Boycotters use legal threats to try to silence criticism of antisemitism in UCU
Added by David Hirsh on August 26, 2008 11:33:17 PM.
Boycotters use legal threats to try to silence criticism of antisemitism in UCUHarry's Place, the website which published the fact that the University and College Union (UCU) had circulated an antisemitic link from David Duke's website is currently offline. Its web service provider has been threatened with a libel suit and it has responded by suspending Harry's Place.

This follows the advice circulated by the UCU on the activists' list from Mike Cushman, who is one of the official leaders of the boycott campaign (BRICUP) within the union. He told Jenna Delich that he thought Harry's Place had "potentially libelled" her and he advised her to "contact hurryupharry’s ISP". One can only assume that he hoped that Harry's Place would be silenced in this way.

The Boycott campaign has often criticized its opponents when there has been talk about bringing anti-racist law to bear on the UCU. Their position has been that it would be an illegitimate tactic to use the power of the state to interfere with free speech in the union.

But now at least some boycotters are hoping that British libel law is used to silence opponents of antisemitism and to protect themselves, and Jenna Delich, from criticism.

In his response to the circulation of the antisemitic material, Cushman showed that he had entirely failed to recognize the significance of the event. He accepted Delich's explanation, that it was a simple error. He wrote on the activists' list:
"It is clear then Jenna has made a serious error and she has owned up to that and apologised so why are people still trying to beat her up about this..."
He went on trying to protect Delich from criticism and appeared to argue that those who really deserved it were the antiracists who were outraged that conspiracy theory from Duke's website was being circulated within the labour movement:
"This is not about whether Jenna is a racist or an anti-semite it is about trying to shoot the messenger. If I were to be inclined to use biblical references I might start talking about people without sin casting the first stone."
One interpretation of what Cushman meant by this is that while the source of the conspiracy theory was fascist, the content of it was rightly to be understood as a message to be taken seriously.

How could it have happened? Mike Cushman works at the London School of Economics, is an experienced socialist, an antiracist and a Jew - a Jew, moreover, who never tires of speaking "as a Jew". How did it happen that he turned his anger on those who opposed and exposed antisemitism and he tried to protect the person who spread it? When Delich posted the antisemitic article it was accompanied by the simple words:
"No comment necessary. The facts are speaking for themselves."
It is difficult to escape the impression that Cushman, a leader of the boycott campaign, seemed to be taking sides with the conspiracy theorists against the antiracists and the opponents of antisemitism.

Harry's Place is, for the moment, silenced. When arguing for the boycott motion at this year's UCU Congress, Cushman had bizarrely declared: "We will not be intimidated!" to rapturous applause. It seems that what he meant was that the boycott campaign would continue to fight for an exclusion of Israelis from British universities in spite of the fact that many Jews were worried about the antisemitic fall-out from this campaign.

Now it is Cushman and the boycotters who appear actually to have successfully advocated using legal threats to silence their critics.

David Hirsh
Goldsmiths UCU

This was the last post on Harry's Place before it was shut down.

For more, see the new Jenna Delich archive.

See Jonny Paul in the Jerusalem Post.

See Eric Lee.

See Bob from Brockley.

See Modernity Blog

See Flesh is grass.
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