The OSCE is a coalition of 56 states which is concerned with Security and Co-operation in Europe. It has a number of Chairman-in-Office Representatives working on issues such as human trafficking, racism, peace and democracy. Gert Weisskirchen is the Personal Representative of the Chairman-in-Office on combating antisemitism.
Gert Weisskirchen, himself a professor and a social scientist, as well as a member of the German parliament, publicly expressed concern when UCU Congress passed a motion supporting the campaign to exclude Israeli academics from our campuses, journals and conferences.
Professor Weisskirchen was in London on 19 July and he requested a meeting with the UCU to discuss issues related to antisemitism. He was told that all of the UCU officials were busy. He offered times to meet, either in London or Berlin, but UCU has so far refused to meet him.
UCU has a policy against antisemitism and it says it opposes antisemitism. But it now also has policy which says that “criticism of Israel cannot be construed as antisemitic”. This formulation protects any statement which resembles criticism of Israel, or which incorporates criticism of Israel, whether it is actually antisemitic or not. The statement is also simply factually incorrect. Much criticism of Israel, for example that which comes from the Iranian presidency, is certainly antisemitic. UCU is also committed to the fiction that a campaign to blacklist Israelis – and nobody else - constitutes “criticism of Israel”. Criticism is of course, often entirely legitimate; exclusions on the basis of nationality are not.
In truth, the claim that “criticism of Israel cannot be construed as antisemitic” is itself an antisemitic claim. It licenses certain kinds of antisemitism, it denies the distinction between criticism, demonization and concrete exclusion, and it implicitly accuses those who are concerned about antisemitism of dishonestly trying to de-legitimize criticism of Israeli human rights abuses.
UCU’s reluctance even to discuss the issue of antisemitism with Gert Weisskirchen, and its dismissive response to him, is an indicator of its failure to take the issue of antisemitism seriously.
We the undersigned, all UCU members, call upon UCU to stop playing with the fire of antisemitism, to stop ruling out in advance the possibility of antisemitism through word-play, to meet Gert Weisskirchen and to listen seriously to his concerns.
1. Ariel Hessayon, Goldsmiths UCU
2. Bencie Woll, UCL UCU
3. Carol Wilson, Leeds UCU
4. Caroline Fertleman, UCL UCU
5. David Hirsh, Goldsmiths UCU
6. David La Rooy, Kingston UCU
7. David Lass, King's College London UCU
8. David M. Seymour, Lancaster UCU
9. Deborah Lynn Steinberg, Warwick UCU
10. Deiniol Jones, Leeds UCU
11. Dena Attar, Open UCU
12. Eva Frojmovic, Leeds UCU
13. Eve Garrard, Keele UCU
14. Fiona Fairweather, UEL UCU
15. Harriet Tenenbaum, Kingston UCU
16. Harry Lesser, Manchester UCU
17. Howard Fredrics, Kingston UCU
18. Jane Andrews, Aston UCU
19. Jean Seaton, Westminster UCU
20. Jeanne Katz, Open UCU
21. Jeffrey Boss, Bristol UCU (retd.)
22. John Strawson Stratford UEL UCU
23. Jon Pike, Open UCU
24. Joseph Mintz, LSBU UCU
25. Josh Cohen, Goldsmiths UCU
26. Larry Ray, Kent UCU
27. Mira Vogel, Goldsmiths UCU
28. Orna Almog, Kingston, UCU
29. Pauline Allen, London School of Hygiene, UCU
30. Peter Mellor, City UCU
31. Raphael Levy, Liverpool UCU
32. Robert Fine, Warwick UCU
33. Sandra Fredman, Oxford UCU
34. Sasha Roseneil, Birkbeck UCU
35. Stephen Soskin, BCUC UCU
36. Steve Shnyder, Bradford UCU
37. Sue Gold, Barnet UCU
38. Tania Woolf, U.W.E. UCU
39. Tessa Rajak, Reading UCU
Engage Letter in this week's Times Higher Education Supplement
Added by David Hirsh on August 02, 2007 08:26:08 PM.