UCL UCU can see nothing antisemitic in connecting anti boycott lawyers with Lehman Brothers

UPDATE I emailed Sean Wallis and invited him to respond.  Specifically I invited him to answer the two questions below.  He answered saying that he refuses to explain.  He refuses to explain how “bank balances from Lehman Brothers that can’t be tracked down” can be legitimately connected to anti-boycott lawyers.  He refuses to explain what he was actually trying to say.     DH

A meeting of 60 members of the UCL UCU branch has unanimously voted to back its branch secretary Sean Wallis.

At the pro-boycott fringe meeting at UCU Congress last week, Wallis claimed that a threat to union democracy comes from anti-boycott lawyers backed by those with “bank balances from Lehman Brothers that can’t be tracked down.

Sean Wallis has not denied having connected “bank balances from Lehman Brothers that can’t be tracked down” to anti-boycott lawyers representing members of the UCU.

How can this connection be explained in a way which is not antisemitic?

What was the point that Sean Wallis was trying to make?

Read more here and here.

RESOLUTION: DEFEND UCU BRANCH SECRETARY SEAN WALLIS

UCL UCU notes

1. That a report has appeared in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz alleging anti-semitism in comments made by UCL UCU branch secretary, Sean Wallis, in a personal capacity, at a fringe meeting at UCU Congress 2009.

2. That UCU delegates voted en bloc in line with branch policy at UCU Congress, including in relation to our position on any putative Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions.

3. That unfounded allegations have the potential to intimidate and damage this union and its members.

UCL UCU believes

1. That anti-semitism, clearly defined as racism against Jews, must be opposed in exactly the same terms as any other racist ideology, namely, on the basis that an injury to one is an injury to all.

2. That trade union and academic freedom entails the right of members to adopt contrary positions, and to debate international issues on their merits, free from threat of legal action or libel.

3. That this particular allegation of anti-semitism is without foundation.

UCL UCU affirms that Sean Wallis has an impeccable reputation not just as a trade union activist and democrat but also as a consistent opponent of racism in all of its forms, including opposition to anti-semitism.

UCL UCU resolves

1. To stand by our branch secretary and against any witch-hunt of him.

2. To call on the National Executive Committee of UCU publicly to register its support for this union officer in all relevant publications, and to condemn the unfounded campaign being waged against him.

22 Responses to “UCL UCU can see nothing antisemitic in connecting anti boycott lawyers with Lehman Brothers”

  1. Ariel H Says:

    How can this connection be explained in a way which is not antisemitic?

    – because there is no explicit reference to Jews; because it can be argued that there is only an implicit reference to ‘Zionists’. And because not all Jews are Zionists therefore it is not antisemitic. That will be the logic.

    Speaking as an expert on antisemitism, it is faulty logic.

  2. David T Says:

    Witch hunt = asking somebody what they meant. Two newspapers reporting it when he refuses on principle to explain.

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      And the thing about witch hunts was that witches don’t exist. But Sean said what he said. The impression I have from Sean’s statement and responses confirms two impressions I already have. The linking of anti-capitalism back via anti-Zionism to blaming nefarious Jewish bankers is as strong as it ever was. Support for Jewish members against antisemitism is conditional on the type of antisemitism – it has to fit an existing, recognised, pattern. Perhaps it has to be recognisably capitalist antisemitism.

      Or maybe, more cynically, it’s that the antisemitism has to come from a source which is not also a very hard-working branch activist.

  3. Saul Says:

    “That unfounded allegations have the potential to intimidate and damage this union and its members.”

    But they were not unfounded. Wallis does not deny making the comments, nor does he offer an interpretation of them that questions their apparent meaning.

    “That trade union and academic freedom entails the right of members to adopt contrary positions, and to debate international issues on their merits, free from threat of legal action or libel.”

    Here we go, the Livingstone formulation –
    Seemingly antisemitic comments are now considered to be “legitimate” contributions to debates on “international issues” (the implication being that Wallis’ replication of known conspiracy thinking be understood as “criticism of Israel”).

    As far as I know, it is Wallis who has threatened legal action and not those who noted his comments.

    “To stand by our branch secretary and against any witch-hunt of him.”

    “witch-hunt”? The essence of a with-hunt is, of course, that their are no witches. Sean Wallis does not deny making statements that appear to be antisemitic.

    Is it now the case in the UCU that if anyone is noted pushing what appears on the face of it to be antisemitic they are to be deemed the “innocent” targets of a “witch-hunt”. But, of course, that goes back to the notion of “unfounded allegations” (and, as we have seen, the allegations are far from unfounded).

    It would seem that the bureaucrats of UCL/UCU think that by the simple incantation of the wording of a motion they can change day into night, founded allegations into “unfounded allegations” and antisemitism into “criticism of Israel”.

  4. Absolute Observer Says:

    Prescient words from Jon Pike’s resignation letter,

    “We have a union that has allowed the distribution of antisemitic material on its internal lists, and the peddling of antisemitic conspiracy theories by some of its members, whilst banning anti-racist and Jewish members who have objected to such material.”

    He will be missed.

  5. Absolute Observer Says:

    I am a bit confused.
    Following a discussion on this matter elsewhere, it seems that Wallis claimed at the branch meeting that he never said what he had, hitherto, never denied saying that he said.

    So, I guess a question arises. Did Wallis tell the UCUUCL branch that, in fact, the quote attributed to him was a fabrication (hence, the “unfounded allegation” part of the motion that Saul notes); or, are they saying that he did say what was attributed to him, but that in no way whatsoever can such comments imply even a hint of antisemitic imagery and rhetoric?

    I guess with Wallis refusing to clarify the matter, we will never know and, as Saul implies, it is easier to remain hidden by a motion that leaves more questions than it answers.

  6. Jonathan Says:

    Was the UCU UCL ‘unanimous’ vote taken in secret?

  7. zkharya Says:

    I think one would raise an eyebrow if even the term “Lehman Brothers” fell from Wallis’ lips in the course of any UCU discussion, never mind one on the Israel boycott and its opponents.

    So, another Stalinist motion ruling that antisemitic discourse is not really antisemitic.

    Where have we had another SWP activist arguing that on this website before.

  8. Toby Esterhase Says:

    The point is this, isn’t it?

    It is not a coincidence that Wallis said the money came from Lehman Brothers.

    His point would not have worked if he’d said it came from Northern Rock or from Enron.

    Would it?

    His point was that the same rich Jews who had stolen money from good honest proletarians in New York were really behind the Jewish lawyers who were attempting to disable the good honest proletarian boycott of Israel in the UK.

    It had to be rich and dishonest Jewish money. It would not have worked rhetorically if it had been just capitalist money.

    Wallis needs to go back to Marx. If he’s ever been there in the first place. Agree or disagree with Marx, but he offered a structural account of capitalism which did not rely on conspiracy theory.

    Unlike Sean Wallis.

  9. zkharya Says:

    Not only that, Toby. The statement doesn’t really make sense in view of Lehman Brothers’ collapse -unless you know that the money was salted away first, somewhere specifically anti- anti-Israel boycott lawyers can draw.

    “The reporter quoted a few words that he allegedly made and then chose to introduce a right-wing conspiracy theory by way of comment.”

    OK, this does not deny the quotation. It “denies” it comes from a neo-Nazi website or a specifically neo-Nazi theory.

    It is classic obfuscation, focusing not so much on the central evidence as on what the person making subsequent charges has done with it.

    “what I said has been so misinterpreted that there is no point or need to return to what I actually said, or why” or “I guess we’ll never know what really happened”

    as though subsequent interpretation of a thing excludes establishing what that thing was in the first place.

    Concerning the original article where Wallis was cited, tt was perfectly legitimate to surmise a context to Wallis’ remarks, namely a certain antisemitic theory, but it was clumsily done, focusing on its alleged “neo-Nazi” provenance rather than on its odd and hard to see as anything other than antisemitic quality.

    Wallis hopes that by denying it is of specifically neo-Nazi origin, and excluding the possibility of its being antisemitic beforehand (hence adducing his “impeccable anti-racist credentials”), he can avoid having outrightly deny the quotation altogether, and certainly having to explain it.

  10. zkharya Says:

    From the UCU motion:

    “That a report has appeared in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz alleging anti-semitism in comments made by UCL UCU branch secretary, Sean Wallis, in a personal capacity, at a fringe meeting at UCU Congress 2009.”

    Even more outrageously “comments made by UCL UCU branch secretary, Sean Wallis” doesn’t deny Wallis made said comments either.

  11. zkharya Says:

    Just excludes their being antisemitic by double-speak.

  12. zkharya Says:

    Sean Wallis has not denied making the cited remarks:

    I am concerned to be accused of anti-Semitism following remarks I made at the UCU Congress last week. At the time of speaking I was not alluding to a conspiracy theory which I have since discovered to be in circulation on the internet. I categorically deny all allegations of anti-Semitism.

    http://www.ucl.ac.uk/english-usage/staff/sean/

    is not such a denial.

    What Vanessa Freedman was playing at, I do not know.

  13. zkharya Says:

    Internationalist says he can’t even mention “Lehman Brothers” without being thought antisemitic.

    Isn’t it extraordinary how the obtuseness of certain members of the alleged left won’t let them see the obvious.

    Why raise the issue of the Lehman Brothers, their allegedly untraceable bank accounts and their connection with British lawyers opposing the boycott in the first place? Why mention Lehman Brothers at all, so publicly (or even privately), at a pro-Israel boycott meeting?

    Lehman Brothers had collapsed. What possible bearing have they on the procedings? The answer is simple: they only have any bearing on the procedings if one thinks there is the possibility or likelihood of their funding anti-boycotters. And they could only do that if they had transferred i.e. stolen funds to an accessible account, an account pro- if not specifically for Israel, if not in Israel itself.

    Such a “theory” is doing the rounds. Wallis either got it second hand (most likely) or arrived at it himself (rather improbable, actually).

    That is why, I think Wallis’ remarks constitute straightforward antisemitism, even if said “in jest”.

  14. zkharya Says:

    Wallis is now claiming that all he meant is that the shadowy financial backers of British anti-boycott lawyers have lost their money in Lehmans.

    How many things can you see wrong with that picture, whether Wallis is being truthful or no?

  15. GideonSwort Says:

    I wonder what these “anti-boycott lawyers” have to say about this libel.

  16. zkharya Says:

    Identifying a Zionist Jewish community between alleged shadowy funders of anti-boycott lawyers and Lehman Brothers is itself ethno-racial stereotyping.

    But why adduce alleged “bank accounts that cannot be traced”? That still implies Lehman Brothers’ having stolen funds, and the most likely reason for adducing that is that Wallis meant their allegedly funding anti-boycott lawyers.

    • Bill Says:

      And I still question the “can’t be traced part”. Can they not be traced because of superdupersecret JOOOOOOO™ algorithms that could [further] frustrate even 24’s Chloe O’Brian? or is it just because the conspiracy busters can’t figure out how to use their own home editions of MS Money and Quicken, let alone do basic accounting? Or is it special illuminations they get under their tinfoil hats that not only block the ZOG mind control rays but also ties them into higher consciousness?

      Such paranoid language beclowns Wallis and Co as much as it gives pause for the rest of us to consider what else is going on under those JiffyPop Beanies.

  17. Lynne T Says:

    Wallis’s attempt at clearing his good name begs another question: how would Wallis find himself privy to the financial dealings of the lawyers who provided the legal opinion he that he choses to ignore.

    I continue to be amazed by the bloody minded recklessnesss of the elected officers at the UCU.

  18. Absolute Observer Says:

    Let’s be honest here.

    Wallis got caought out saying what he said. He tried to cover by staying silent, then tried to cover himself with a UCUUCL figleaf of a motion, and now, according to Z, comes out with some cock and ball story that bears no resemblance to what he actually did say.

    I know it, he knows it, we all know it!

  19. UCU’s poster of far right antisemitism « Engage – the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism Says:

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