percent of those costs.

Then there were lots of resolutions on racism — all designed to bring hysterical accusations of Islamophobia and dastardly cartoons to the fore. In line with the sponsors’ genuine concern for religious discrimination, Pakistan objected to “Jewish holidays” being used as a pretext for violating the human rights of Palestinians. At the insistence of the OIC, a new clause has become de rigueur for the mandate of every investigator on every human rights subject, country-oriented or thematic. The provision imposes a code of conduct which threatens to seriously interfere with their independence.

My personal favorite was the Egyptian-led resolution, entitled “From rhetoric to reality: a global call for concrete action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” Adopted over the negative votes of all Western and Eastern European democracies, who are totally outnumbered in the Council, it decides that the future agenda of the Intergovernmental Working Group will focus on the following paramount issues…re-aligning the work and name of the Anti-Discrimination Unit in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights…and that, henceforth, this Unit shall be known as “The Anti-Racial Discrimination Unit,” and that its operational activities shall focus exclusively on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, as defined in…the Durban Declaration.

In other words, for anybody who has any idea of talking about anything but Islamophobia, you’re days are numbered.

In the meantime, the day-to-day camaraderie of the UN Human Rights Council proved a comfortable place to express the following sentiments:
  • Egypt: “…the offensive publication of portraits of the Prophet Mohamed…has highlighted the damage that freedom of speech if left unchecked may lead to, not only hurting the religious feelings of more than a billion people, but also their freedom of religion and their right for respect of their religion.”
  • Pakistan, on behalf of the OIC: “…terrorist acts carried out by non-state actors, in the name of religion, should be de-linked from religion to ensure freedom of religion for the peaceful followers of that faith.”
  • Pakistan, on behalf of the OIC: “The international community must address the root causes of terrorism, such as the situations of grave injustice and repression involving Muslims, and conditions of poverty and lack of opportunity, which fuel extremism and terrorism.”
  • Syria: “Freedom of opinion had been utilized to humiliate Islam and to cause hatred and instigate violence.” Bangladesh: “…freedom of expression…cannot be absolute nor infinite. It must be exercised with respect and responsibility…”
  • Iran: “…the right to freedom of expression is not absolute.”
  • Pakistan, on behalf of the OIC: “Islamophobia is also a crude form of anti-Semitism.”
  • Algeria: “…there is an upswing in anti-Semitism that now targets Arabs… and Muslims.”

The story line is always the same: Arabs are the victims of anti-semitism, Jew-hatred is off the radar screen; a billion people have been gravely wounded by a few cartoons in a newspaper published some two-thirds the way to the North Pole; freedom of expression is legitimately curtailed for just about every imaginable offense — particularly in Islamic dictatorships; religion is irrelevant to understanding and preventing terrorism, despite the fact that terrorists terrorize in the name of religion; and terrorists are driven by poverty and lack of opportunity — in other words, our dead are our fault.

Alongside what passes at the U.N. for “human rights” protection, stands the eminently reasonable legislation that has come from both the House and the Senate calling for an end to American funding for the Human Rights Council. The House passed their version of the Department of State Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act on June 22 and included by unanimous agreement an amendment introduced by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to refuse any funding for the Council. In the Senate version, proposed by Senator Norm Coleman and adopted unanimously on September 6, an exemption law was inserted by Senators Richard Lugar and Joe Biden. It would refuse funding for the fiscal year 2008 unless the President certifies either that providing the funds to the Council is in the national interest of the United States, or the U.S. is a member of the Council. Conference negotiations are underway, but some form of the restriction is expected to survive. As well it should. And when it does, it will be time for the president to translate his words on Tuesday into action.

Not only are we disappointed, we’re disgusted and we don’t want to pay another nickel.

Anne Bayefsky is senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute. She also serves as the director of the, Touro Institute for Human Rights and the Holocaust and as the editor of

Israeli arms purchases

From Debkafile, October 2, 2007, 10:30 PM [my emphasis added - SL]:

Congress approves $1.2 billion worth of US-funded Israeli arms purchases, including 50 huge GBU-28 guided bunker busters

DEBKAfile’s military sources report the package, discussed by US Pentagon and Israel defense ministry officials, aims at replenishing the seriously depleted Israel Air Force stocks of missiles, bombs and fuel to their level prior to the 2006 Lebanon war, ready for any potential war contingency. Some of these items will be delivered shortly; others over a five-year period.
They include thousands of missiles, tens of thousands of new bombs worth $799 million and 132 million gallons of jet fuel worth $308 million.

The accent of this consignment will be on the heaviest American bombs designed for such subterranean targets as the bunker fortresses of Iran, Syria and Lebanon’s Hizballah and on operating and guidance systems for upgrading Israeli Air Force ammunition.

The list, according to US defense sources, also includes 10,000 JDAM tail kits for high precision guidance of bombs in all weathers at ranges of up to 25 km, which are designed for use with the GBU-29-32 bunker busters; 4,000 laser-guided Paveway II munitions kits; more than 11,000 Mk-84 and Mk-82 bombs; 2,000 heavy fortifications-penetrating BLU-109 bombs; and 50 GBU-28 5,000-pound guided bunker busters.

The Israeli Air Force will also receive 500 Sidewinders AIM-9M, and 200 AIM-120C (AMRAAM) medium range air-to-air missiles.

The American quotes Israeli industry executives, including the state-owned Rafael Armament Development Authority, Israel Aerospace Industries and Military Industries, as concerned by the country’s increasing dependence on American weaponry. While appreciative of American generosity, they complain that locally made, alternative products are often more capable than US systems and better adjusted to Israeli needs. They took particular exception to the defense ministry’s plans to stock up on US Sidewinders and AMRAAM missile when the Python-5, Derby and follow-on indigenous systems are specifically designed for the Israeli Air force.

This massive purchasing program, say Israeli industry sources, not only denies their firms billions of shekels in new orders, but threatens to erode their international sales of such items as Israeli-built air-to-air missiles, which have made their mark on world markets.

PA wants 'sweeping deal' before summit

From Oct 2, 2007, by KHALED ABU TOAMEH AND MARK WEISS RAMALLAH [my own emphasis added - SL]

The Palestinians will only participate in the US-sponsored peace conference expected to be held next month if general agreement is first reached with Israel on all the fundamental issues, Palestinian Authority officials here said Monday.

They said that in addition to Jerusalem, the borders of the future Palestinian state and the problem of the refugees, the PA was also seeking agreement on water, security and settlements.

The officials also denied that the PA had agreed to discuss an exchange of land with Israel and limiting the number of refugees who would return to Israel proper. They said the PA's official position remained that Israel must withdraw from all the territories captured in 1967, including east Jerusalem, and that there would be no concessions on the "right of return."

...."We're not asking for a detailed agreement, but at least let's agree on the principles of the final settlement," [an] official said..... "As President Mahmoud Abbas stated last week, we have no intention to compromise on any of our rights," he said.

...The negotiating teams will meet Wednesday, when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to host Abbas in his succa at the Prime Minister's Residence. Contacts have already taken place, including discussions between the two leaders and between their foreign ministers, on what kind of joint document should be presented to the conference, set to take place in Annapolis, Maryland, in mid-November.

There has been no agreement on how specific the joint document should be. The Palestinians want a detailed framework agreement, while Israel wants a shorter, more general statement.
"We're negotiating with Israel, and after that there will be an agreement, which we will carry to the international conference to be blessed, adopted and endorsed, and then detailed negotiations shall begin," Abbas told reporters following closed-door talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman.

He said at least 12 Arab countries had agreed to send representatives to the conference. "There will be a very strong Arab presence at the conference," Abbas said after holding talks with Jordan's King Abdullah. "In addition, there will be some Islamic countries like Malaysia, Turkey and Indonesia." In the meeting with Abbas, Jordan's king urged Israel to take "confidence-building steps," which he said should include assisting Abbas and laying out a "specific agenda for the final status negotiations," according to a royal palace statement. Abdullah expressed hope that the international conference would have a "practical and tangible outcome that would lead to a just settlement and set forth a new era of joint Palestinian-Israeli coexistence."

AP contributed to this report.

Syria Sets Conditions for Role in Peace Talks

From the Washington Post, Tuesday, October 2, 2007, by Robin Wright, Staff Writer :

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad yesterday rejected his nation's participation in U.S.-brokered talks on Middle East peace unless issues critical to Damascus, such as the Golan Heights, are included.

Syria's first high-level statement on the peace talks, planned for next month, may be an attempt to widen discussions aimed largely at a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. But Assad's rejection also could play into the Bush administration's preference that Syria not attend unless it moderates its position on several issues, U.S. analysts said.

In a rare interview with the BBC, Assad also for the first time confirmed an Israeli airstrike in northern Syria on Sept. 6, asserting that warplanes hit an unoccupied military compound ..... [after] almost four weeks of surprisingly limited reaction.....

U.S. officials say they believe Israel hit a possible North Korean-supported nuclear site.

....At the United Nations, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni urged the Arab world to stop imposing terms for new talks at a time when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are engaged in direct conversation on a possible joint statement of principles. "As we have proven in the past, we are prepared for the territorial compromise that lasting peace entails," Livni said in a speech to the General Assembly.

A letter to Rice from 76 senators, scheduled to be released this week, says it is essential for the Bush administration to get "friendly" Arab countries to take bolder action to foster the new U.S. peace effort. The letter, obtained by The Washington Post, specifically calls for the Arab world to recognize Israel's right to exist, end its economic boycott of Israel and not use recognition as a bargaining chip for future Israeli concessions. Signed by five presidential candidates from the Senate, the letter also calls for the Arab world to pressure Hamas, the radical Palestinian movement that seized control of the Gaza Strip in June, to recognize Israel and reject terrorism -- and for the Arabs to isolate Hamas until it takes such steps. In the meantime, the senators appeal to the Arab world to take "meaningful" financial and political steps to help the Abbas government.

Monday, October 01, 2007

US Senate Approves Symbolic Rebuke of Iran

From FOXNEWS.COM HOME > POLITICS, Wednesday, September 26, 2007:

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a measure sending another rebuke to Tehran, this one aimed at sending a message to the Islamic regime to end military tactics targeting U.S. forces in Iraq.

The vote came one day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told international leaders gathered at the U.N. General Assembly that Iran only seeks a peaceful nuclear program, and said that the conversation on the Iranian nuclear program "is now closed."
The Senate, showing it was not convinced by Ahmadinejad's proclamations, approved the nonbinding measure on a 76-22 vote. It was sponsored by Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.

The measure — an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill under consideration in the Senate — is in response to growing concerns over Iranian support for insurgent activity in Iraq. Military officials say Iranian weapons have been discovered in insurgent hands, and U.S. officials have captured agents with alleged Iranian ties.

The amendment calls on the State Department to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as "a foreign terrorist organization." The designation would allowed for more economic sanctions to be set against the country.

....One portion of the amendment reads: "It is the Sense of the Senate ... that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies."

....The House on Tuesday also passed a measure calling for greater economic sanctions against Iran. That bill, passed on a 397-16 vote, would block foreign investment in Iran, especially its energy sector, and would bar the president from waiving U.S. sanctions.

The motions out of Congress come on a highly anticipated week in which President Bush and international foe Ahmadinejad appeared at the same podium, only hours apart at the U.N.'s annual meeting on Tuesday. The drama also followed a contentious appearance by Ahmadinejad at Columbia University in New York...

FOX News' Trish Turner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Israel boycott illegal and cannot be implemented

From the University and College Union (UK) web site, 28 September 2007 ...

UCU [the University and College Union of UK] announced today that, after seeking legal advice, an academic boycott of Israel would be unlawful and cannot be implemented. Members of the union's strategy and finance committee unanimously accepted a recommendation from UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, that the union should immediately inform branches and members that:

  • A boycott call would be unlawful and cannot be implemented
  • UCU members' opinions cannot be tested at local meetings
  • The proposed regional tour cannot go ahead under current arrangements and is therefore suspended.

The union had passed a motion at its congress in May calling for the circulation and debate of a call to boycott. Since then UCU has sought extensive legal advice in order to try to implement congress policy while protecting the position of members and of the union itself.

The legal advice makes it clear that making a call to boycott Israeli institutions would run a serious risk of infringing discrimination legislation. The call to boycott is also considered to be outside the aims and objects of the UCU.

The union has been told that while UCU is at liberty to debate the pros and cons of Israeli policies, it cannot spend members' resources on seeking to test opinion on something which is in itself unlawful and cannot be implemented. The union will now explore the best ways to implement the non-boycott elements of the motion passed at congress.

The legal advice states: 'It would be beyond the union's powers and unlawful for the union, directly or indirectly, to call for, or to implement, a boycott by the union and its members of any kind of Israeli universities and other academic institutions; and that the use of union funds directly or indirectly to further such a boycott would also be unlawful.'

The advice also says that 'to ensure that the union acts lawfully, meetings should not be used to ascertain the level of support for such a boycott.'

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Since congress our first priority has always been to keep the union, and its members, safe during what has been a very difficult time. I hope this decision will allow all to move forwards and focus on what is our primary objective, the representation of our members.....