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Part of the General Secretary’s report on the international work of NATFHE presented to the annual conference May 24-26 2003

Palestine

The Bush / Blair alliance has made a linkage between Iraq and wider regional questions notably the need for a just resolution of the Palestinian question. On the other hand, since the last year's conference, the situation has significantly worsened with a strengthened Sharon government in power in Israel, making ever-larger scale incursions into the Palestinian territories, and creating obstacles to the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Meanwhile suicide bombings continue, and the Israeli military are now assassinating supposed terrorist leaders with impunity, without regard to associated civilian casualties, and have moved on to killing foreign peace activists and journalists. The establishment of a new Palestinian government may give at least a theoretical possibility of progress.

Work on capacity building for a civil society among organisations working on education and civil society projects, like FOBZU, is on hold in the present dire crisis. Steve Sinnott, Deputy General Secretary of NUT reported to the NEC in December on the EI mission to Palestine and Israel; the official report is available from Paul Bennett at Head Office.

Since the NEC call for branches to review their institutions' links with Israeli institutions in April 2002 in the wake of the Israeli military incursion into the West Bank towns, we have had very little feedback on branch or institutional action taken on this issue but a considerable amount of media interest in what has been referred to and discussed simplistically as a policy of 'boycott'; we have taken the opportunity to explain that the policy has never been one of straightforward boycott, but that we believe UK institutions should maintain links with institutions and projects which help build a positive relationship between Israel and Palestine, contribute to the peace process or help build civil society in Palestine. In the light of changing circumstances the NEC on 2 May, decided that NATFHE should move on from the policy of 'reviewing links' enunciated in the April 2002 resolution, and to inform branches of this change of strategy.

The May NEC also decided to pursue a policy based on active support for Palestinian post- school education including work with FOBZU on the Palestinian 'right to education' campaign'; promotion of links with Palestinian and Israeli unions; work within EI, including making use of the forthcoming EI World Congress in July 2004; participation in the proposed WUS mission to look at higher education in Israel and Palestine; work within the UK political and trade union framework to press for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

It was agreed to affiliate to the Trade Union Friends of Palestine and Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and also to seek to ensure that in any emergency motion put to Conference on the international crisis, the right of Palestine to statehood and the rights of every Palestinian to education are included as key elements.