30 May 2024

Notwithstanding the extreme caution of UCU officials, the latest Israeli assault on Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is once again at the top of the agenda at the Union’s annual Congress.                      The Congress Business Committee (CBC) had decided not to order onto the agenda any clauses of motions or any amendments that supported an academic boycott, or committed the Union to supporting academic BDS campaigns, or affiliating to any organisations that supported academic BDS. That decision was overturned by an overwhelming majority and all clauses and amendments were ordered back on the Congress agenda.
The CBC had also decided to schedule these debates for the end of the session, and at the end of the day. Congress delegates voted by an overwhelming majority (exceeding the two-thirds required) to reschedule the Palestine-related debates to the top of the agenda.

Here are the six motions accepted for debate.

32 Composite: Solidarity with Palestine Disabled members standing
committee, UCU Cymru, London retired members
Congress notes
1. Since 7th October, more than an estimated 30,676 Palestinians and 1,139 Israelis have been killed, building on decades of precedent.
2. The Senedd and a UN General Assembly majority have voted for an immediate ceasefire.
3. For disabled Palestinians, escaping conflict zones becomes an effective death sentence.
4. Deaf or blind individuals struggle to receive evacuation orders, while those with intellectual disabilities may be unable to communicate their whereabouts.
5. Physical disabilities hinder mobility, making it impossible to navigate rubble or travel long distances
6. Before 7th October, 21% of households in Gaza had at least one member with a disability. At least 77,229 Palestinians in Gaza have since been injured in Israel’s genocidal assault.”
Congress believes
a. The Israeli response to the Hamas attacks amounts to genocide, ethnic cleansing and collective punishment of Palestinians.
b. Disabled people are considered more vulnerable to the impact of conflicts because they face greater barriers to accessing safety and humanitarian assistance than many others. This puts them at an increased risk of serious injuries, death, sexual assault, and other forms of harm. In long-lasting armed conflicts, the prevalence of disability is significantly high.
Congress resolves
i. To call for an immediate ceasefire and end to Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian territories.
ii. To call on the UK Government and all UK political parties to support an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza
iii. To call for the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli gaols.
iv. UCU to campaign for trauma-informed services and protections, aid, and safe space for women, children, pregnant women, lgbtq+, and women with disabilities in Palestine. Women suffer invisible gender-based violence, disproportionate discrimination, inhuman and degrading sexual abuse by Israeli soldiers, rape, denial of menstrual products, and lack of access to food and medicine. Women with disabilities are increasing exacerbated by limited services, lack of education, lack of resources, and dependence on guardians.
33 Composite: In defence of Palestinian rights, free speech and academic freedom University of Warwick, UCU Cymru, University of Liverpool, London regional committee, Kings College London
Congress notes
1. in the UK, academic freedom and free speech are being threatened for Palestinians and their supporters. Islamophobia and antisemitism have increased.
2. the growth of the Palestine solidarity movement against Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza, settler-colonialism, and apartheid.
3. the attempt to suppress Palestine advocacy in colleges and universities and critical scholarly work on the Middle East and North Africa in UK HE.
4. the call by Scholars for Palestine, www.scholarsforpalestine.org
5. genocidal assault on Gaza, the destruction of all its universities, and the targeted killing of its scholars;
6. ongoing disruption of West Bank Palestinian universities, administrative detention of students and staff, and the Israeli military quota on visiting scholars;
7. established role of Israeli universities in the maintenance of the apartheid system; and
8. attacks on Palestinian advocacy and teaching and research critical of Israel on UK campuses.
9. intervention by Oxford University to deny debate to a branch motion calling for a “Socialist Intifada” in the Middle East. The censorship by UCL of the UCL UCU branch website for passing a similar motion; and Breaking into UCU offices at Queen Mary University of London to remove a UCU “Ceasefire Now” poster and one calling for an end to “Israeli apartheid”, both protected free speech.
10. the launch meeting of Campus Voices for Palestine on 25 January at UCL and the BRICUP-organised tour of campuses with follow-up events.
Congress believes
a. Industrial action was important in supporting the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
b. We need to mobilise working class power to end the genocide in Gaza and cut ties with the settler-colonial, apartheid state of Israel.
c. This is crucial to defending our own working conditions and academic freedom.
d. Attacks such as those at the branches above parallel those made on individual union members for free speech on Palestine. But they also concern the independent democratic functioning of union branches.
Congress resolves to
i. defend staff/student rights to demonstrate in solidarity with Palestinians by mobilizing members against any attempt by employers or the government to silence us. We must campaign publicly to defend free
speech and academic freedom, particularly in support of Palestinian rights
ii. ensure UCU robustly defends branches from attack by employers, including with legal support
iii. launch a campaign to remove all restrictions on our right to strike, including over issues of social justice, against war and imperialism – and in the fight for a free Palestine
iv. step up the pressure to end the war on Gaza and join the international movement calling for an immediate, unconditional, and permanent ceasefire by establishing a grassroots solidarity committee, working with existing initiatives, to undertake work towards:
• Ending British universities’ involvement in the arms trade and complicit institutions – Organise to end university investments, contracts or cooperation agreements with weapons companies supplying Israel and complicit institutions. To campaign vigorously and publicly to support the call for the USS and other pension funds to divest from companies complicit in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.
• Building academic links with Palestinian universities and academics – Explore collaborative initiatives such as twinnings, exchanges, joint projects,scholarship programmes, academic fellowships and
partnerships that contribute positively to the Palestinian educational sector.
v. To alert all members to existing UCU policy in support of BDS inviting them to sign the Academic Commitment for Palestine
vi. To support the Defend Voices for Palestine Campaign on campuses, join and donate £3k to the national campaign Campus Voices 4 Palestine, and affiliate to BRICUP.
vii. Urge branches to support local campaigns to sever ties with Israeli universities, and divest from complicit companies.
viii. Invite all members to sign the Commitment by UK Scholars to Palestinian Human Rights.
ix. Publish and circulate to all members the statement on Palestine written by the UCU Black Members Standing Committee in autumn 2023, which provides important political background and guidance on Palestine for UCU members. (https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/13517/BMSCstatement-on-Palestine-and-freedom-of-speech)

34 Ceasefire now. For a free Palestine New City College Tower
Hamlets (Poplar)
Notes:                                                                                                                                                                                The Israeli state’ barbaric military campaign on the people of Gaza. Over 30,000 Palestinians had been killed.
1. The Israeli government is guilty of war crimes and ethnic cleansing.
2. The two-state solution is unviable.
3. The current state of Israel cannot offer security for Jews as its existence is dependent on continued oppression of the Palestinian people who will inevitably resist.
4. That anti-Zionism is not antisemitism.
a. Continue to support calls for an immediate ceasefire, release of prisoners and hostages.
b. Oppose moves by the Tory government to legally restrict shows of solidarity with Palestine, such as legislation banning BDS campaigns.
c. Oppose any attempts by employers to conflate anti-Zionism with antisemitism.
d. To support the Defend Voices for Palestine on Campuses, join and donate £1k to the national campaign, and affiliate to British Committee for Universities in Palestine (BRICUP).
[original Notes 3 was taken separately and narrowly defeated by 18 votes]
3. Peace can only be achieved by establishing a single democratic secular state in Israel/Palestine where Muslims, Jews, Christians and all people who live there have equal rights. These rights must include the
right to return for all Palestinians.
35 Workers unite for Palestine and against the wider war! King’s
College London
Congress notes:
1. Military escalation in the Middle East following Israel’s attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on 1 April.
2. RAF support for Israel during Iran’s 13 April counterattack.
3. Intensified Israeli attacks on Palestinians and threat of Rafah invasion.
4. International mobilization for Palestine and public support for a UK arms embargo on Israel.
Congress believes:
a. Workers’ actions are key to stopping Israel’s genocide and the wider war it is fuelling.
Congress resolves to:
i. Support workers’ pro-Palestine mobilisations in the Middle East and publicly condemn their repression.
ii. Endorse grassroots network University & College Workers for Palestine.
iii. Coordinate walkouts against Israel’s genocide, Rafah invasion and wider war.
iv. Call for an immediate arms embargo on Israel and oppose British forces deployment in Israel’s support.
v. Offer full legal and industrial support to members refusing to undertake contracted duties which risk complicity in war crimes.
36 Solidarity with Palestine protests on US campuses University of
Congress notes
1. The attempted suppression of Palestine solidarity protests on US campuses.
2. That university managements have called the police on their own students citing intimidation and trespass.
3. The hundreds of arrests at Columbia, NYU and Yale.
4. The spread of the movement to other institutions including Brown, Princeton, MIT, and UC Berkeley.
Congress believes
a. Students are right to protest their government and institutions’ complicity with Israeli genocide.
b. Freedom to protest and dissent are fundamental rights, especially in education institutions.
Congress resolves
i. To send messages of solidarity from UCU to the student Palestine solidarity movement in the US.
ii. To write to the Principals of universities protesting the arrests and disciplining of student protesters.
iii. To encourage and facilitate branches to invite speakers from the US movement to UCU meetings.
iv. To continue to support UCU involvement in campus protests in the UK against Israel’s genocide and in solidarity with the Palestinians.
37 Composite: Gaza Family Scheme University of Oxford, London
regional committee
Congress notes
1. Israel continues to bombard Gaza, where the death toll has surpassed 34,000.
2. Existing routes out of Gaza and into the UK are insufficient. Gazans are faced with expensive border charges and the UK Home Office’s biometric requirements.
3. The UK Government has previously introduced pathways for those fleeing persecution in Ukraine and Hong Kong.
4. 100,000+ people have signed a petition calling for a Gaza Family Scheme which will be debated on 13 May.
Congress believes
a. The UK government should establish a Gaza Family Scheme with the right of return protected in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Congress resolves to call on UCU to:
i. To sign the Trade Unions Open Letter to Home Secretary on the Palestinian Family Scheme, here:
AQTrglZQCHrk3aXTzO1HuRIEu5qUBA/viewform                                                                                                     ii. To call on the UK government to establish a Palestinian Family Scheme with the right of return protected in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
iii. Use its lobbying power in Parliament to vouch for the scheme and to send a representative to Parliamentary debates pertaining to the scheme.