What's this blog about?

As a result of a combination of factors, culminating in the shameful UCU boycott-in-waiting of Israel, I've grown alienated & silenced, working here in one of the UK's finest universities all the while feeling like a Boycotted British Academic, alone in facing some dilemmas of the moment. In this generally chilling environment, it's hard to speak out and be heard, and hear others...and I find myself writing this blog.

What's it about? At present, it seems to me like a rather tortured articulation of the state of being silenced & mute, beyond words; struggling for the right even to use them, for a voice which can still be heard. When it started, all those successive boycott motions ago, I'd hoped it would function as a blog forum of support & solidarity amongst academics similarly-situated to BBA, to help us break through the boycott movement's silencing strategies. That hope remains notwithstanding this silence... Perhaps it lives in trying to articulate beyond the filter of these coping mechanisms of old (denial, avoidance, withdrawal); by way of this labour of finding the words, this voice...
[A forum of sorts has also arisen in the blog's comments, in which others have adopted the BBA moniker in case of need (e.g.
and here exposing the racist hate speech which masquerades as UCU solidarity activism).]

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

A reluctant new member for the UCU

After years of hesitation, I've finally just joined UCU... I pinched my nose and did the deed. YUCK!!!

Having spent so long vacillating between, on the one hand, wanting to have no part in an organization which gives a platform to a campaign which I experience to be racist & exclusionary and, on the other hand, feeling bound to join, for many reasons, none least: in order to fight against these very characteristics. Not being able to abide the fence-sitting anymore, I joined, hoping this 'brave' act might make the self-berating stop for a while but I've instantly gone from guilty non-member to guilty member! Neither position feels comfortable or tolerable - all options are bad. A small act of protest in joining, though - here's an extract from my cover-letter to UCU:

I would like to deduct the part of my subscription which goes to your Political Fund. Please could you arrange this for me? This is in protest against your debate to call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, which is currently prominently advertised on your homepage. I would be upset if my membership fees were to fund this campaign and I am hopeful that I can still join UCU without committing myself to supporting what I take to be racist, exclusionary campaign – thanks. My membership is contingent on this act of protest being possible, so do please confirm that this has been arranged.

Future acts of protest in planning - hopefully less pathetic! Keep tuned or posted or whatever...

Professor Shalom Lappin has written extremely cogently about why I should not have joined UCU and good arguments of this sort have kept me away all this time (AUT beforehand). He's right to argue that "to remain in the UCU, and to continue to plead on bended knee for a reversal of the resolutions is as demeaning as it is inefficient." There's an interesting thread on Engage debating the point.

As for me, I waited and waited for inspiration as to what I could do instead of joining UCU and I've come up with nothing persuasive so, in desperation, I joined up. In the interim, I found myself wishing I'd joined the last time my conscience (partly) told me I should, so that I could have resigned with Professor Lappin on this occasion. I wish more had resigned with him - I get the sense that mass resignations helped stymie the recent boycott by the National Union of Journalists. Perhaps if more had resigned, the boycott campaign could have died the death it ought. But it didn't and few resigned, as far as I can tell. And probably many more joined, just as I have now done, apparently rewarding UCU for giving a platform to the boycott movement. OY!

I promise to resign if this fight fails! Which it won't...it can't. Can it? One thing which makes it so awful working under the shadow of this boycott: fear that this just won't go away. Once the 'Israel-demonizing roadshow' over (see 2nd UCU link above), there'll be some new hurdle to dread; another statement from UCU which doesn't quite go far enough; another delay in putting this to a full ballot of members, which would make it clear that a debate about boycotting Israeli academic institutions is not one to which UK academics are willing to commit their energies. Until then, I can only doubt and fear, and continue to feel boycotted...


prof said...

Help me to write biographies!
you can write also a letter on personnalities and I post your letter!

Dr. Irene Lancaster FRSA said...

Please don't despair. I don't know if you're Jewish or not. This is all part of Jewish history, I'm afraid, a subject I used to teach at a British university, until censorship proved too much. And that was before 9/11.

When you get people of the stature of historian Sir Martin Gilbert appearing on prime time Israeli TV and stating that we are facing a crisis situation and that Hamas is equivalent to Hitler, then you realise that you are not a lone voice whistling in the dark.

Thank you so much for linking to my site, as well as to many other fine sites. I am honoured, and please post comments on mine, just as I am doing on yours.

I don't know what subject you teach, but believe it or not, we have actually been there before! These sorts of things have always taken place throughout Jewish history and as Rabbi Hillel said, followed by Primo Levi:

'If I am not for myself, who will be, and if not now, when'

Best wishes



Boycotted UK Academic said...

Oh, I feel better already. I should have posted earlier as it feels great to be in touch with such fine bloggers and to feel the solidarity of the web in a more 'connected' sense. Thanks so much for posting your comments!

Prof, bonjour! I didn't know your site & thanks for sending a link. I look forward to exploring & hopefully to contributing.

Irene, it's great to be in touch. I've enjoyed reading your blog and actually considered contacting you some months back to seek your advice about one of my dilemmas, about which more later posts concerning how boycotted this has made me feel and what I ought to do about it (one option is to follow in your footsteps...)!

Hopefully now that I've actually started publishing on this blog, I'll find my blogger's voice & hope to comment on your great blog. It's been interesting reading about your journey.

Dr. Irene Lancaster FRSA said...

If you post a comment on my own site, with your e-mail details, I will e-mail you back and also give you other contact details.

The main thing is not to despair, because right will prevail in the end and people like you are contributing to that.

Boycotted UK Academic said...

Thanks Irene. I tried to register & leave a comment on your blog but in vain. I'll try to figure out what's the problem tomorrow, possibly reboot (I'm a bit of a blogging novice). In the meantime, I wanted to thank you for your encouraging words & your optimism...

Anonymous said...


If you want to play a part in helping to stop the proposed boycott then we could do with your help.

Sign up to the DAN activists (for UCU members only). There's an e-mail debate going on at the moment and some fresh voices arguing against the boycott would be welcome.

Anonymous said...

Keep your pecker up - there are plenty of us - all wondering how to position ourselves to be faithful to the idea of a union (sticking up for its workers, sticking up for a quality education) when we find that delegates who we collectively send to represent us - who are so knowledgeable and dedicated in other respects - have made this unrepresentative use of their influence. How not to become a single-issue union member when you feel so let down. How to discriminate between an open mind about Israel and all the anti-Jewish/Zionist bullshit. How to turn all this boycott and anti-boycott energy into something positive for Palestinians without reinforcing the antisemitic arguments put forward in support of boycott. How to react to the bloody-minded, insidious antisemitism denial when antisemitism is a big reason you oppose the boycott. How to deal with the head games some boycotters play. It's highly confusing. You're not alone.

Boycotted British Academic said...

Thanks to the anonymous posters for your suggestions and support... I'll name you Anon1 and Anon2 following the chronology of your posting. Next time, please choose a name, even if it’s not your real name, so that I can know who you are.

@ Anon1 - thanks for the tip. Upon joining UCU, I sent an email to a person at UCU, going by the title 'build the union', for help getting onto the activist list. But I've heard NOTHING from UCU since, whether from this person or otherwise apart from the membership pack. As explained in a later post, I’ve had a bit of a crisis recently so haven’t been able to do much, boycott or otherwise. But I hope to join up in the next few days now that I have a membership number as I believe I can join on-line... ‘See’ you there & I hope again here too...

If you or anyone else reading this has tips on the DAN list, do share... I'm slightly dreading it. Actually, totally dreading it! BTW can one mail on the list anonymously or does it have to come from your institutional address? Will I have to OUT MYSELF?!

@ Anon2, thanks for giving such fine & powerful expression to the damage the UCU is hereby doing to itself & the important work it should be furthering. And thanks for your encouraging words. We need you on this forum & I hope you’ll share your perspective again soon!

Anonymous said...

Hi again

You'll know the proposed boycott has been called off in public, but behind the scenes it's business as usual for the pro-boycotters.

Now they want to have the legal advice made public and so get the opportunity to overturn it.

We still need your help on the DAN list. Your e-mail address can be private, but you can only enter the debate under your own name. There is no hiding. It's not for the faint-hearted, can be tiresome but is ultimately very important.

(Anon. 1)