Thursday 29 January 2015

A contradiction in terms - the UCU's 'Challenging Antisemitism' leaflet

To coincide with this year's Holocaust Memorial day, on 27 January,  the University and College Lecturers Union (UCU)  published  a revised version of their leaflet 'Challenging Antisemitism' which now includes examples of where criticism of Israel crosses the line into antisemitism.

The original leaflet was hastily produced in January 2012, seven months after the UCU Congress had voted to disassociate itself from the EUMC working definition of antisemitism and in response to the start of my legal action against the UCU which alleged 'institutional antisemitsm.'  At the time the UCU did not consult with Jewish members of the union before producing the leaflet.  The revised leaflet, which was produced after consulting with the membership still uses a definition of antisemitsm written by Dr. Brian Klug:

‘At the heart of antisemitism is the negative stereotype of the Jew: sinister, cunning, parasitic, money-grubbing, mysteriously powerful, and so on. Antisemitism consists in projecting this figure onto individual Jews, Jewish groups and Jewish institutions.’

This definition is wholly unsuitable because it only addresses one aspect of antisemitism  and fails to recognise contemporary antisemitism and does not mention the links between anti-Zionism, antisemitism and anti-Israel hatred.

The revised leaflet lists only four examples of antisemitism as compared with the EUMC working definition's twelve.

The revised leaflet's four examples of antisemitism are:

1. Holding Jews collectively to blame, e.g. for the actions of the Israeli Government. Many Jews do not support the actions of the Government of Israel

The sentence 'Many Jews do not support the actions of the Government of Israel' is making the link to anti-Israel bias and has no place in a leaflet raising awareness of the dangers of modern antisemitism. It has been included for political purposes in order to placate the Far Left and the anti-Zionists within the union. One of the outcomes of last year's Gaza war was an increase in antisemitsm when British Jews were blamed for the conflict regardless of whether they supported Israel or not.  

2. Denial or trivialisation of the Holocaust; use of Holocaust imagery in describing Jews; accusing Jews of exaggerating the Holocaust

3. Targeting Jews or Jewish organisations for anti-Israel protests. For example, a ‘Free Palestine’ slogan is legitimate political debate. Daubed on the wall of a synagogue, it is an antisemitic act.

4. Deliberate distortion, exaggeration or misrepresentation of religious concepts and teaching.

This last definition was changed from their original draft which read:

Distortion of religious concepts and teaching, e.g: an eye for an eye; the chosen people. Misuse of Jewish symbols such as the Star of David.

One has to ask why they omitted the  relevant wording? Does the UCU seriously believe that  flags and banners with swastika's on embossed on the Star of David seen at last summer's anti-Israel demonstrations were not antisemitic?

However the original draft leaflet had five examples, here is the fifth  example which was left out of the revised version.

Judging Jews according to a different standard often manifests as explicit comparisons between what is perceived to be the collective action of Jews (usually the Israeli Government) and the action of Nazis.

The removal of what is a perfectly good and relevant example of antisemitism begs the question once again, why?  This is a serious misjudgement on their part  and I  suspect was  deleted  because it is one of the three D's used by Natan Sharansky to define modern antisemitsm; Delegitimisation, Demonisation and Double standards.  On top of that there can be no excuse for leaving out an example that equates  the collective action of the Jews or Israel with the action of Nazis.  Social media was awash last year with comments and hashtags with such as 'well done Israel, Hitler would be proud' and 'Hitler was right.'

How can we take seriously a leaflet on the dangers of antisemitism which for  political reasons purposely ignores and deletes examples of antisemitism in which Israel and the Jewish people are delegitimised, demonised or subjected to double standards? But there again the UCU couldn't possibly use examples from the EUMC definition, now could it?

You have to hand it to the UCU,  they have chutzpah sending a copy of their draft leaflet to the Board of Deputies for British Jews (BOD) asking for their comments. The BOD to its credit did not reply, possibly because there was no guarantee that the UCU would have met all their demands for changes to the leaflet or indeed taken any of them on board.  However if the BOD had responded  the UCU could have used their reply as an endorsement of their leaflet.

If you want to see a good leaflet look at #Keepingit Kosher, a student's guide to antisemitism produced by the CST and Union of Jewish Students.

I am personally glad that the BOD did not respond because the UCU's decision to disassociate the union from the EUMC definition of antisemitism is still union policy. In fact there should be no contact between the UCU and the BOD until they do rescind this resolution. To my knowledge the union has never upheld any complaint involving antisemitism including those that invoked the EUMC definition.

The UCU is the most pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel trade union in Britain having adopted nineteen resolutions highly critical of Israel's actions between 2007 and 2011, These included several motions which promoted an academic boycott of Israel which are still union policy. The UCU was only stopped from implementing an academic boycott after it had taken legal advice and was told that if implemented the resolutions would infringe equality legislation.

Although the UCU claims that it is opposed to all forms of discrimination it has always denied that its academic boycott of Israel motions are antisemitic and that by supporting Hamas the UCU is backing the delegitimisation and destruction of the State of Israel. Although the UCU has said that it is opposed to antisemitism, the reality is that the union is only opposed to antisemitsm as defined by its own political goals. 

Ronnie Fraser


The Academic Friends of Israel

No comments: