Home > Antisemitism > The Farcical Attack on the UCU For Voting Against Use of the EUMC ‘Working Definition’ of Antisemitism

The Farcical Attack on the UCU For Voting Against Use of the EUMC ‘Working Definition’ of Antisemitism

There’s been much wailing and gnashing of teeth from those sickened by the Universities and Colleges Union’s decision to ban use of the European Union Monitoring Centre’s ‘working definition’ of antisemitism. At the UCU’s annual congress in Harrogate a large majority supported Motion 70 that resolved:

  1. that UCU will make no use of the EUMC definition (e.g. in educating members or dealing with internal complaints)
  2. that UCU will dissociate itself from the EUMC definition in any public discussion on the matter in which UCU is involved
  3. that UCU will campaign for open debate on campus concerning Israel’s past history and current policy, while continuing to combat all forms of racial or religious discrimination.

The stated reason for this decision?:

Congress believes that the EUMC definition confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine antisemitism, and is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus.

Critics of the UCU’s decision are having none of this. Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council said: ‘After today’s events I believe the UCU is institutionally racist’. His view was echoed by Jon Benjamin, the chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who said ‘the UCU has . . . simply redefined “anti-Semitism” itself. . . The truth is apparent: whatever the motivations of its members, we believe UCU is an institutionally racist organization’. Martin Bright, the political editor of the Jewish Chronicle, tweeted: ‘opens gates to campus antisemitism’. Paul Usiskin, chair of Peace Now UK, said: ‘The UCU legitimises and perpetuates the evil of antisemitism.’ The Fair Play Campaign Group issued a statement that ended: ‘The truth is apparent: whatever the motivations of its members, we believe UCU is an institutionally racist organisation’. Ronnie Fraser, director of the Academic Friends of Israel, delivered an emotional speech opposing the motion. He said the union had crossed a red line, and ‘only antisemites would disassociate themselves from the EU Working Definition and vote in favor of the resolution’. John Mann MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, is taking the charge of ‘institutional antisemitism’ against the UCU so seriously that he has stated that the claim ‘should be investigated independently, ideally by the EHRC [Equality and Human Rights Commission]‘.

Despite these furious reactions, the motion does not say the UCU must now ignore instances of antisemitism. On the contrary, it acknowledges that there is a ‘genuine antisemitism’ that must be fought, and that the UCU must continue ‘to combat all forms of racial and religious discrimination’. But the critics make it clear that they don’t trust the UCU; that by making it impossible to call to account, on the basis of the EUMC’s ‘working definition’ of Israel-linked antisemitism, critics of Israel who are seen as crossing a line into antisemitic discourse, licence is effectively being given to antisemites in the UCU to express antisemitic sentiments.

It’s hard to believe that the EUMC ‘working definition’ is the only bulwark preventing the UCU from giving free rein to its alleged institutional antisemitism or, deliberately or otherwise, from encouraging and then turning a blind-eye to campus antisemitism. Yet this is undoubtedly what the union’s critics seem to be arguing, often in a language that borders on the apocalyptic. But to be fair on the critics, the language of some of those who have campaigned to distance the UCU from the EUMC ‘working definition’ is also pretty extreme and unbalanced.

And surely, therein lies the problem. Reading the live blogging from the congress, the speeches, recriminations, reactions and past reports on this long-running battle, which essentially began when the union initially voted on an academic boycott of Israeli universities back in 2005, the sense that much of this is taking place in a hothouse that has tenuous links to reality is rather powerful.

First, in the wider world of discussion about antisemitism, the notion that civilisation as we know it is about to come to an end because the UCU has distanced itself from the EUMC definition is quite absurd. It’s true that the status of the ‘working definition’ has changed significantly. The EUMC no longer exists and has been replaced by the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), which seems to have more or less abandoned the ‘working definition’. The FRA appears not to believe that the definition is a useful working tool. An FRA official told Richard Kuper: ‘Since its development we are not aware of any public authority in the EU that applies it’. Moreover, ‘The FRA has no plans for any further development’ of the ‘Working Definition’, the official said. And in its latest publication on the topic (August 2010) it doesn’t even mention the ‘working definition’.

Nevertheless, if the FRA were intending to go further and reverse the current status of the definition among national and international agencies, whether governmental or non-governmental, as well as among antisemitism research institutes and monitoring bodies, it would almost certainly encounter an impossible task. For despite the fact that it was called the ‘working definition’ and that the contentious clauses exemplifying different ‘ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context’ were not described as a priori antisemitic, the EUMC document has virtually become the definition for such organizations, with practically the status of a holy text.  The US State Department treats it as gospel in its antisemitism reports. The influential All-Party Parliamentary Enquiry into Antisemitism urged the British government to adopt it formally. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) employs the definition. The European Forum on Antisemitism, founded in 2008 with participants from 15 European countries as well as the USA and Israel, but effectively a front organization for the American Jewish Committee, seems to exist primarily to promote use of the working definition. The Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre back it, as does the European Jewish Congress and numerous official national Jewish representative bodies and Jewish communal defence groups. (Mark Gardner, communications director of the Community Security Trust, which describes itself as ‘protecting the Jewish community’ in the UK, mounted a vigorous defence of the working definition just days before the UCU vote.) Set against this phalanx of international support for the ‘working definition’, the UCU vote is but a mere pinprick.

And it’s a sad fact that the existence and extensive promotion of the ‘working definition’ has done as much as anything to legitimise the discourse of the ‘new antisemitism’, the notion that Israel has become the Jew among the nations and that therefore extreme criticism and anti-Zionism are a new version of the antisemitism that existed prior to the establishment of the state. Rather than make it easier to identify antisemitism, the promotion of the ‘working definition’ and the entrenchment of the concept of the ‘new antisemitism’ have so extended the range of expressions of what can be regarded as antisemitic that the word antisemitism has come close to losing all meaning. And it therefore makes agreement on what is and what is not antisemitic more fraught and more contentious. It’s a simple fact that until the early 1990s, before the idea of the ‘new antisemitism’ gained acceptance and before the ‘working definition’ was introduced, there was broad agreement on the nature of contemporary antisemitism. Today, scholars and commentators writing on current antisemitism are bitterly divided among themselves.

Second, the responses (quoted above) from Jewish community officials and representatives and other defenders of the ‘working definition’ show a complete lack of balance. If Ronnie Fraser is correct and only ‘antisemities’ would dissociate themselves from the ‘working definition’, this places a significant number of highly respected Jewish and non-Jewish academics working in the field of antisemitism research in the dock. And it would mean that the FRA officials, who have clearly sidelined the original EUMC document, are also antisemites. John Mann MP should thus be clamouring for these Jew-haters to be brought before the European Court of Human Rights, just as he wants the UCU to be investigated by the EHRC in the UK.

Typifying the tenor of these responses is the myth, succinctly articulated by the Board of Deputies chief executive Jon Benjamin, that it’s the UCU that is redefining antisemitism. In fact, it’s the EUMC that redefined antisemitism. What the UCU seems to have done is seek to revert back to the time when a common sense consensus about the nature of antisemitism existed. Even Mark Gardner, in his CST blog piece, acknowledges that there has been such agreement:

The “working definition” is not so necessary in Britain perhaps, where antisemitism is generally well understood and defined by politicians, courts, Police and Jews

(although he rather cheekily omits mention of academics, since it would undermine the tone of much of his piece, which casts certain academics as villains). As Richard Kuper writes in an updated analysis of the ‘working definition’ just published on openDemocracy, Benjamin, Fraser and others

[make] you wonder what happened before “the definition” was propagated in 2005 (when presumably no-one had a clue as to what antisemitism was, and without this particular document no-one now would have either).

Given that hardly any discussion of contemporary antisemitism takes place today without Israel, Zionism or anti-Zionism cropping up, it was probably unrealistic of the UCU anti-EUMC definition protagonists to think that we can all just return to the status quo ante. But it’s not a redefinition that’s required, rather a clarification of how certain forms of discourse on Israel can fall into the classic definition of antisemitism around which academics and researchers can reach agreement – and indeed we have such a clarification in the form of Dr Brian Klug’s article ‘The collective Jew: Israel and the new antisemitism’ (which he recently updated for his book Being Jewish and Doing Justice). And what’s interesting about Klug’s article is that it figures prominently in the EUMC’s report, Manifestations of Antisemitism in the EU 2002-2003, published in 2004, the report credited for being the impetus for the framing of the ‘working definition’. According to Mark Gardner and others:

The Monitoring Centre compiled the ‘working definition’ because this was a central recommendation of its own 345 page report ‘Manifestations of Antisemitism in the EU 2002-2003.’

A convenient story, but untrue. If the ‘working definition’ had really emerged from this report, it’s hardly likely to have diverged so radically from Klug’s formulation of a consensus definition of antisemitism that the report quotes from so favourably, but diverge it most certainly does.

The truth is that it was the first report on manifestations of antisemitism in the EU compiled by researchers at the Zentrum für Antisemitismusforschung (Centre for Research on Antisemitism) at the Berlin Technical University, completed in 2002 but never published by the EUMC, which led to the framing of the ‘working definition’. It was the Board of the EUMC that took the decision not to publish and a huge controversy erupted when the whole affair became public.

The official reason given by the Centre was that the methodology was flawed and its findings deemed to be biased. But it’s widely believed that the real reasons for the suppression of the report were somewhat different. Some members of the Board were unhappy that hostility to Israel was included and that the report laid the blame for much of the post-2000 upsurge in antisemitic incidents in Europe on young Muslims and pro-Palestinian perpetrators. Jewish members of the Board linked to the European Jewish Congress based in Paris were angry and leaked the report to the press, complaining that appeasement of Europe’s large Muslim population was behind the decision not to publish. The resulting bad publicity severely embarrassed the EUMC and its director, Beate Winkler, damaged its reputation and left Winkler in a state of depression.

Enter the American Jewish Committee in the form of its Director of International Affairs, Rabbi Andy Baker, who had been active in Europe for many years, making and maintaining connections with Jewish communities, Jewish leaders, national politicians, EU politicians and the Council of Europe, and taking a special interest in antisemitism. Baker knew Winkler and met with her in the aftermath of the controversy. He saw that she was weighed down by the criticism levelled at her and the EUMC and that she had no plan as to how to restore the organization’s reputation.

Baker’s diagnosis was that the problem arose because the EUMC had no definition of antisemitism that would satisfy Jewish leaders, activists and researchers and he proposed to Winkler that she move quickly to convene a meeting of such people from Jewish circles to draft such a definition. Baker was clear in his own mind that the essential element in such a definition would be singling out certain forms of criticism of Israel and Zionism as antisemitic. I doubt whether he told this to Winkler, who was persuaded of the value of the course of action Baker had proposed. But he knew that those invited to the meeting would need to be broadly sympathetic to the concept of the ‘new antisemitism’ and since Winkler was not well-versed in the names of people working in the area of antisemitism research, he was able to determine who attended.

I believe the initial meeting took place in summer 2003. In fact I got wind of it – and this was long before I learned the details I’ve just recounted, details told to me directly and triumphantly by Andy Baker in, if memory serves, 2005 – at the time from Pascale Charhon, who was then running CEJI (Centre Européen Juif d’Information), a Brussels-based body linked to the Anti-Defamation League. I believe that Charhon had been consulted by Baker on who to invite though was not privy to Baker’s particular agenda. She sounded me out as to whether I could attend an EUMC discussion on antisemitism, which was due to take place within a week or two. I said I would try to come (I was on vacation abroad at the time). But Andy Baker knew about my opposition to the concept of the ‘new antisemitism’ so, not suprisingly, I never received an invitation.

At this point, my story meshes with Richard Kuper’s account in his openDemocracy article, when he describes the meetings that then took place, from which those who were not sympathetic to the ‘new antisemitism’ thesis were excluded and at which the AJC itself, in the form of Kenneth Stern, the organization’s principal expert on antisemitism, took the leading role. I understand that a draft of the ‘working definition’ was circulated more widely before it was finally released and it may have been as a result of feedback then received that the formulations of Stern and his colleagues, which contained no qualifiers – so that, for example, ‘Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel’ would always be antisemitic – were altered to read ‘could’ be antisemitic, ‘taking into account the overall context’.

Andy Baker’s ‘personal’ initiative – but one that was fully in tune with the AJC’s increasingly hard-line, pro-Israel agenda, its aim to be a major player in Europe, influencing European action on antisemitism and appearing to command a leading ‘advisory’ role on the European Jewish stage in order to appeal to its domestic American Jewish constituency from whom the organization raises the many millions of dollars required to keep it afloat – has proved remarkably effective. I doubt very much whether he expected what he proposed to Beate Winkler as a fix for the EUMC and a feather in the cap of his organization to achieve the iconic status it now occupies.

But the truth is that, given the genesis of the ‘working definition’, which in my view was a scandal, the fulminations of the Jewish establishment, the CST, Engage, John Mann MP, the World Union of Jewish Students etc. over the UCU vote are farcical. Certainly, the UCU activists who pressed for the adoption of Motion 70 are not angelic philosophical types approaching this issue with nothing but defence of the purity of academic research in mind. They have a political agenda in relation to Israel-Palestine and they’re fighting for it and their tactics are not pretty. It’s not an agenda I share, but as Professor David Newman of Ben Gurion University, who spent a few years in the UK combating proposals to institute a boycott of Israeli academic, concluded, it’s a political fight that needs to be fought with political arguments, not with accusations of antisemitism.

The critics of the UCU decision don’t seem to understand this. They think nothing of accusing Jews who see things differently from them of being antisemitic. At one moment they tell us the ‘working definition’ is ‘the EU definition’ (which it isn’t and it never was). The next moment they tell us it’s only advisory and is a work in progress. They manipulate the findings of the report of the Macpherson inquiry into the killing of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence and falsely claim it decreed that only members of the group who experience racism can define what that racism consists of – so that anyone who denies Jews exclusive rights to define what is and what is not antisemitism – i.e. the UCU – is antisemitic.

If only the UCU vote did indeed signal the demise of the EUMC ‘working definition’. It would open up far more possibilities for rational discussion about the nature and danger of antisemitism today, discussion that would not be rendered moot by those who are determined to politicise the subject. But I’m not holding my breath.

Categories: Antisemitism
  1. anon
    03/06/2011 at 1:14 am

    The definition was a bulwark against claiming that Jews are the one and only ethnic groups without self determination.

    If you could use anothewr 12% your tiny brain you would figure this out. Or otherwise you are just being an obnoxious fascist because you lack the mental faculties for real political thought.

    [This comment has been edited to exclude abusive content-AL]

  2. Edward
    03/06/2011 at 10:30 am

    The EUMC definition was never imposed by law, quite correctly of course, but was just a form of guidance, and so for the UCU to make a point of rejecting it is making a purposeful and bold statement that they do not care. With UCU officials publicly alleging that Jews used the collapse of Lehmans to syphon money to Israel, and bringing to the UK Bongani Masuku, a South African trade unionist, found by the South African Human Rights Commission to have made racist statements for calling for attacks on Zionists, the UCU does seem to have trouble identifying antisemitism. This now seems to be contagious, Mr Lerman.

  3. Mike, London
    03/06/2011 at 3:43 pm

    That such a thoughtful piece by Anthony Lerman should provoke such an intemperate reply as the first one is, sadly, no surprise.

    UCU delegates sought to untangle the malicious knot tied by Israel’s supporters enmeshing debate about Israel with anti-Semitism. That the two can be linked is beyond doubt but those who wish to promote the EUMC draft working definition take the stance that criticism of Israel is a priori anti-Semitic until proved otherwise.

    This biased approach is not accidental but was the purpose of its drafters as both Lerman and Kuper have shown. Opposition to anti-Semitism and support for Palestinian rights are not antithetical but both are part of a wider humanitarian agenda. As at every Congress since its formation, UCU devoted time to both International issues and combating discrimination and harassment in the UK.

    What marks the Israel debate is that, unlike on motions about China, Burma, Columbia and elsewhere, people stand up and defend people that the rest of congress view as serial abusers of human rights and international law.

    It is striking that at Congress a wide range of delegates supported the motion, far beyond those who are likely to vote with the movers of these motions on any other contentious issue.

    Defenders of Israel who seek to describe this wide support as a manifestation of institutional anti-Semitism rather than a detestation of the actions of the Israeli state and army are woefully misguided.

  4. cocoapony
    03/06/2011 at 5:21 pm

    Valuing one’s own heritage, culture and religious beliefs over another group’s is a pernicious & dangerous dogma, and something that underpinned the Holocaust.

    So it seems to me to be a tragic legacy of that Horror, that such is the premise upon which a particular cohort of the victims and their descendents now organise to oppress another section of humanity.

    The nonsensical ramblings and ravings of the first two comments in no way represent the views of us all, thankfully, nor either does their willfully twisted sense of logic, strange sense of history, and their skewed ethics; and even less their presumed sense of authority on all things pertaining to human justice. These are self-serving, specious and profoundly prejudiced views.

    As David Wearing put it so beautifully:
    “If you want to show contempt for the victims of anti-semitism throughout the ages, just use it to smear critics of Israeli state policy.”

  5. charliethechulo
    03/06/2011 at 9:45 pm

    And what is this “genuine antisemitism” that the UCU believes “must be fought”? Physical attacks on Jews? Desecration of Jewish cemetaries? Anything short of that? We’re nor told because the UCU has no definition of antisemitism. A delegate at its congress making a speech about “these people” being “expansionist” was not taken to task. A Jewish delegate (Ronnie Fraser) who spoke of sensing antisemitism in the conference itself was met with stony silence. Whether you agree with Ronnie or not, can you imagine them concerns of a member of any other BEM minority group at such a gathering being met with…silence?

    The UCU institutionally racist by the Mcpherson definition? You betcha! Let’s hope the Equality and Human Rights Commission *do* investigate this degenerate organisation.

  6. mike, london
    03/06/2011 at 11:29 pm

    @charliethechulo

    Noone taled at Congress about ‘these people being expansionist’ they talked about the expansionist nature of the settlements.

    Little of what was said by the supporters of the motion has been accurately reported. It has been systematically misreported o make it appear anti-Semitic.

  7. mike, london
    03/06/2011 at 11:39 pm

    ‘A Jewish delegate (Ronnie Fraser) who spoke of sensing antisemitism in the conference itself was met with stony silence.’. You can’t win can you. He was listened to politely – would you rather he was heckled or shouted down? Congress is too grown up for that and far too aware of the sensitivities of the issues. Should they have applauded, hypocritically, sentiments they disagreed with?

    They applauded rather the Jewish delegates who pointed out the defintion is dangerous for Jews and by singling out Jews and Israel for special treatment in itself anti-Semitic.

  8. Pete Radcliff
    04/06/2011 at 8:38 am

    Mike, if you were there your memory fails you. What was said by the delegate in question was ‘you have to understand these are an expansionist people’. He was fumbling for words and I could imagine he wasn’t planning to say that. A Freudian slip perhaps. But it is not credible that he was just referring to people living in the settlements.

  9. saucy jack
    04/06/2011 at 9:40 am

    “it is not credible that he was just referring to people living in the settlements”
    Why not exactly? And it certainly isn’t credible that he was referring to Jews as a whole, who live all around the world, is it? What on earth would such a statement mean, that he was accusing the Jews of planning to colonise Mars? Truly desperate stuff.

  10. 04/06/2011 at 10:02 am

    Saucy Jack – are you asking me what that delegate meant? Come on, you know what he meant by expansionist and it is nothing to do with Mars. It is about the aim of right-wing Israelis to expand Israel to include the West Bank. That is a ‘movement’ not a ‘people’.
    A 5 year-old kid in a settlement on the West Bank would be one of those ‘expansionist people’ even if your argument was true that the delegate was only referring to the settlers and not all the citizens of Israel – I wouldn’t hold such a kid responsible for the crimes of the occupation movement. I can’t think of a reference to the crimes of a ‘people’ that wouldn’t be racist, can you?

  11. saucy jack
    04/06/2011 at 10:41 am

    “I can’t think of a reference to the crimes of a ‘people’ that wouldn’t be racist, can you?”
    So you obviously disagree with Ronnie Fraser that he was referring to Jews as a whole, which is progress. However, it seems it is in any case the term “people” itself and not its scope that you object to. Fair enough, I am sure as you say the delegate in question expressed himself clumsily and would doubtless apologise for his misstatement. I can’t compete with your Freudian analytical skills, but in any case if this is the best example of anti-Jewish racism in the UCU after the tsunami of anti-Semitism allegedly raging through the union over the past five years, it is pretty poor stuff. Incidentally did you remain silent during Fraser’s speech, or roar him on with whoops of encouragement as Charlie the Chulo would demand?

  12. 04/06/2011 at 11:33 am

    OK, as you didn’t reply to my question, I take that as an acceptance from you that you accept that the comment was racist. I think it is clear that the comment referred to all Israelis even though I don’t agree with Ronnie Fraser or Engage on many things.
    I believe, for example, that you cannot fight anti-semitism in the UCU without also being absolutely clear on support for the rights of the Palestinian people and against the racism of the Israeli state.
    It is possible that the delegate in question may have apologised if challenged by the chair. And think for a minute what would have happened if a delegate had said ‘what you have to understand is that Iranians are a homophobic people’, he would probably and rightly have been rebuked by the chair or heckled. But the vast majority of delegates probably didn’t even notice the implicit racism. They probably didn’t even know who Azzam Tamimi is, whose rights Sue Blackwell explicitly made clear that her motion was supporting. Azzam Tamimi is an Islamist activist, who has written articles justifying either the death sentence of imprisonment for treason for Muslim apostates as well as calling for Jews to get out of Israel and go back to Ukraine and Poland.
    No-one in the UCU would make such crass statements but the purpose of the motion was, in my view, to defend the alliances that the SWP, the PSC and others have made and continue to make with racist anti-Jewish people such as Tamimi.
    Btw I spoke at conference, with I believe a completely different approach to Ronnie Fraser. If you want to read my speech or see a commentary on Tamimi, take the link http://www.workersliberty.org/blogs/pete/2011/05/30/speech-opposition-ucus-junking-eumc-antisemitism-definition

  13. saucy jack
    04/06/2011 at 12:10 pm

    “I take that as an acceptance from you that you accept that the comment was racist”
    Being neither a Trotskyist nor a Zionist, I am certainly not prepared to condemn somebody as a racist on the basis of three words without knowing the context or the intent. To take up your example, if somebody was to clumsily characterise Iranians as a homophobic people in the context of explaining how difficult it is to raise such issues in a conservative Islamic society, I don’t think anyone would particularly leap on them. If they were to do so in the context of advocating that Iran be bombed, it would be entirely difficult. So as I have no idea whether this delegate followed on by saying that this expansionist people should be bombed or exterminated, or was merely trying to bring out the expansionist nature of the Zionist project, the fact that Israel feels it needs the land, water and resources of the West Bank to be used on behalf of, precisely their phrase, “am yIsrael”, and needs to expand the settlements to create kindergartens, schools, and play areas for all those 5 years olds you don’t think are part of the project. Without knowing that, and being aware of the hysterical mindset and systematic dishonesty employed by Engage and so on to slur their opponents, I would not be prepared to comment.

  14. David Miller
    04/06/2011 at 1:29 pm

    Mike from London says ‘They applauded rather the Jewish delegates who pointed out the defintion is dangerous for Jews and by singling out Jews and Israel for special treatment in itself anti-Semitic.’

    Doh!…isn’t that precisely what we’re worried about Mike???? UCU Left among others singling out Jews and Israel for special treatment?

    • Mike, London
      04/06/2011 at 5:28 pm

      @David Miller “UCU Left among others singling out Jews and Israel for special treatment?”

      This is the sort of dangerous statement that underpins opposition to use of the EUMC draft working definition. It could be argued that UCU left singles out Israel (although since it is alongside Colombia and other countries it can hardly be ‘single’) there is however no evidence that UCU left, or any other part of UCU singles out Jews and it malicious to suggest that this is so. What evidence is there that UCU has attacked Jews rather than Israel?

      It is Israel that singles itself out by continuing an illegal occupation for over 40 years and by confiscating land and water on an almost daily basis, driving people from their homes and beating, arresting and killing people (including children) who peacefully protest.

      There is a consistent attempt by Israel’s supporters (whether Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Atheist or anything else) to refuse to engage in discussion of Israel’s actions and turn attention rather to the supposed malevolence of those who oppose and denounce these crimes.

      Many of the same people who call me an anti-Semite (or self hating Jew) called me a communist when I campaigned against South African apartheid. You get used to these insults as they are insignificant compared to what black South Africans used to suffer or Palestinians suffer every day now.

  15. 04/06/2011 at 3:46 pm

    @Saucy Jack – you are evading the point and you know it! You admit it was a ‘misstatement’ in your earlier comment and that he would have apologised for it. You now go back and say it is OK make a racist generalisation as long as it is in a good cause. And those 5 year olds again get lumped back in the racist generalisation – they are after all ‘part of the project’. That is how an unfortunate part of the left, like yourself, allow antisemitism to ride unchallenged in the movement in solidarity for the Palestinians giving gifts to the Israeli govt and right-wing. I note you say nothing about Tamimi, I presume that means his antisemitism (given context etc.) is OK with you. Fortunately the new workers movement in the Arab world seems to know a little more about the dangers of the Islamists.

  16. saucy jack
    04/06/2011 at 4:06 pm

    “You admit it was a ‘misstatement’ in your earlier comment and that he would have apologised for it.”
    No I speculated that it mmight be, but as I say I know nothing of the context in which the term was used. It could have been to express the most terrible sentiments for all I know, or it may have been entirely well meaning. Since you were there, can you tell us in what context the statement was made and what precise point the speaker was illustrating? In any case the whole point Fraser was making was that his reference was to Jewish people as a whole and therefore anti-Semitic, and you don’t hold to that – but apparently you think statements about the Israeli people as a whole are inherently racist. Unfortunately Zionists make such statements all the time.
    Of course 5 year old settler children are settlers too, that is how they are characterised by the Israeli government and that is why they live under an entirely separate set of arrangements and enjoy an entirely separate status from 5 year old Palestinian children in adjoining neighbourhoods. What is your problem with acknowledging that?
    I say nothing about Tamimi because I know nothing about him, although it is sporting of you to acknowledge that in fact it is Palestinians, and not Zionists, who are being barred from speaking at universities. Anyone might get the impression it was the other way round. I realise that it is difficult for people like you to grasp this, but I am not in the habit of shooting my mouth off about things I know nothing about,still less denouncing people of whom I know nothing as racists or claiming I have some special insight into their unconscious thought processes.

  17. 04/06/2011 at 6:25 pm

    Look Saucy Jack, the fact that right-wing Zionists make racist statements, that the settlers are part of a racist occupying project, is no excuse for racist generalisations about Israeli people. And if you know nothing about the anti-semitism of Tamimi and Hamas then what are you doing intervening in this debate? The context was quite clearly made by Blackwell. It is to exempt people like Tamimi who are right-wing antisemitic/ anti-Jewish communalists from being accused of being that.
    In the false logic of ‘1) ‘settlements are a racist project’ – 2)’the people from whom the settlers come are all racist’ – 3)’5 yr old kid one of those people therefore racist’ – a consistent opponent of all racism would stop at (1). Those who don’t understand what antisemitism is would go on to 2 and possibly 3.
    The stupid implicitly antisemitic comments of delegates like that mentioned are exactly that – stupid. They like Hamas’s military actions that don’t distinguish between the Israeli occupation regime and Israeli citizens aid right-wing Israelis by allowing them to accuse Palestinians of the same thing they are guilty of.

  18. saucy jack
    04/06/2011 at 6:54 pm

    “It is to exempt people like Tamimi who are right-wing antisemitic/ anti-Jewish communalists from being accused of being that.”
    Well as I understand it it is about defending the right of Hamas supporters to speak at universities and colleges. And I support that right, just as I support rhe right of racist right wing Zionists to speak and organise in universities.

    ’the people from whom the settlers come are all racist”
    I didn’t make any comment about all settlers being racist, I pointed out that all settlers are settlers. You seem to think there’s an age qualification.

    “The stupid implicitly antisemitic comments of delegates like that mentioned are exactly that – stupid.”
    I have no trouble believing that there are stupid delegates at a trade union conference, which is precisely why I don’t get lathered up into a state of hysteria at the possible detection of one such.
    But I have no interest in some terdious and endlessly circular Trotskyist debate. Have you actually read what Tony Lerman wrote? He doesn’t support Hamas, isnlt in the SWP, and I doubt that even Jim Denham could get away with calling him an anti-Semite. But he doesn’t support this precious EUMC definition either and spells out precisely why. Would you care to respond to any of the points he makes?

  19. 04/06/2011 at 8:07 pm

    “and I doubt that even Jim Denham could get away with calling him an anti-Semite”:

    Oh, but I would. As I would also call the UCU institutionally racist, by the Mcpherson definition.

    Once again, I challenge those who oppose the EUMC definition of antisemitism: what is *your* definition of antisemitism?

    • Mike, London
      05/06/2011 at 2:26 pm

      If you want a definition why use the simpler one advocated by Brian Klug “Hatred of Jews as Jews”.

      This delinks anti-Semitism from criticism of Israel.

      Apart from opposition to the Israeli state’s criminal activities (as exemplified, as I write, by what is going on at Q’landia) what evidence, as opposed to declamations, is there for UCU’s anti-Semitism?

  20. 05/06/2011 at 3:12 pm

    Mike: I think you meant to write ‘why not use the simpler one advocated by Brian Klug’ – you inadvertently missed out the ‘not’.
    I agree – and I referred to Brian’s definition in my original post. But it’s important to point out that in his latest essay on the subject, his reworked article ‘The collective Jew’ published in his book Being Jewish and Doing Justice, he gives more than just a 5-word definition. He clarifies at some length the nature of the relationship between comment on Israel and antisemitism in a way that is extremely useful, lucid and sensible. And it shows that, whatever the motives behind the framing of the EUMC ‘working definition’, the way it was done, with a kind of throw away introductory line and then examples which are uncontextualised, was counterproductive. As Brian shows, there is a complexity here that cannot be summed up in the way the ‘working definition’ tried to do.
    Brian very carefully draws distinctions between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, between forms of criticism of Israel and antisemitism. But he clearly writes: ‘Certainly, antisemitism can, and sometimes does, take the form of anti-Zionism; but as we have seen, it can also take the opposite form’.

  21. jews4big
    05/06/2011 at 3:24 pm

    charliethechulo is upset because UCU says “genuine antisemitism must be fought”.
    Personally I am heartened that stalwart trade unionists have seen through the venal attempts by defenders of Zionist racism to tar as anti-Semites anyone who criticises them. Racism – against Jews or anyone else – is hatred of or discrimination against a person because of who they are by birth. Neither UCU nor the rest of society needs a politicised “definition” which is racist in its own conception, shackling all Jews to one pro-Israeli ideological viewpoint.
    That Jim Denham cheerfully calls the former director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research anti-Semitic doesn’t commend his arguments to me a whole lot. McPherson was important in valuing a victim’s perception of whether or not they’ve been subjected to a racist attack. It was meant to empower vulnerable members of society, not allow ideologues to shut down debate about their own racist creed.

  22. charliethechulo
    05/06/2011 at 3:45 pm

    Excellent that Antony recognises that antisemitism can *sometimes* (my emphasis) take the form of “anti-zionism”…actually, ity invariable does thyese days. Still, tyhat’s a step forward. At one point, only a few years ago, the UCU had a position that – if taken literally – seemed to say that “anti-zionism” could *never* be antisemitic.

    Then Antony say goes on to say: ‘Certainly, antisemitism can, and sometimes does, take the form of anti-Zionism; but as we have seen, it can also take the opposite form’.

    How, when and where does it take “the opposite form”, Antony?

    • Mike, London
      05/06/2011 at 4:46 pm

      Charlie. If you look at the writings of Christian Zionists, passionate supporters of Israel, you will often find enthusiastic Zionism co-existing with deep strains of anti-Semitism. After all they only want all the Jews to gather in Israel to allow the apocalypse to occur and thus the seconding coming at which point they would all be raptured and Jews and all other unbelievers would be consigned to torment. I know this sounds nonsensical but it’s their nonsense not mine.

      With friends like that (embraced by Netanyahu and Lieberman) who needs enemies?

      p.s. Antony thank you for finding my missing ‘not’. The risk of responding via mobile phone.

  23. charliethechulo
    05/06/2011 at 5:22 pm

    OK Mike: I can accept that such wierdos exist in the US. But have you ever met one in Britain? I can assure you that I haven’t.

    • mike, london
      05/06/2011 at 11:30 pm

      Sadly I have. They are not as common or as powerful here but they exist.

  24. Reality Check
    06/06/2011 at 1:57 pm

    To summarize, there’s a war on the Jewish State of Israel’s existence, and the latest attacks are from the UCU, who are doing everything in their power to help the Islamic fundamentalists try to harm Israel.

    Antony Lerman, who as we know is a kapo and someone that Adolf Hitler would probably want to give a hug to, naturally supports the UCU in their quest to harm Israel.

    Hope that clears it up for everyone.

  25. 06/06/2011 at 10:39 pm

    I decided to ‘approve’ the last comment from Reality Check (email address: bradtorontoworkmail@yahoo.com), even though it’s abusive and contravenes the standards I’m applying on my blog, because I wanted anyone who reads this thread to see just how low some people will stoop in their desperation to spew bile and display animus rather than engage in serious and frank discussion and dialogue. Reality Check just proves why it’s so difficult to discuss the problem of antisemitism in a dispassionate and objective manner today.

  26. anon
    06/06/2011 at 11:54 pm

    anon :I honestly do not see any point to your post other than unjustified insults. Unless you are able to contribute helpfully to this topic or can at least phrase your sentences in a nicer manner, then I would suggest you leave. Also, please learn to state your opinions in a way that doesn’t spread your reputation as a “troll”.

    This was to Reality Check, just in case the post layout went wrong.

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