…But the truth is that, given the genesis of the ‘working definition’, which in my view was a scandal, the fulminations of the Jewish establishment, the CST, Engage, John Mann MP, the World Union of Jewish Students etc. over the UCU vote are farcical. Certainly, the UCU activists who pressed for the adoption of Motion 70 are not angelic philosophical types approaching this issue with nothing but defence of the purity of academic research in mind. They have a political agenda in relation to Israel-Palestine and they’re fighting for it and their tactics are not pretty. It’s not an agenda I share, but as Professor David Newman of Ben Gurion University, who spent a few years in the UK combating proposals to institute a boycott of Israeli academic, concluded, it’s a political fight that needs to be fought with political arguments, not with accusations of antisemitism.
The critics of the UCU decision don’t seem to understand this. They think nothing of accusing Jews who see things differently from them of being antisemitic. At one moment they tell us the ‘working definition’ is ‘the EU definition’ (which it isn’t and it never was). The next moment they tell us it’s only advisory and is a work in progress. They manipulate the findings of the report of the Macpherson inquiry into the killing of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence and falsely claim it decreed that only members of the group who experience racism can define what that racism consists of – so that anyone who denies Jews exclusive rights to define what is and what is not antisemitism – i.e. the UCU – is antisemitic.
Richard Kuper is one of the leading voices in Jews for Justice for Palestinians. He is fond of speaking “as a Jew”. He has written a piece on the EUMC working definition:
“… the EUMC working definition has little to do with fighting antisemitism and a lot to do with waging a propaganda war against critics of Israel. It is time it was buried and the UCU decision to take it on is hopefully a step in that direction. The fight against antisemitism should not be muddied by those who confuse criticism of Israeli violations of human rights and international law with hatred of Jews. It is clearly no such thing.”
Robert Fine responds to Richard Kuper’s piece:
Richard Kuper was wheeled out in the debate at UCU Congerss by Sue Blackwell, when she told Congress that it was his position that concern for antisemitism was an affection of those who were trying to lead a “strong fightback by Israel and its supporters” against criticism.
Richard’s piece is also endorsed by Ran Greenstein: “Another (better and more thorough) effective refutation of the manufactured hysteria of pro-Israel-state-apologists, by Richard Kuper”.
David Hirsh (2010) ‘Accusations of malicious intent in debates about the Palestine-Israel conflict and about antisemitism‘ Transversal 1/2010, Graz, Austria
“When it comes to Jewish anti-Zionists, their Jew-hatred is barely disguised, not in what they say about Israel but in the contempt they show for the motives and feelings of fellow-Jews who do not think as they do. There is, of course, nothing new in such schismatics; Jews have been railing against one another and indeed against Judaism from its inception. It was a Jew who invented Christianity.”
“Monotheism probably explains this enthusiasm for dissent. The Jewish God demands a oneness it can feel like a positive duty to refuse. It might even be to our greater glory that we splinter with such regularity and glee. In our variousness is our strength.”
“But then let’s call the thing that drives us by its proper name. Hiding behind Israel is a cowardly way for a Jew to express his anti-Jewishness. That half the time he is battling his psychic daddy and not his psychic homeland I don’t doubt, though I accept that, in political discourse, we have to pretend that what we are talking about is what we are taking about.”
“But here is the beauty of being a novelist —- I can have fun ascribing pathology to whom I like. I know what’s really bothering them. They are my creations, after all.”