Anti-Israel boycott movement (file)
Anti-Israel boycott movement (file) Reuters

The University of California (UC) graduate student worker union on Wednesday voted in favor of a resolution supporting an academic boycott of Israel.

The text proposes supporting the boycott until Israel "has complied with international law and respected the rights of Palestinians," according to the Huffington Post.

The union will call on both the University of California system and the United Auto Workers international union to divest from companies that the pro-BDS caucus deems "complicit in Israeli occupation of Palestine and its apartheid policies."

The initiative also invites graduate students to take a personal vow declining participation in research or conferences sponsored by Israeli schools that BDS backers consider similarly accountable, the Huffington Post added.

The approval of the resolution was criticized by Informed Grads, a group organized and led by UC students, which stated that the vote stifles academic freedom and will have a dangerous impact on Jewish and Israeli students in the UC system.

The union, Informed Grads said, “is stifling academic freedom by supporting a movement that promotes an academic boycott of Israel. This position stands in contradiction to not only the incredibly strong collaboration between the University of California and Israel in research, technology and other areas but also to the very policies of its own international union, United Auto Workers.”

“Informed Grads, a group of union members that opposes the resolution, is extremely concerned with the outcome of this vote,” the group added, pointing “to the asymmetrical process, the anti-peace agenda of the BDS movement and the implications this vote has on not only UAW 2865 itself, but also on Jewish and Israeli students on UC campuses.”

“UAW 2865, which is supposed to represent graduate student workers for fair wages, benefits and treatment, now stands in direct opposition to the International UAW, which, along with most other major unions, strongly opposes the BDS movement,” said the group.

“This is incredibly damaging to our union.  This resolution may end up with our union recommending boycotting fellow UAW members who work for companies that are targets of the BDS movement. Our Union should not be focusing on issuing biased, one-sided resolutions about a complex international political conflict, but rather on the issues that directly affect us as graduate student workers. This vote may also cost us greatly in terms of solidarity from other unions,” said Jonathan Kummerfeld, UC Berkeley Computer Science Graduate Student and Informed Grads member.

Informed Grads said it is also “tremendously concerned of the impact this may have on students from Israel, Jewish students, and any students who wish to study in Israel or participate in one of the numerous collaborative research initiatives with Israeli academic institutions. Further, tensions around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and hostility toward pro-Israel views on campus are experienced by many Jewish students. Informed Grads is concerned that this will not only exacerbate the situation but lead to many Jewish and Israeli students feeling unwelcome and unsafe on UC campuses.”

Over the past few years, several student unions have voted in favor of BDS. In August, Britain’s National Union of Students voted to boycott Israel, passing a motion calling on student unions around the country to impose sanctions on Israel and support campaigns to boycott Israeli products on their university campuses.

Several weeks later, the Ontario branch of the Canadian Federation of Students, representing more than 300,000 university students in the province, unanimously passed a motion to boycott Israel.

The student union at Ryerson University in Toronto voted to join the BDS movement against Israel in April, capping a chain of anti-Israel decisions among Canadian institutions of higher education.

Toronto's York University student union has voted to join the BDS movement as well. It was preceded by Windsor University in Ontario in early March. In mid-March, students at the University of Ottawa launched a campaign to have Sabra hummus banned from campus because of its alleged connection with “Israel apartheid."