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

Thursday 15 January 2015

Antisemitism - is the genie now out of the bottle?

15 January 2015

What a moment to relaunch the Academic Friends of Israel digest after a gap of three and a half years, so much  has changed with the murder of 17 people in Paris last week.

Jew hatred and antisemitism are centre stage once again and this time it is front page news. The genie was let out of the bottle last summer with Israel's military operation 'Protective Edge' against Gaza last summer. The coming together of a series of factors such as the conflation of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel hatred, the increased use of social media and an anti-Israeli narrative promoted by the media all combined to ensure an upsurge in antisemitism which was the longest period of sustained antisemitsm in Europe since the Second World War.

Last week it was Muslim extremists targeting Jews for no other reason than that they were Jews. This week  in Britain the results of survey by the  'grass roots activists' the Campaign Against Antisemitism of the Jews and the wider population have been published. The outcome has been headlines such 'Almost half of Britons hold antisemitic view, poll suggests', 'Warning over rising tide of anti-Semitism in Britain with one in eight people claiming that Jews talk about the Holocaust to get sympathy'. The Jewish Chronicle  has carried out its own survey, their headline was '88% of British Jews have not considered leaving UK'. This means 12%  or one in ten have considered making Aliyah. The message is the same, that Anglo Jewry is worried and unless something is done by our leaders and politicians it is only going to worse.

Sadly, the leaders of the Anglo Jewry have once again been found wanting as they were last summer by the grassroots activists who are dictating the agenda when it comes to combating rising antisemitism and as a result gaining all the headlines.

I found recently some very interesting data published by the Community Security Trust (CST). You probably knew that between 2008 and 2012 there were an average 600 antisemitic incidents in Britain each year, approximately 10 every week? But did you know that there were only an average of 10 successful prosecutions each year, out of the 600 reported incidents. This indicates to me something is not quite right, although I have been told this is pretty good compared to other European countries. Do our politicians and lawmakers have the will to do something before it's too late, I hope so,  because we all know what is heading our way. 

Was Benjamin Netanyahu right when he made an impassioned call for French Jews to immigrate to Israel, the killing of  four Jews in a kosher supermarket in Paris?  Some may disagree with me but I think he was right, as Marc Goldberg wrote in his blog about Netanyahu's presence in Paris;

"When they looked up at the bimah, at the Jew, the former commando, the man who lost his own brother to terrorists they saw a man they knew would put his own life on the line to defend theirs. This is why it was the Prime Minister of Israel who received the applause from the crowd upon arrival, this is why it was the Prime Minister of Israel that they all wanted to hear speak. This is the man from the country overseas whose doors will always be open to them. The country where every man and woman of military age will fight against the very same people who attacked them."

Do not forget that  if you say he was wrong then you are playing in to the hands of the current Palestinian narrative that the Jews have no connection with the Land of Israel, even though we have been there  for 2000 years.

Ronnie Fraser


The Academic Friends of Israel

You may now like to read some of the following articles:

Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism: 'Britain’s tsunami of anti-Semitism'

Gideon Falter  ‘Campaign Against Antisemitism is the freedom litmus test’

The Guardian – ‘Almost half of Britons hold antisemitic view, poll suggests’

The Jewish Chronicle - 'JC poll reveals 88 per cent of British Jews have not considered leaving UK'

Geoffrey Alderman – ‘Here’s how politicians can convince British Jews that they have a future in the UK’

Melanie Phillips writes about writing about the endemic Jew-hatred within Islamic religion and culture

The Paris terrorist attacks:

Marc Goldberg - 'Prime Minister of the Jews?'

An alternative take on Netanyahu's visit to Paris can be can be found here

President Rivlin eulogizes victims of Paris attack