Jonathan Hoffman : “I read out the last paragraph of the HRC finding. I was shouted down but managed to ask the question. When I had finished asking the question Hickey said that no-one should answer my question – not in the lecture theatre and not on the Panel. It is all in the video on YouTube.”
See the whole article and the link to YouTube here.
International Study Group
Education and Research on Antisemitism
Saturday, 5 December 2009, 2 pm
Bedford Square Building Royal Holloway University of London, Room G3, 2 Gower Street, London WC1E 6DP
Antisemitism on Campus: A Modern Perspective
Antisemitism and Holocaust Memorial Day
Antisemitism Among Young Muslims in London
For further details, please email
The organisers tried hard to avoid scheduling this event for a Saturday, and will do all they can to prevent this happening for future events.
CENTRE FOR JEWISH STUDIES AT SOAS
5.30 pm Monday 30 November2009 Room G50
Karl Marx and the Jewish Question
Professor Robert Fine Department of Sociology, University of Warwick
SOAS is five minutes from Russell Square underground station. All events are open to the public. For further information, please contact Professor Colin Shindler email: email@example.com telephone: 020 7898 4358
Where is the outcry in my trade union about the murder of Iranian students by the Iranian authorities and its executors, the Basij militia? Why is Israeli state violence against Palestinian universities so much more important to UCU members in Britain than Iranian state violence against its own universities and students?
Intellectual historian Moishe Postone talked about this sort of particularism at his SOAS presentation on Monday.
“On Saturday UCU general secretary Sally Hunt represented the union at a protest outside the Iranian embassy, as part of the Justice for Iranian Workers campaign.
Anti-boycotters in UCU have been encouraged to leave the union over the past few years of boycott campaigning against Israel. With each new revival of the campaign there has been disaffection, and a worrying number of resignations has accrued. So it seemed right to UCL branch to insert an amendment (7A1):
Add new first line:
‘Congress notes with concern the rise of anti-Semitism in the UK and resignations of UCU members apparently in connection with perceptions of institutional anti-Semitism.’
Add new final bullet point: ‘ To investigate the number of recent UCU resignations and the reasons for them, and to report its findings to next Congress.’
There are reports that this amendment was voted down today by a large majority estimated at 80-20.
It seems that UCU is only interested in fighting antisemitism when it can be identified with the political right. Antisemitism emanating from the left, and from UCU itself, is unrecognised.
This illustrates as clearly as anything the dereliction of any restrictive or punitive policy based on who, rather than what.
“Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza struggle to live a normal life while penned in by checkpoints, surveillance, and violence. Palestinians in East Jerusalem are isolated from their brothers and sisters in Ramallah. Bethlehem is cut off from Nablus. The elaborate system of checkpoints and Jewish-settler only roads in the West Bank have barricaded one Palestinian community from another. In addition the deep economic, educational and personal grief this swiss-cheese prison has produced, Palestinian cultural life struggles to survive despite all the odds.”
“The festival began as a call from Edward Said, to “reaffirm the power of culture over the culture of power.” As participants were gathering, the Israeli policeshut down the theater. The French consul who was in attendance, offered the French Cultural Center as a new venue in the moment, in order for the festival to continue.”
“Shortly before the opening event was due to begin, a squad of around a dozen Israeli border police walked into the Palestinian National Theatre, in East Jerusalem, and ordered it to be closed.
Police brought a letter from the Israeli minister of internal security which said the event could not be held because it was a political activity connected to the Palestinian Authority.
Members of the audience and the eight speakers were ordered to leave, but the event was held several minutes later, on a smaller scale, in the garden of the nearby French Cultural Centre.
Israeli police were deployed on the street outside.
“We’re so taken aback. It’s is completely, completely independent,” Egyptian novelist Soueif, who is chairing the Palestine Festival of Literature, said.
“I think it’s very telling,” she told the crowd at the French centre. “Our motto, which is taken from the late Edward Said, is to pit the power of culture against the culture of power.”
“This is the policy being implemented with regard to any events which are either organised or funded by the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem,” he said.
He added that previous Palestinian events in the city, including the press centre for the pope, had been closed under the same policy.
However, Rafiq Husseini, the chief of staff to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who was in last night’s audience, was dismissive of the Israeli actions.
“It shows how the Israelis are not thinking, he said. “This is a cultural event. There is no terrorism, there is nobody shooting. It’s just a cultural event.”
“Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif gave this account at palfest.org.
“I saw 10 old friends in the first minute, all the Jerusalem cultural and academic set were there, a lot of Internationals, a lot of press,” she wrote. “We stood in the early evening light, by the tables laden with books and food and flowers, nibbled at kofta and borek and laughed and chatted and introduced new friends to old. . . . Then we started moving towards the auditorium and I heard someone say quietly, ‘They’ve come.’””
“…those in the diaspora who campaign long and hard against a boycott of Israeli culture should be raging with anger at this latest disgrace.”
The Edinburgh International Film Festival succumbed to pressure from Palm D’Or winner and RESPECT national council member Ken Loach to return, as filthy lucre, the small sum of £300 donated by the Israeli Embassy for the travel expenses of film director Tali Shalom Ezer. Under the auspices of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Ken Loach also demanded that audiences boycott her film, Surrogate* the festival. This is the kind of irrelevance which so often passes for pro-Palestinian activism these days.
Loach’s insistence that “We all know” that the individual herself is welcome seems like a strange mind game. Imagine you were presenting at an event and a celebrity-led campaign for your work to be boycotted* to demonise your country and prevent it from supporting you went unopposed by the organisers – would you feel welcome? Only if you were a masochist.
The film is a romance set in a sex therapy centre. Although the EIFF decided to put up the money itself, it gave credence to Ken Loach on his weakest subject, Israel. Ken Loach says he finds the rise in antisemitic attacks on Jews in Europe “understandable” and believes that most Jews, because they support the existence of Israel, are responsible for these:
“Nothing has been a greater instigator of anti-Semitism than the self-proclaimed Jewish state itself. Until we deal with that, until that is acknowledged, then racism, I’m afraid, will be with us.”
If the acts of a Jewish state are accepted as a license for antisemitism against Jews in general, and if this phenomenon is regarded as understandable by campaigning anti-Zionist bystanders, then they defeat their own argument that there is no need for a Jewish state. That’s even before you go looking for evidence that these moral beacons care equally about atrocities whether perpetrated by Sri Lankans, Sudanese, or Congolese – and find none.
Tali Shalom Ezer points out that Loach is attempting, in an act which bears comparison to political censorship, to pull art within his orbit of protest against Israel:
“He has created a situation in which going to see Surrogate means supporting the state of Israel. He has made this connection.”
It’s been a long time since anybody wanted to censor Ken Loach, but as Jeremy Isaacs points out, there was once a time when he cared about this kind of thing.
The EIFF organisers are sorry in unspecified ways. Their policy had hitherto been to avoid such “dangerous precedents” as refusing money from one or another country; now they have singled Israel out as their only pariah as if it were the worst state in the world.
Shalom Ezer originally said she would not attend EIFF. This is called self-boycott, and is practised by individuals who feel unwelcome, unwanted, singled out for political tests or particular scrutiny, and obliged to run gauntlets. In South Africa, where the academic, cultural and sporting boycott played only an illusary role in overthrowing apartheid, Haricombe and Lancaster found that academics who were not the stated target of a boycott were nevertheless driven away:
“Some of the affected respondents had encountered the boycott more directly. 16.4% had experienced the refusal of international scholars to collaborate with them. The largest proportion attributed this to pressure from the prospective collaborator’s professional or institutional peers, but refusal was also made on the grounds of moral support for the boycott. 49% had had to overcome problems with access to textbooks and/or periodicals. 25.9% had been denied conference participation or had experienced boycott action during the conference, such as denial of attendance at the official banquet or opening ceremonies, last-minute downgrading of presentations, and in its most extreme form, demonstrations or staged walk-outs prior to their presentation.
The anxiety and even fear this engendered in South African academics had a powerfully isolating effect on the individuals affected, one response to which was self-boycott. Haricombe and Lancaster define self-boycott as “the adoption of a self-imposed restriction by an individual to prevent/circumvent a penalty that would otherwise be imposed from elsewhere” (p96). Several interviewees had stopped attempting to participate in international conferences in order to avoid embarrassment.
The phenomenon of self-boycott emerged strongly, but it had not been explicitly anticipated in the questionnaire and the authors think that it was probably under-identified. Self-boycott is attributed to knowledge about boycott practice gleaned from personal experience or experience of colleagues, knowledge about the boycott policy of the country, institution or sponsoring agency, and expectation of rejection on the basis of nationality or residency. One respondent said “I don’t know what sort of response I’ll get because they … are the most anti-apartheid group … they just ignore you” and “we knew we did not have a chance” (p87). Another gave the following account (p72):
“I had problems… I could have gone on a British passport but I refused on principle to go. I’ve been in jail for my beliefs… I feel very strongly about not be allowed to go because I was in South Africa.”
This suggests that some anti-racist academics decided to self-boycott rather than avail themselves of opportunities to participate such as the selective support of the UDUSA [the then arbiter you get the impression that PACBI and BRICUP would like to be].”
It is very obvious that boycotters have no problem with this.
“Loach’s comments can’t help but be against the film-maker, the film, and their nationality, and there is no way he can support them and their film, and yet tell audiences to stay away from it. Frankly I don’t understand how he expects that to work.”
And academic boycotters in my union and beyond fuss and bluster and insist that their boycott is not at all a boycott of individuals, as if it had nothing whatsoever to do with the effects on people like Tali Shalom Ezer, and as if UCU had never circulated the PACBI call which led to these measures against individuals, or supported the Palestine Solidarity Campaign with its track record of antisemitism.
However to Shalom Ezer’s great credit she will attend the EIFF. By resolving not to self-boycott, she will deny Ken Loach and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign the inadvertant benefit of doing their work for them. Good for her.
Update 26 May: Open letters from Shalom-Ezer to Loach, and from Loach to Shalom-Ezer. Shalom-Ezer pleads with Loach to recognise that boycott helps Israel’s worst elements.
“I oppose, with all my heart, the Israeli occupation and settelments; I oppose an automatic resort to military solutions in times of conflict. I appreciate the wish to change the world by shunning what is perceived as an act of injustice, but I feel that what may seem right in theory, may be extremely wrong in practice.
In my opinion, every time a nation is subjected to a cultural boycott – be it a film or a lecture by an Israeli professor abroad – there is a tendency amongst its subjects to draw closer to more nationalistic elements; every time this happens, peace is farther away. Every time this happens, the concept of “A People that Dwells Alone” gathers more believers, and the conviction that the only way to survive is by strengthening the state’s military power, is reinforced. Every time this happens, moderate voices are hushed, art is weakened.
I do not know if you are aware of this fact, but Surrogate was filmed by Radek Ladczuk, a talented Polish cinematographer. For 21 years, Israel and Poland had no diplomatic relations; all I knew about the country came from the media and history lessons about WWII.
I approached Radek from purely artistic considerations. Our work, despite difficulties in verbal communication, has proven to me once more the power of art and the many points of similarity which join people together, everywhere. I have no doubt that collaborations of this kind promote dialogue and lessen prejudice.“
Loach’s response is generally wrong and weirdly breezy. From the end:
“Those who have attacked the boycott here are the usual suspects, old hacks and right wing extremists. One thought you were a man. They would embarrass you.
Please stand with the oppressed against the oppressor. I hope you enjoy the Festival.”
It’s clear who is being directly oppressed in this instance: Tali.
*Regarding the strike-throughs, prompted by Alec in the comments below I went looking for horse’s mouth evidence that Loach was calling for a boycott of Surrogate and found none. What Loach did was call on the world to boycott the whole film festival because Israel tried to assist a young director to attend. He conveniently passed over his party’s double-speak that “the State” of Israel should not be “invited to any kind of cultural week”, a view echoed by organisations which frequently aggess individual Israelis. As far as I know “the State” was not invited – Tali Shalom Ezer was.
Dealing with Conflict (School for Peace – Wahat al-Salam ~ Neve Shalom)
London 31/03/09 or Brighton 24/04/09
Workshop about our Education Resource Dealing With Conflict which is in line with national curricular requirements. Suits citizenship, RE, history, community cohesion, mediation skills, exploring identity, inter faith, Learning about the Israel-Arab conflict. Featured in TES, DEA RE Today, and DFES. Dealing with conflict is modelled after the international institute of encounter and conflict resolution, The School for Peace, in Neve Shalom ~ Wahat al-Salam, a joint Jewish / Palestinian village.
Workshop will also accommodate any non teaching professional who likes to learn about the methods at SFP.
More details: http://www.oasisofpeaceuk.org/5-dwc-01.htm
Office 020-89524717 M. 07843630760
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British Friends of Neve Shalom~Wahat al Salam
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