Campaigning for boycott and divestment in solidarity with Palestine: an update

On 8 February our branch overwhelmingly passed the motion below at a General Meeting. Since then we have worked with a broad group of staff and students to develop a campaign which supports the call for the academic boycott of Israeli higher education institutions and encourages all members of the University community to support its aims. This is aligned with UCU’s national policy which is to support members who exercise their rights in joining the boycott. We hosted author Maya Wind at an event co-organised with the REAL Centre and the Centre of Lebanese Studies at the Faculty of Education on 30 April at which she shared her research on the role played by Israeli universities in entrenching apartheid and occupation, as well as enabling war crimes and genocide against Palestinians by the Israeli military.

Our BDS working group has also researched the role played by companies such as BAE systems, Google and Palantir, all of which have deep links with the University of Cambridge through research collaborations, and which play well-documented roles in Israel’s violations of international law. We have worked with the SU to put in a Freedom of Information request to the University about the extent of its investments in complicit companies via the Cambridge University Endowment Fund – the University has refused to be fully transparent on this matter, claiming this would prejudice its “commercial interests”.

We will be sharing more information about how CUCU members can get involved in further campaigning actions in the coming days.

Motion on terminating the University’s collaborations with companies implicated in the bombing of Gaza
passed at a general meeting on 8 February 2024

Cambridge UCU notes

  1. The ICJ ruling that Israel must take emergency measures to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza.
  2. The wholesale destruction of the higher education and health systems in Gaza, the killing of more than 25,000 Palestinians, and the risk that famine and disease will lead to the deaths of many more.
  3. UCU national policy in support of members’ right to refuse complicity in Israeli apartheid and occupation through support of boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns.
  4. Cambridge University holds research collaborations and receives funding from multiple companies directly involved in arming Israel and thus at risk of contributing to the genocide of Palestinians, including BAE Systems, Boeing, Rolls Royce and others. BAE Systems manufactures parts of the F-35 stealth fighter jet used extensively by the Israeli military in waves of airstrikes against the civilian population of Gaza. Rolls-Royce makes the “LiftSystem” fan propulsion system for the F-35 in Filton, Bristol. Boeing produces precision guided munitions used by the Israeli Air Force in Gaza.
  5. Repeated initiatives by students and staff calling on the University of Cambridge opposing institutional partnerships and research collaborations with, investment in, or the receipt of funding from companies or institutions complicit in military aggression by Israel against the Palestinian people or associated with the maintenance of occupation and apartheid. This has included open letters in 2014, 2018, 2021 and 2023 signed by hundreds of staff and students.

Cambridge UCU believes

  1. The University should work towards terminating contracts and partnerships with companies providing arms to Israel and profiting from the killing, oppression and displacement of the Palestinian people. This process should include seeking alternative sources of funding and supporting research related to violations of international law by Israel, and the defence of the rights of the Palestinian people.
  2. The University should revise processes of ethical review for research funding to include assessment of risks of complicity in violations of international humanitarian law.

Cambridge UCU resolves

  1. To work towards launching a campaign calling on the University to enact a boycott of, and divestment from, BAE Systems, Boeing and Rolls Royce in coordination with students at the University and with other UCU branches engaged in similar action against the same companies. The campaign will involve research to map the extent of University complicity and identify additional campaign targets as appropriate, develop a robust evidence base and organise actions such as open letters, protests and public events.
  2. To provide support for members exercising their right to refuse to carry out work which would risk complicity in genocide or other violations of international humanitarian law.
  3. To call on UCU nationally to provide resources and support for branches engaged in developing BDS campaigns.