Friday, May 30, 2008

From Someone Who Was There

Written by Eve Garrard

Motion 25 was passed, by a huge majority. There was a real, palpable desire in the meeting to take some action against Israel. An otherwise rather somnolent audience woke up at the first mention of Palestine, and applauded every suggestion that action should be taken against Israel. A congress which had just passed very moderate motions on Burma and Zimbabwe and Sudan, about solidarity with trade unions and asylum seekers, and putting pressure on governments, quite clearly felt that these measures weren't sufficient for Israel's crimes: that for Israeli academics, nothing but punishment would do.

At first the discussion was procedurally unexceptionable - both sides of a debate were permitted on an amendment which called, among other things, for the motion to be put to a ballot of the whole membership. This amendment was voted on and rejected - the majority of union delegates didn't want to give the membership of the union the opportunity to choose for themselves on this issue. But when Motion 25 itself was proposed and seconded, several delegates spoke in favour of it - and then it was moved that it be put to the vote. None of the people who wanted to speak directly against the motion were permitted to do so. However, the motion's proposer, Tom Hickey, was at this point allowed by the Chair to speak in favour of it again. No explanation or justification was provided for halting the debate before anyone could speak against the motion, while allowing its proposer to speak twice. I have to say, though, that in my opinion even if the debate had been conducted in an impeccably proper manner, it would have made very little difference: that audience really did want to vote against Israel.


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