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Natfhe conference 2002 Report

Natfhe NEC published the following draft motion to be debated at the 2002 conference.

Natfhe NEC, at its meeting on 3 May, agreed the statement below and that it formed the basis for the wording of an emergency motion to conference: -

Conference is appalled at Israel’s incursion into Palestinian territory in April and the suicide bombings, which were the ostensible cause, both actions resulting in deplorable suffering and loss of innocent lives.

However, Israel must be held accountable by the international community given the disproportion between horrific suicide bombings, and killing an unknown number of Palestinian civilians, flouting basic humanitarian principles and international demands for restraint, and the devastating blow to Palestinian society, destroying educational, civic and cultural structures, negating Israel’s stated anti-terrorist mission, and suggesting that Israel wants to turn the Palestinian territories into Bantustans, dominated by Israeli illegal settlements.

At the same meeting, the NEC endorsed the following statement: -

NATFHE deplores the recent act of desecration at a north London synagogue and other similar acts around the country.

This motion was dropped and the one that actually passed at the 2002 conference reads:

Conference endorses the position taken by the NEC and the General Secretary on Palestine.

Note: This compromise motion was put before conference as a result of unfavourable publicity for the union in the TES, our campaign and several extreme amendments which were proposed before conference.

The Natfhe motion which was passed at 2001 conference

Last year’s Natfhe emergencyconference motion which allowed them to proceed with Pro-Palestinian policy was:

This Conference notes with deep concern that the election of Ariel Sharon as Israel’s Prime Minister on 6 / 02 / 01 has led to further escalation of the conflict in occupied Palestine. This includes a threat of all out war by an Israeli Minister and the use of F16 bombers.

Conference: calls for a withdrawal of Israeli troops from occupied Palestine, dismantling of settlements which are illegal under international law and compliance with UN Resolution (242 and 338); and welcomes the formation of the campaign for Palestinian rights; agrees to circulate information about its activities and support demonstrations on these issues.

Excerpt from the address by NATFHE General Secretary, Paul Mackney, to Afternoon Session of Annual National Conference, Saturday 1 June 2002

….Developments in the Middle East and Afghanistan make major waves in college classrooms throughout multi-cultural Britain. Just as our parents and grandparents had to resist the rise of fascism in Europe, so must we make a stand for peace and justice in the world….


Excerpts from an address by NATFHE President, Tina Downes, to Morning Session of Annual National Conference, Saturday 1 June 2002

…..Immigrants are criticised for not integrating enough in UK life, David Blunkett, again, fears that schools may be swamped by refugee children. This is the politics of the tabloid headline.

How can it aid integration to build large accommodation centres deep in the countryside, and educate refugee children separately from the indigenous population?

Such a political environment encourages extremist groups to increase their efforts, as we have seen in UK and France. We were told that the Le Pen phenomenon could not happen here. On the contrary, at a time when the two main parties increasingly converge on the centre Right, offering voters no real chance of changing how the country is run, people have nothing to lose in voting for minority parties. At a time when the newspapers and government spokespeople treat asylum seekers, some of the most vulnerable people in the world, as criminals, some people will be attracted to racist and fascist politics.

At the very least this context makes our job as lecturers, to create a multicultural and safe classroom environment for our students, and enable them to achieve to their full potential, exceptionally difficult. We know that our students from minority ethnic groups, whether recently arrived or not, face taunts and insults in the streets, not to mention attack. This applies to NATFHE's Black members too. Encountering oppression can so easily reduce people's aspirations and limit their activities. This is not true for everybody, but it should not be true for anybody. This country is enriched by its many cultures, languages and ethnic groups, but that enrichment is squandered if we allow a climate to be created which oppresses minorities and prevents them from playing a full part in the world. The aim of most educators is to counter the prejudice of the ignorant and frightened. We don't expect that prejudice to be promoted by the government.

The international agenda against terrorism has translated in reality into permission to say things and behave in ways which would have been unthinkable a year ago. In the UK asylum seekers, immigrants and Muslims have become targets of vilification by the press, and the BNP have won three council seats in Burnley. Abroad, Britain and the USA bombed Afghanistan, Le Pen won a shameful proportion of the vote in the French presidential elections and Israel felt justified to pursue its own war on terrorism and send US subsidised soldiers and tanks into Palestinian territory and wreak devastation on the civilian population.

NATFHE has been very open about its attitudes to the wars in Afghanistan and in Palestine. We feel deep sorrow at injury and loss of life on all sides, and we recognise long, histories behind both wars. At the same time we are opposed to bullying. In respect of Israel's action this is not an anti Semitic position. Significant Jewish organisations in UK are opposed to Israeli policies towards Palestinians, including 'Jews for Justice for Palestinians', formed in February 2002. We are opposed to the use of superior wealth and power to crush the smaller and weaker. We believe that these are trade union issues. At a time when politics is based on greed, trade unions are a powerful voice with which to raise matters of principle in the public domain. This was clearly illustrated by the prominent part the French trade unions played in the anti Le Pen campaign. The collective defence of the less powerful against the more powerful is, after all, the basis of the existence of trade unions. It is also an element we have to assume we can take for granted if any society or community is going to work. Trade unions have an enormously important role to play in promoting that agenda