LONDON, May 31 A movement in Britain to boycott Israel economically and culturally gathered speed on Thursday as the country's biggest labor union said it would follow the union of university instructors in weighing punitive measures against Israel.Mary McGuire, a spokeswoman for Unison, a union of public service employees with 1.3 million members, said a resolution calling for a boycott had been placed on the agenda for the group's annual national conference starting June 19. Word of the proposal emerged one day after the University and College Union, representing 120,000 instructors, voted to urge its members to consider their future relationships and exchanges with Israeli academics.
The instructors' vote which did not impose an immediate boycott drew protests from academics in the United States and Israel. In Britain, senior figures at some of the country's top universities, including Cambridge and Oxford, distanced themselves from the resolution, saying that they "strongly condemned" it and that they "reject outright the call for an academic boycott."The chairman of the group, Prof. Malcolm Grant of University College London, said, "It is a contradiction in terms and in direct conflict with the mission of a university."Politicians from the major political parties also condemned the vote by the instructors' union.
Asked if the Unison congress would also consider a boycott of some form, Ms. McGuire said, "There is a motion down on our agenda that is to that effect." However, she said, with around 150 motions from the union's 1,500 branches to debate, it was not clear whether the boycott call would be discussed. According to the Unison Web site, www.unison.org.uk, the proposal to be debated at the conference says, "Unison believes the appropriate response is to support the growing international moves towards a union-based campaign of boycott and sanctions against Israeli institutions, in line with the call from over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations including the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions and individual unions and labor collectives."
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