Brunel UCU Motion: Solidarity to Palestine – defending our right to freedom of speech

Brunel University UCU expresses its sadness and devastation at the recent massacres in Israel and ongoing genocide in Gaza targeted at civilians, and affirms our solidarity with the Jewish people, and the Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation and decolonisation. We understand that many in our community will be affected by these events and we extend our support to all of them, especially to those students and colleagues who may have lost loved ones or whose loved ones are under direct threat of attack. We mourn the loss of life, defend our right to freedom of speech and protest, and condemn all forms of racism, including antisemitism, anti-Palestinianism, and Islamophobia.

This branch notes:

  1. The bloodshed in the Middle East that has been going on and rising for days and has already resulted in thousands of innocent people losing their lives in Israel and Gaza and many more injured. Palestinians in Gaza live without food, water and electricity while an unprecedented siege and murderous attack is being carried out to flatten the Gaza Strip with rising numbers of Palestinian civilian victims, which threatens to ignite the entire Middle East region.
  2. The 75-year occupation and illegal settlement of the occupied Palestinian territories by the Israeli state and the continuous, daily crimes, the apartheid regime, as well as the inhumane 17-year blockade of Gaza. These crimes against the people of Palestine have been committed for decades, under the tolerance and support from all the large imperialist powers, the USA, the UK and the European Union and the rest of their NATO allies.
  3. The British government is complicit in colonial occupation and war crimes, from the Balfour Declaration and the suppression of the Arab Revolt right up to the current government’s political, economic and military backing for Israel’s far-right government in its collective punishment of Palestinian residents of Gaza. Israel is committing collective punishment against the people of Gaza with the full support of the British government.
  4. The worrying rise of attacks on academic freedom across UK campuses, fuelled by the divisive and hypocritical position of the Home Secretary, and perpetuated through abusive reporting in news outlets and social media, which led already to anti-democratic actions such as the suspension of the UCL Marxist society from the UCUL SU. We highlight the dangers of the IHRA definition of antisemitism on free speech and academic freedom as articulated in the recent BRISMES/ELSC report.

This branch believes that:

  1. The root cause of the conflict is the ongoing illegal military occupation and settlement expansion of Palestinian territories and the violation of the rights of the Palestinian people by the Israeli state. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Israeli B’tselem have reported that these accumulate to the crime of Apartheid.
  2. There can be no lasting or just peace under the ongoing conditions of the Israeli siege of Gaza, or of Israeli occupation, colonisation, and apartheid across Palestine. These are conditions which Palestinians have a right to resist.
  3. The only way to secure and consolidate peace and security for the people in Palestine and Israel, but also in the wider Middle East, is to immediately end the Israeli occupation and settlement in the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories, as provided for in the UN resolutions, and to guarantee the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

Brunel UCU resolves to:

Raise our voices in solidarity at the face of genocide and erasure, standing with the Palestinian people, with our colleagues in Birzeit University, and in all Palestinian Universities, colleges schools, and Palestinian trade unions: we will not be silent, and that indeed now are all Palestinians. We call on members and colleagues to participate in solidarity protests.

Firmly oppose racism in all forms. We unequivocally declare that it is unacceptable to equate all Jewish people with the Israeli state; and that is unacceptable to equate all Palestinians and Arabs with Hamas. All members should be able to express their opinions, and everyone should be free to criticise governments across the world. This includes being free to criticise the Israeli government without accusations of antisemitism. This is indeed what some Jewish organisations already are doing. Following the recommendations of the ELSC/BRISMES, we call on Brunel University to rescind the adoption of the IHRA definition.

In addition to the actions that have already been taken by the national UCU on Israel/Gaza and on Academic Freedom, Call on UCU to:

1 Activate and promote the recent congress resolutions in support of Palestine and to stand against the government’s attempt to put under attack the academic free speech and to threaten critical academics and students for supporting the cause of the Palestinian people.

2 Coordinate actions with sister unions and demand from the UK government to:

a) Stop supporting the Israeli invasion in Gaza and to withdraw all UK military, navy and airforce from the area.

b) Promote the only just and peaceful resolution to the Palestinian cause, with the immediate recognition of the Palestinian state at the 1967 borders.

c) Guarantee free speech and democratic rights by withdrawing authoritarian policing measures and threats against protesters from the Home Secretary, and also, reaffirm the right of academics to discuss these in class and in their research – as enshrined in the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill  regulated by the Office for Students.

d)     Support BDS.

[Passed at a quorate branch meeting: 23.10.23]