Motion on solidarity with Palestine and academic freedom

The following motion was passed by Sheffield UCU at the general meeting held on 16/11/2023.

Motion to End the Violence in Palestine, Support Palestinian Rights, Protect Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression and Oppose all Racism

Sheffield UCU notes:

  1. The recent upsurge in appalling violence in Israel-Palestine has claimed around 1400 Israeli lives and over 10,000 Palestinian lives (at the time of writing); and is causing the on-going displacement of more than half a million people in the Gaza Strip;
  2. The Nakba, the violent dispossession of Palestinian people from their land by Israel, has been ongoing since 1948. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank have been living under Israeli military occupation since 1967, whilst Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been living under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2007;
  3. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, B’Tselem, Al-Haq and the past four out of five UN Special Rapporteurs on the state of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have stated that Palestinians are living under a regime of apartheid;
  4. The UK government is complicit in the dispossession of Palestinians and has actively endorsed and materially supported this ongoing regime of apartheid and the current war crimes and crimes against humanity being carried out by Israel against the Palestinian population in the Occupied Territory;
  5. The colonial, racist and genocidal narratives articulated by Israeli state officials to systematically dehumanise Palestinians, including categorising Palestinians as barbarians, animals and terrorists; and the uncritical adoption of such narratives, discourses and categories in UK public life.
  6. The UK’s complicity has also entailed increasingly aggressive attempts to censor people demanding an end to Palestinian oppression, including those at UK universities whose experiences have recently been highlighted by the British Society for Middle East Studies (BRISMES) and UCU national.
  7. Increases in racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia, in the UK and beyond.

Sheffield UCU believes that:

  1. The targeting of civilians by any party should be condemned as a war crime;
  2. Israel’s cutting off of the entry of supplies to Gaza, which has left civilians without food, water, electricity, and medical aid; its targeting of civilians, hospitals, schools, border crossings and other civilian infrastructure; and its attempts to forcibly transfer the population from the north of Gaza, may amount to genocide;
  3. Israeli occupation and apartheid must end and the internationally-recognised rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination must be realised;
  4. It is unacceptable to equate all Jewish people with the Israeli state, and it is unacceptable to equate all Palestinians and Arabs with Hamas. Members should be able to express support for Palestinians and Palestine as well as Israelis and Israel, and everyone must be free to criticise governments around the world. In this case in particular, it is important that people are able to criticise the Israeli government without accusations of antisemitism;
  5. Trade unions can play a role – and are being urged by Palestinian trade unions – to pressure the UK government to end its complicity in the on-going occupation of Palestine, the expansion of settlement construction and the war crimes committed against the Palestinian people;
  6. UK universities, including the University of Sheffield, must not be complicit with war crimes and crimes against humanity and, as upheld in a SUCU branch motion on 8 June 2021, must immediately end all ties with entities involved in the perpetration of grave violations of human rights, including developing weaponry, military doctrines and legal justifications for the mass targeting of Palestinians.

Sheffield UCU resolves to:

  1. Demand that the UK government call for an immediate ceasefire, most urgently an end to the military offensive by the Israeli state on Gaza, and call for the UK government to stop selling weapons to Israel
  2. Donate £1000 to the humanitarian organisation Medical Aid for Palestinians;
  3. Affiliate with the Sheffield Coalition against Israeli Apartheid
  4. Actively support efforts to build local and national solidarity with Palestine, including, but not limited to, teach-outs, walk-outs, petitions, protests, support in promoting such events, allowing the use of the Sheffield UCU banner, and the sending of solidarity messages and delegates from the Branch;
  5. Reiterate branch support for the campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, including the Palestinian Academic Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel; and develop a plan of concrete actions, including pledging to support and defend the right of members to refuse any work connected to the Israeli state or military;
  6. Urgently create a working group to take forward the motion “Ending University Partnerships with Arms Manufacturers”, passed at the Sheffield UCU Annual General Meeting, 25 February 2023, in response to the Palestinian trade unions’ call to end military support for and trade with Israel;
  7. Call on the VC to publicly affirm Sheffield University’s commitment to protecting academic freedom and freedom of speech with regards to expressions of solidarity with Palestinians, to offer identical support and freedom of speech guarantees to Palestinian students, staff and advocates as was offered to the people and supporters of Ukraine when they were made victims of imperial aggression, and to urge other Universities UK to do the same;
  8. Call on the VC to respond to the Secretary of State for Education’s letter (dated 11 October 2023), pushing back on the dangerous implications of the letter in expanding the hostile environment on university campuses, stifling the protected right to free speech, and undermining universities’ duty of care to all students and staff;
  9. Provide support to staff  and students censored, harassed, and/or disciplined  for expressing support for Palestinian rights;
  10. Affirm national UCU’s call for members to withdraw from all voluntary positions with UKRI until such time as UKRI reverses its suspension of its EDI panel;
  11. Oppose all forms of racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia;
  12. Send this motion to members of the NEC and to the General Secretary.