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Letter in THES protesting at the UCU response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism
Added by David Hirsh on January 18, 2007 01:13:20 PM.
Letter in THES protesting at the UCU response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into AntisemitismThis letter is a distilled version of the full document, signed by 76 UCU members, protesting at UCU's response to the Parliamentary Inquiry, below.

The University and College Union's response to the All-Party Parliamentary report on antisemitism – our new union’s first pronouncement on this matter – is evasive, disingenuous and complacent.

In response to the charge that a boycott of Israeli academics, with which UCU continues to flirt, would be a policy that unintentionally discriminates against Jews, the union pleads innocent to a different charge, declaring that its members are not motivated by a hatred of Jews. It fails to address the problem of institutional or unintentional antisemitism which concerned the MPs.

UCU's document makes four discrete evasions. Firstly, it declares that “criticism of Israel is not in itself anti-Semitic”. Nobody serious claims that it is. But this has become a standard formulation by which those who support a boycott of Israel, and only Israel, avoid confronting the issue of antisemitism.

Secondly, UCU treats a boycott of Israeli scholars as though it were simply criticism, making the claim that “criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic” doubly evasive. It refuses to consider the arguments that a boycott – and not simply criticism of Israeli policy – could indeed lead to an anti-Jewish outcome. The UCU document dresses up the “right” to exclude Israelis from British academe as though it were freedom of speech.

Thirdly, the union claims that “the cry of anti-Semitism” is a tactic dishonestly and cynically employed by members of UCU to de-legitimize those who oppose Israeli human rights abuses. The charge rests on a distinction between the professed and the hidden intent of those who oppose the boycott campaign. No evidence is provided for this serious and unfalsifiable charge of dishonesty made by UCU against many of its own members.

Fourth, the union tries to change the subject by asking “What about Islamophobia?” We urge UCU to address Islamophobia seriously and we decry the attempt to play off one form of unjust discrimination against another.

This response to the Parliamentary committee begins by claiming to write on behalf of members of UCU. We are, and will remain, members of UCU, but in its response to the All-Party Inquiry into antisemitism, the union does not speak or act in our name.

Adrian Hyde-Price, Leicester
Alan Fersht, Cambridge
Alan Johnson, Edge Hill
Alex Samely, Manchester
Alison Diduck, UCL
Amanda Loumansky, Middlesex
Andrea Rota, Goldsmiths
Annette Seidel Arpaci, Leeds
Avrom Sherr, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
Ben Gidley, Goldsmiths
Bencie Woll, UCL
Bernard Jackson, Manchester
Bill Williams, Manchester
Brian Burrows , Staffordshire
Carol Wilson, Leeds
Colin Shindler, SOAS
Daniel Leiwy, Westminster
Daniel Weinbren, Open
David Cesarani, Royal Holloway
David Foster, Manchester
David Hirsh, Goldsmiths
David Katz, UCL
David Lass, The Maughan Library
David Miller, Leeds
David Seymour, Lancaster
David-Hillel Ruben, Birkbeck
Derek Meyer, Westminster
Eric Heinze, Queen Mary
Eva Frojmovic, Leeds
Eve Garrard, Keele
(More from Eve here)
Fiona Fairweather, UEL
Gerry Leisman, Leeds Metropolitan
Gregory Gutin, Royal Holloway
Harriet R. Tenenbaum, Kingston
Harry Lesser, Manchester
Hemda Garelick, Middlesex
Helen West, Brent Adult & Community Education Service
Howard Fredrics, UCU unaffiliated
Istvan Pogany, Warwick
James Mendelsohn, Huddersfield
Jeanne Katz, Open
Jeffrey Ketland, Edinburgh
Jeanette Copperman, City University
Jenny Jacobs, Middlesex
Joanna Adler, Middlesex
John Strawson, UEL
Jon Pike, Open
Josh Cohen, Goldsmiths
Kirsten Campbell, Goldsmiths
Larry Ray, Kent
Leon Litvack, Queens, Belfast
Lesley Klaff, Sheffield Hallam
Margaret Harris, Aston
Maurice Glasman, London Metropolitan
Michael Short, West of England
Michael Yudkin, Oxford
Mira Vogel, Goldsmiths
Nina Collins, Leeds
Pauline Allen, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Philip Spencer, Kingston
Robert Fine, Warwick
Ronnie Fraser, Barnet
Sandi Mann, Central Lancashire
Sandra Fredman, Oxford
Sasha Roseneil, Leeds
Shalom Lappin, Kings, London
Sonja Grussendorf, Goldsmiths
Stephen Soskin, Buckinghamshire Chilterns
Steve Shnyder, Bradford
Sue Gold, Barnet
Sue Jackson, Birkbeck
Sue Vice, Sheffield
Tessa Rajak, Reading
Wlodek Tych, Lancaster
Yaakov Wise, Manchester
Yochanan Altman, London Metropolitan

Signed by 76 members of the UCU

This list represents a cross section of UCU members – it includes a number extremely high profile and well-known professors, it includes non-academic staff, and it includes people from all kinds of institutions – further education colleges and both post and pre- 1992 universities. It includes Jews and non-Jews. It includes men and women. It includes sciences and humanities. It includes people who have links with Israeli universities and people who don't. Please google some of the names – it is an impressive and diverse list of people.

The UCU members' response makes a number of central points:

1 This is UCU's first pronouncement on antisemitism and it is extremely poor.

2 The charge that a boycott of Israeli colleagues would be antisemitic in effect does not mean that it is argued for by people who feel hatred against Jews. That is not the charge but that is the only charge that the boycotters feel comfortable responding to.

3 When confronted with talk of antisemitism, people often "cry Israel". They declare that "criticisim of Israel is not antisemitic". But nobody says that criticism of Israel is antisemitic.

4 The boycott goes beyond talk. The boycott seeks to exclude Israeli scholars from our campuses, our journals and our conferences. This is not a matter of free speech, but one of excluding people based on their nationality.

5 The union repeats the charge that those who think the boycott would be antisemitic in effect, are being dishonest. The union says that what opponents of the boycott really want is to silence criticism of Israeli human rights abuses by means of a false cry of "Antisemitism" (crying wolf). This insistence that what we say is not what we really think, and that we are posing as anti-racists but really we are acting out of some kind of Zionist political loyalty (or Jewish communal loyalty) – amounts to a charge of Zionist (or Jewish) conspiracy. "Zionists" (or Jews) within the union are dishonestly pretending to think one thing but really are acting out of different motives and they are acting in concert.

6 The union says that the Parliamentary committee should not have looked into antisemitism in the UK. It would only have been legitimate if it had also looked into Islamophobia in the UK.