To Sally Hunt regarding UCU’s Holocaust Memorial Day film

An email to Sally Hunt from UCU member Vanessa Freedman. She sent it on 12th December last year and has yet to receive a reply. Meanwhile she posts it here.

Dear Sally

Thank you for your invitation to take part in the Holocaust Memorial Day film. I have no testimony to share as none of my family was directly affected by the Holocaust. In any case I have grave reservations about this project, which seems like mere window dressing given the UCU leadership’s continued refusal to address the issue of institutional antisemitism within the union – to the extent that one Jewish member has been driven to take legal action.

The Congress motion on antisemitism in 2009 that instructed  the NEC to organise events on Holocaust Memorial Day failed to mention antisemitism within the union; an amendment proposed by my branch – instructing the NEC also to investigate the reasons for resignations from UCU members apparently in connection with perceptions of institutional antisemitism – was defeated at Congress. Such an amendment should have been unnecessary: when letters to you include statements such as ‘I, like many others, can no longer bear the shame and embarrassment of belonging to an institution which is willing to discriminate against Jews, and whose readiness to do so is supported by leading members of its Executive Committee’ (Eve Garrard, 1 July 2008), and ‘this is the only organization with which I have been involved in which I have been made to feel uncomfortable as a Jew’ (Dov Stekel, 2008) you and the NEC should have taken these seriously.

Other instances of concern to Jewish and other members include UCU’s invitation to Bongani Masuku to speak at a seminar to discuss a boycott of Israel, even though the South African Human Rights Commission had deemed that Masuku’s statements amounted to hate speech against the country’s Jewish community; and Congress’s rejection of the EUMC definition of antisemitism, which has led to more resignations and statements like ‘whether intentionally or otherwise, this has made UCU an even more uncomfortable place for Jewish members than it was previously … your repeated claim that UCU abhors anti-Semitism is not borne out by the evidence; rather, the evidence points overwhelmingly in the other direction … I sent you three emails on related issues in 2008 … I think you would agree that a trade union which abhorred anti-Semitism would take such emails from an ordinary member seriously. Regrettably, I never received a reply to any of them … I no longer wish to contribute my money to an organisation which has a problem with institutionalised anti-Semitism’ (James Mendelson, 14 July 2011).

Unless you and the NEC are prepared to take these concerns seriously, initiatives to mark Holocaust Memorial Day are an empty, even cynical, exercise.

Regards

Vanessa Freedman

When I say Israelis I don’t mean Jews; and when I say Jews I mean Israelis.

Mark Gardner over at the CST blog writes about the recent exchange of views on Caryl Churchill’s antisemitic play “Seven Jewish Children”. The original article is here.

From Kosher Conspiracy to Seven Jewish Children

By Mark Gardner.

Contemplation of the high (or low) points of contemporary British antisemitic discourse in recent years brings four episodes to mind, all of which are emblematic of the collapse in left-liberal elite sensitivities to antisemitism:

1.   January 2002. The New Statesman cover reading “A Kosher Conspiracy?” and showing a golden Star of David piercing a supine Union Jack. This has been widely quoted (by CST and others) as evidence that the left intelligentsia no longer recognised or cared about modern day antisemitism, even when it hit them in the face. The New Statesman belatedly – sort of – apologised.

2.   May 2003. The assertion by (then) ‘Father of the House’, Tam Dalyell MP, that “a cabal of Jewish advisors” surounded Prime Minister Tony Blair. Dalyell was criticised for this, but the criticism was by no means universal and he and his supporters denied that the outburst was antisemitic.

3. January 2009. The explosion of Israel equals Nazi Germany comparisons at the time of the Gaza conflict. For many Jews and others, this confirmed that the demonisation of Israel had become both limitless and detached from reality. The fear was concretised by the unprecedented outbursts of antisemitic race hate crimes at this time.

4. February 2009. The first performance of Seven Jewish Children, by esteemed playwright Caryl Churchill and carried on the Guardian website.

(Of course, there are hundreds of other examples that one can alight upon, but these stick in the forefront of my mind.)

Reflecting upon these four events, I cannot recall or see where either the New Satesman or Tam Dalyell suffered any serious reputational damage within their own circles: and this is surely not unconnected to the enthusiastic and urgent reception subsequently afforded to Walt and Mearsheimer’s book, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy (2006). Basically, so long as you stuck to Israel, pro-Israel or Zionist, rather than Jew, you were (and remain) bang on trend.

The malaise and the conceit burrrowed so deep, that the Guardian could run aneditorial (24 July 2008) stating

When a presumptive US presidential candidate arrives in Jerusalem, he willingly dons a jacket designed by Israeli tailors.

Similarly, the profusion of Israel equals Nazi Germany comparisons never really impacted upon those who had made the equation, nor upon those who silently stood by. Besides, similar things had been said with depressing regularity by politicians and journalists since at least 2002, and none of them had really suffered for it either.

When Conservative Party-linked East European politicians try to relativise the Holocaust by comparing it to the suffering of their non-Jewish populations under Communism, then of course the intelligentsia hits top gear…but properly and consistently criticise people here in Britain for comparing Israeli Jews with Nazis, no way! Besides, this is Israel that’s being condemned and that’s not the same as Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

Seven Jewish Children, however, does not fit these patterns. It is not about a Jewish conspiracy that can be entirely kosherised so long as you remember to call it a pro-Israeli conspiracy. Neither is it about granting permission to relatavise the Holocaust, so long as you do it with Israel as the target. Instead, Caryl Churchill completes the circle, by writing a play about Israel and Israelis that is entirely referenced to Jews, Jewish history and Jewish emotions.

There is at least a certain honesty in this. The play, far more than most anti-Israel propaganda, at least acknowledges (both implicitly and explicitly) the centrality of Jews, Jewish history and Jewish emotions to everything concerning Israel. Nevertheless, the antisemitic resonance of the play (primarily the extent and meaning of its concentration upon the blood of the children who are the Jews’ victims) has seen it become a celebrated fault-line in the superheated arguments regarding what is and is not antisemitic in regard to Israel.

The fault-line has been spewing once more this week, in the Guardian letters page with Caryl Churchill taking exception to Jonathan Freedland’s citation (in the Guardian) of Anthony Julius’s deconstruction of the play. (Extracted from Julius’s brilliant analysis of British literary antisemitism, contained in his book, Trials of the Diaspora. Of course, the book itself has become another fault-line in the battle.)

Freedland’s excellent piece (analysed here on CST Blog) was published in the Guardian on 3 March. Churchill replied in the letters page the following day, saying (in part)

Jonathan Freedland (G2, March 3) denies that criticism of Israel is often wrongly called antisemitism. His point isn’t helped by quoting Anthony Julius’s allegation that my play Seven Jewish Children “tap[s] into the ‘blood libel’”. The line he is referring to is “tell her there’s dead babies, did she see babies?” It refers to babies killed in the attack on Gaza in 2009 and shown on TV. When people hear of babies killed in a war, they don’t usually think of medieval accusations of Jews consuming Christian children’s blood, but of babies killed in a war…

This prompted Julius to reply (in part)

…In this play, Jews confess to lying to their own children and killing Palestinian children. They also confess to something close to a project of genocide. And they freely acknowledge the source of their misanthropy to be Judaism itself.

None of this seems to bother Churchill – nor, indeed, the Guardian. As she correctly notes, the play is available on your website.

Next, Churchill replied to Julius

…What he doesn’t seem to realise is that these lines are not spoken as he suggests by “Jews” in general but by individual Israelis, desperate to protect their own child, during an attack of disproportionate violence on Gaza…It should be possible to pillory the defensive self-righteousness and racism of some – not all – Israelis without being called antisemitic.

For now (at any rate) the Guardian Letters page appears to have called time on its hosting of this particular debate. The arguments will, of course, continue, but there are two things that need saying right now.

Firstly, Normblog has this to say on Churchill’s “individual Israelis” argument

Her play wasn’t anti-Semitic because it featured individuals, rather than Jews as a category…

…And this is a playwright, with some knowledge of cultural matters! One is bound to wonder why anyone ever had a worry about Shylock in The Merchant of Venice…

Secondly, there is the point that my colleague Dave Rich and I made in our Comment is Free article, at the time of the Guardian’s own production of Seven Jewish Children

It is Jewish thought and behaviour that links the play together, not Israel. The words Israel, Israelis, Zionism and Zionist are not mentioned once in the play, while Jews are mentioned in the title and in the text itself. We are often told that when people talk about Israel or Zionists, it is mischievous to accuse them of meaning Jews. Now, we are expected to imagine that a play that talks only of Jews, in fact, means Israelis.

The play is only eight minutes long. We wrote the above almost two years ago. One does not need to be an anti-racist theoretician, a leading playwright, nor a literary critic to get the absurdity of saying

When I say Israelis I don’t mean Jews; and when I say Jews I mean Israelis

Then again, isn’t that the same absurdity that lay, back in the day, behind the New Statesman and Tam Dalyell getting let off the anti-racist hook?

Public meeting – no zionists, no undesirables allowed

Further to a JC article describing how senior figures in the Manchester Jewish community were ordered out of a meeting hosting Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, Manchester PSC Chair Linda Clair has had the following letter published in the Jewish Chronicle :

When are you going to start telling the truth and not a completely distorted version of the facts? I was the chair of the Gideon Levy meeting you report (JC August 27). Michael Samuels and his two companions did not actually enter the meeting to start with. They were outside the room when I asked Mr Samuels his name and where he came from. He replied and said he came from Manchester. I told him and his companions that they would not be allowed in – that Zionists were not wanted in that meeting. Mr Levy, who was already in the meeting room, and was standing behind me, asked me to let them in, which I did, only at his request. This was before he spoke to them. Whatever they said to him certainly did not influence my decision to allow them in, I had legal advice that although it was a public meeting, it was on private property and so we were well within our rights to exclude any undesirables. In case you want to label me antisemitic, I am not, I am an anti-Zionist Jew, and I know the difference between the two, even if you choose not to.

Linda Clair

I won’t comment on the letter because it speaks for itself (I should however point out that Manchester JFJFP’s promotion of the meeting was simply to send an email with details of the meeting and they were not involved in organising the meeting itself).


Johnny Rotten to play in Israel despite receiving hate mail.

An Engage reader emails :

I just heard an interesting interview with Johnny Rotten (original Sex Pistols front man) on BBC 6 music website where he discusses his band PIL’s upcoming concert in Israel. Mentions some interesting things about the hate mail he has been getting trying to get him to cancel. He dismisses the idea of boycotting Israel in an interesting way. Says he will be making his usual anti-all governments stance clear when there, but that it is ignorant to suggest boycotting fans and that he will be making his trouble musically:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/6music/news/20100712_johnlydon2.shtml?

Looking elsewhere, it seems like he is coming under a lot of pressure. Bristol PSC are planning to picket his gig in Bristol next week for example:

http://www.bristol.indymedia.org.uk/article/692716?show_preferences=true

Hat-tip to A.S.

Vienna is different

This is a guest post by Karl Pfeifer

The city of Vienna made a promotional campaign with the slogan “Wien ist anders”, Vienna is different. And Vienna after the Second World War was different insofar as it did not call back its former Jewish citizens and it also tolerated anti-Semitism in politics and the media for several decades.

After the publication of Carl Schorske’s book “Fin de siècle in Vienna” the city of Vienna discovered that the world wanted to know more about the blooming of culture in Vienna and about those Jews who contributed to it. Since then the city of Vienna has a Jewish Museum and Michael Häupl, the Social democratic mayor of Vienna condemned the anti-Semitic election campaign in 2001 by the FPÖ of Jörg Haider.

Therefore it was a surprise to the Jewish community when the Vienna City Council (Wiener Gemeinderat) voted unanimously on an anti-Israeli resolution initiated by Omar al Rawi, a Social democratic member of city council.

Erwin Javor and Peter Menasse of the Jewish periodical “Nu” sent three letters to Godwin Schuster, the Social democratic President of the Council. They received no answer.

The first letter:

We call upon the Vienna city council in continuation of its foreign policy activities and in line with its unanimous Resolution of May 31, 2010 condemning Israel to consider the following resolution:
“The world has learnt with shock and horror about the massacre of the Uzbek Minority in Kyrgyzstan where at least 124 victims lost their life. The Viennese city council condemns this brutal behaviour against peaceful people.”
Kindly transmit this demand to the members of Vienna city council
With best regards
Erwin Javor, Publisher NU
Peter Menasse, editor NU

Second letter:

Regarding the new foreign policy engagement of the Viennese City Council we propose the following resolution:
“The world has learnt with shock and horror the news of the execution of the Sunnite leader Abdolmalek Rigi in an Iranian jail. The City Council of Vienna condemns this brutal behaviour against dissenters.”
We take note of the fact that our draft resolution sent to you several days ago concerning the massacre of the Uzbek Minority in Kyrgyzstan has apparently not been dealt with.
However we hope that the foreign policy engagement of the City Council of Vienna will not be restricted exclusively to the condemnation of the State of Israel. If so, we would be interested to know the reasons.
Hoping for an answer now.

The third letter:

Today we send a further proposal for a resolution by the City Council of Vienna. Concerning recent foreign policy engagement of this board we propose the following resolution:
“According to the umbrella organization of Kurdish Associations in Austria Kurds are terrorised in Turkey by its Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said that Kurds would ‘drown in their own blood’. The City Council of Vienna expresses its consternation and calls upon the Turkish government to grant the Kurdish population full minority rights.”
We would like remind you that we still have received no answer to our two previous suggestions for foreign policy resolutions. Is only Israel attracting the attention of Vienna City council? How does it come to this peculiar and so far unique distinction by the City council?
Still waiting for your answer
With best regards etc.

Foreign people should consider the slogan “Vienna is different” as a dangerous threat. And you can inform the president of Vienna City Council G. Schuster : godwin.schuster@spw.at that anti-Semitism manifests itself by applying one standard to the State of Israel and another to the behaviour of any other nation.

Anti-Semitism – an issue for everyone

David Hirsh’s letter in the Jerusalem Post in response to this article.

Anti-Semitism – an issue for everyone

Sir, – David Newman expresses one facet of a complex reality (“Smoke screen strategies,” December 15) when he says that sometimes right-wing Jewish voices portray criticism as though it were anti-Semitism. Rabbi Eliezer Melamed’s blood libel accusation against Defense Minister Ehud Barak is a case in point.

But by failing to take seriously the anti-Semitic potentiality of the contemporary anti-Zionist movements, Newman does little to untangle the knotted relationship between anger with Israel and hostility toward Jews. We have seen how the campaign to exclude Israelis, and only Israelis, from the global academic, cultural and economic community brings anti-Semitic ways of thinking wherever it goes. We have seen activists accusing anti-boycott lawyers of being financed by stolen Lehman Brothers money. We have seen a man found guilty of hate speech in South Africa being hosted by trade unions in the UK. We have seen “critics of Israel” drawing on far-Right conspiracy theory. We have seen any attempt to raise the issue of anti-Semitism routinely howled down by the cry, “Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic!”

The threat of contemporary anti-Semitism, including when it comes packaged in the language of Israel criticism, is real. There will be a significant stream of opinion at the Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism, which is critical of both anti-Semitism and Israeli human rights abuses. Anti-Semitism ought not to be allowed to appear as a right-wing issue.

Of course, it does not help the fight against anti-Jewish racism that this conference is hosted by Avigdor Lieberman, a man who has done nothing to demonstrate an understanding of how best to oppose racist ways of thinking.

DAVID HIRSH

Delegate to the Global Forum

London

In support of the Jerusalem Quartet performance

After reading Gene’s reminder “Equally, boycott opponents have a right, and a duty, to express themselves as well”, I just sent this (which I’ve tweaked a bit since sending) to BBC and Cadogan Hall addresses listed on PACBI’s ‘call to action against the Jerusalem Quartet’s Proms Appearance’. I hope the links make it through their spam filter.

***

info at cadoganhall dot com
proms at bbc dot co dot uk
and the Quartet.

Hello,

I understand you are coming under pressure from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel to cancel the performance of the Jerusalem Quartet on August 29th.

Hopefully cancellation is out of the question, but given the intensity of PACBI’s campaign, I thought I should contact you with some reasons to go ahead.

If you look at the boycott, divestment and sanction calls PACBI references, it is clear that PACBI and other boycott campaigners such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign are not interested in establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Rather, they are interested in eliminating Israel. This was made clear when PACBI successfully cancelled joint simultaneous peace concerts in Israel and the West Bank. PACBI and the PSC cannot tolerate peace work and move to sabotage it.

http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1479
http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1547

Some Israeli political groups and human rights and peace-making NGOs draw a distinction between boycotting the occupation on the one hand, which they view as appropriate, and boycotting Israel in its entirety on the other hand, which they recognise as eliminationist. PACBI and other groups pursue the latter – the entire social, cultural and economic exclusion of Israel. PACBI seeks, indiscriminately, to break links between medical institutions and cultural ones alike. Nothing less than the total pariahdom of Israel will suffice. PACBI is attempting to end Israel’s existence.

Unlike the boycott of South Africa, to which the boycott of Israel is frequently compared, hardly any Israelis call for a boycott. Those who oppose boycott include the Israeli socialist party Hadash and peace-making NGOs such as Gisha (legal centre for freedom of movement), the Abraham Fund for coexistence, and Peace Now (for an end to the occupation). The boycott is widely seen by peace-makers on the ground as counterproductive to peace. It is inarticulate, it causes more of the difference and division which are exascerbating the conflict, and it abandons Israeli peace activists.

http://links.org.au/node/968
http://www.peacenow.org.il/site/en/peace.asp?pi=69&docid=3303&pos=0
http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1715
http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/a-cringe-making-boycott-letter/

Israeli authorities have attempted to disrupt Palestinian cultural and academic affairs; I and other anti-boycotters have spoken out against these politically-motivated acts, as I do here.

http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/05/26/protesting-the-israeli-security-forces-disruption-of-palfest/
http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1940
http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1029
http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/05/29/student-protester-arrested-on-israeli-campus/

Meanwhile even joint anti-war Jewish and Palestinian Israeli productions such as Plonter are prevented from staging performances in Israel’s neighbouring states; performances are held to ransom as if they could lever peace. And even joint Israeli and Palestinian Israeli relationships are the focus of PACBI’s ongoing attempts to drive a wedge into co-existence between Israel’s Jewish and non-Jewish citizens. Wafa Younis’s life was in danger after she took her youth orchestra, Strings of Freedom, to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day.

http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/03/11/pacbi-drives-a-wedge-into-coexistence-inside-israel/
http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/03/28/good-things/

This is the nature of the cultural boycott.

Israel is unlike South Africa in a crucial way: its neighbours have only recently formally accepted its existence, this acceptance cannot be taken for granted, and there are enduring armed movements which hope to eliminate Israel. In South Africa anti-apartheid activists sought majority rule. In Israel there is majority rule. Israel is the world’s sole Jewish state, which came into existence after the attempted genocide of the world’s Jews. Hamas, Hesbollah and other factions continually preach hatred of Jews, and call this resistance to Israel. Beyond Israel antisemitism is a regional norm.

A total boycott of Israel – the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions of which PACBI’s cultural boycott is part – assists Hamas and other eliminationists by posing an obstacle to peace-making. In short, Israel is not and never has been the sole aggressor in this conflict, nor does it act capriciously or sadistically, as you might think if you were to read only PACBI’s, or only the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s, narrative of the conflict. The settlers must leave the occupied land, reparations must be made to refugees, occupation must end, resources must be equitably distributed, infrastructure must not be used to control and subdue, and Israel’s neighbours must permit Israel to live in peace. In Israel and the occupied territories violence feeds on violence, extremism on extremism. The reason the conflict is intractable is because the causes endure, not because Israel is a brutal state.

Anti-Israel politics are frequently expressed as hostility to Jews. PACBI has been complicit in this, and seeks to diminish concerns about this.

http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/hamas-threatens-to-kill-jewish-children-anywhere-in-the-world/
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/feb/04/gaza-jewish-community

Boycotters will insist otherwise, but hosting an Israeli orchestra does not amount to acceptance of the decisions and actions of the Israeli government. Nor does it amount to a solution to the conflict.

But societies in conflict are vulnerable to the prejudice, demonisation, dehumanisation and despair which haunts conflicts, and without cultural and social exchange there can be no coexistence. And yet cultural exchanges are under attack not from peace-makers but from those who wish to prolong division.

The last time the Jerusalem Quartet was targeted in the name of Palestine solidarity, the protesters were charged with a racially aggravated offence. Separately, protest leader Mick Napier of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign uses far right antisemitic materials in his arguments on behalf of Palestinians. He is part of a current of thinking that perceives anti-Jewish words and acts as a legitimate part of Palestine solidarity.

http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1752

The attempt he led to disrupt the concert was met with boos from the large audience at the Queens Hall in Edinburgh.

http://www.edinburghguide.com/festival/2008/edinburghinternationalfestival/jerusalemquartet

I could think of many more reasons not to cancel the Jerusalem Quartet. Some of them would be to do with cultural exchange and some of them would be to do with art.  None of them would be to do with discrediting solidarity with Palestinians under occupation. Israel is engaged in a violent occupation and ongoing settlement of Palestinian lands beyond its own borders. Israel has demonstrated it is willing to turn large parts of Gaza to rubble and make security for ordinary Gazans meaningless in the name of protecting its own security. But the cultural boycott of Israel will not help end the occupation nor the violence – if anything it will exacerbate the division. Additionally I think (unlike boycotters) that the best way for international community to end the occupation is to learn about the conflict, represent it accurately, and demand and take action which addresses the causes of the conflict. The best way for artistic bodies in Britain to reach out to Palestinians living under occupation is to invite Palestinian artists and performers to this country and pursue their travel permits with the Israeli authorities. I would be more than happy to play a part here, should such an initiative arise.

Thanks for reading and best wishes,

Mira

PS.
http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/05/22/tali-shalom-ezer-won’t-do-ken-loach’s-work-for-him/
http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/msu-jewish-studies-welcomes-honour-to-tutu-but-calls-on-him-to-renounce-israel-boycott/
http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/05/01/boycotters-target-leonard-cohen-as-a-bhuddist-jonathan-freedland/

Jon Pike, elected opponent of the boycott on UCU Executive, resigns

Jon Pike to Sally Hunt, General Secretary of UCU

Open Letter from Jon Pike to Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the UCU

Dear Sally,

UCU Congress last week adopted resolutions in support of an academic boycott against Israel.  As you know very well, the adoption of that resolution is in defiance of the considered majority view of the membership of the union. Whether or not such resolutions can be implemented, or have been declared void, their adoption is a violation of the democratic principle that the union ought to represent its membership.

It will be said that the UCU, on behalf of its membership, and on behalf of the academic community in Britain, would wish to push for an academic boycott of Israel, but is prevented from doing so by legal means.

This claim is entirely false. The members have not supported such a proposal, and they have not been asked their views.

Both Congress in 2008 and 2009, and a senior committee of the union have rejected calls for a ballot of the membership.  An amendment from my branch, to this year’s conference, calling for a ballot of the membership on this proposal was ruled out as a ‘wrecking amendment.’  It seems there is something incendiary about asking the members directly to express their views.  The call for a ballot has been rejected in the knowledge that, and because, such a ballot would lead to the overwhelming defeat of the boycott proposals.

When proposals for boycott of Israeli universities have been considered by branches of the union and its predecessors, they have been overwhelmingly rejected. Members at Reading, Open, Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, Bath, Warwick, UCL, Strathclyde, Lancaster, Kingston, LSE, KCL, Birmingham, Bristol, UEA, Sussex, Cardiff, LSHTM, The Institute of Education, QMWL, Aberystwyth, Swansea, Southampton, and others, have voted, at branch meetings, to reject such proposals. Previous similar proposals have been repudiated by individual branches, and overwhelmingly rejected by branch ballots of their membership.

The resolutions in question have been rushed through, in a way that has actively prevented the membership from scrutinising them.  Papers concerning the resolution have been distributed extremely late, with no explanation.  Legal advice, paid for by the members concerning the resolution has been withheld from elected representatives, branch presidents, and the membership.

The leadership of the union, and its Congress, which are both controlled by the Socialist Workers’ Party, has exhibited contempt for the views of its members on this matter, and on others, such as the crazy decision to ballot for industrial action, and the dishonest cover up by the SWP that has followed the aborting of this ballot.

In National Executive elections, less than ten percent of the membership now vote.  The NEC cannot be said properly to represent either the membership of the union, or the academic community in Britain.

If the union was a democratic space, in which the majority of the membership was able to determine policy, then there would be a case for remaining active in the union, and working for a change of policy. In its predecessor union, democratic mechanisms were available which allowed the overturning of a similar policy on April 26th 2005.

But the UCU does not provide such a democratic space, and the procedures available in the AUT were removed at the time of merger.

The UCU cannot be considered a democratic union, representative of its members.

This has the following consequences:

We have a union that is able to send its President on trips to the Caribbean, at the members’ expense, to “celebrate the Cuban revolution” but that is unable to organise a legal ballot on industrial action in defence of jobs.

We have a union that has produced misleading and dishonest statements to the membership, on matters of fact, about both the ballot for industrial action, and about its policy on Israel and Palestine, and in which opponents of such a policy are subject to threats of legal action, smears, personal attack, and exclusions.

We have a union that has consciously abandoned its role of representing academics professionally.

We have a union that has brought academics in Britain into disrepute, by its willingness to countenance and support violations of the Principle of Universality of Science and Learning, and by condoning and supporting attacks on academic freedom, such as the outrageous and discriminatory actions of Professor Mona Baker in dismissing two Israeli members of her editorial board.

We have a union that, since merger, has allowed the systematic distortion and violation of democratic norms.  This works through a complex system of reserved seats, fractional branches and unaccountable, unrepresentative ‘regional committees’ each of which helps to entrench an anti-democratic system of double counting into its decision-making.  All of this has been done in violation of the agreements made at merger.   The merger has been a disaster for academic trade unionism in Britain.

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.

We have a union from which hundreds of members – many of them Jewish – have resigned in protest at the unwarranted exceptionalism of its attitude to Israel.  I believe that many more will do so.

We have a union that entirely refuses to investigate concern about institutional antisemitism when raised through the proper channels, by members. The UCU is now the most complacent public institution in Britain with respect to the current rise in antisemitism.

Members of the UCU will ignore the decisions of its Congress, and continue to engage in academic collaboration and research with Israeli and Palestinian colleagues, and Israeli and Palestinian Universities, and they will be right to do so.

Academics in Britain, will, of course, ignore the UCU’s policy on this matter, and they will, of course, be right to do so.

It would be good if academics had a democratic, effective, professional and serious union to represent them in negotiating with the employers and in protecting their terms and conditions of employment.

That is, sadly, no longer the case.

I therefore resign my seat on the NEC.

Dr Jon Pike

Senior Lecturer in Philosophy

The Open University

Formerly Nationally elected member NEC (Pre-92)
The Jewish Chronicle report of Jon’s resignation is here.

In response to attempts to cancel Israeli Science Day

A recent science_museum tweet reads:

“Israeli Day of Science at the museum today. Protestor’s outside. Come down for politics and potential terror, but not the IMAX as it’s shut.”

Also this letter in the Independent from leading scientists and academics:

Dear Sir,

We were saddened by attempts to cancel the “Israel Science Day” lectures and workshops for schoolchildren. Whatever our opinions on the actions of the Israeli Government, scientists and academics should not be punished simply for their nationality.

Science crosses borders, builds bridges and transcends national and political divides. It can unite people, but the protesters seek only to divide and exclude. At a time of high community tensions, these boycott calls are especially pernicious.

The group of protesters peddled a discredited academic boycott inside the University and College Union, which was widely condemned as discriminatory and was abandoned. After failing in their union, they have continued the boycott campaign in wider society, trying to prevent British schoolchildren from being inspired by scientific discovery and innovation.

We welcome the Science Museum’s principled position in refusing to cancel this event, and hope that the “Israel Science Day” events inspire British pupils to pursue a future of their own scientific innovations and successes.

Signed:

Baroness Greenfield Director, the Royal Institution

Lord May FRS President Elect, British Association for the Advancement of Science; previous President, Royal Society; former Chief Scientific Adviser to HM Government,

Lord Haskel Member, Lords Committee on Science and Technology

Lord Winston

Baroness Deech former chair, Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority

Dr Stephen Ladyman MP a professional scientist before becoming an MP

Tim Boswell MP Member, Innovation Universities and Skills Committee

Professor Denis Noble CBE FRS University of Oxford

Professor Sir Walter Bodmer University of Oxford

Professor Sir Peter Lachmann FRS FMedSci founder President, the UK Academy of Medical Sciences; past president, Royal College of Pathologists

Lord Turnberg

Professor Raymond Dwek FRS University of Oxford

Professor Jeremy K. M. Sanders FRS University College London

Professor Sir Alan Fersht FRS University of Cambridge

Professor Felix Weinberg FRS Imperial College London

Professor Stephen Neidle University of London

Professor Sarah Annes Brown Anglia Ruskin University

Professor NH Freeman University of Bristol

Professor Shalom Lappin Kings College, London

Professor Ludwik Finkelstein OBE FREng City University

Professor Yan V Fyodorov University of Nottingham

Professor Richard Bell University of Nottingham

Professor Michael Yudkin University of Oxford

Sir Ian Gainsford King’s College London (retd)

Professor Norman Fenton Queen Mary, University of London

Professor J M Reese University of Strathclyde

Professor Naomi A Fineberg University of Hertfordshire

Professor Ashley Grossman FRCP FMedSci London School of Medicine

Professor Geoffrey Alderman University of Buckingham

Professor Peter Maitlis Sheffield University

Professor David R Katz University College London

Professor Anthony Warrens FHEA FRCP Imperial College, London

Professor Ruth Itzhaki University of Manchester

Professor Alan Zinober University of Sheffield

Professor John Friend University of Hull (retd)

Professor Matthew H. Kramer University of Cambridge

Professor Yehuda Baruch University of East Anglia

Professor Gregory Gutin Royal Holloway, University of Londojn

Professor Daniel Hochhauser University College London

Professor David Stone University of Glasgow

Professor Irving Taylor ChM FRCS FMedSci FHEA University College London

Professor Mervyn Singer FRCP University College London

Professor A. David Smith University of Oxford

Professor Bernard S. Jackson University of Manchester

Professor Mark Schankerman London School of Economics

Professor Naomi Chayen Imperial College London

Professor Efraim Karsh King’s College London

Professor Keith Willison Institute of Cancer Research

Professor Brian L Burrows Staffordshire University

Professor Dame Hazel Genn University College London

Professor Stanley Bleehen University of Sheffield

Professor D. H. Foster University of Manchester

Professor Adrian Hyde-Price University of Bath

Professor Michael Sternberg

Professor Bryan Reuben London South Bank University

Professor Clive Jones University of Leeds

Professor Simon Wesseley Institute of Psychiatry

Dr Patrick Carmichael University of Cambridge

Dr Bernard S. Kay University of York

Dr Raya Khanin University of Glasgow

Dr Eugene Avrutin University of York

Michael Krom University of Leeds

Leslie Reinhorn University of Durham

Dr Eldad Avital Queen Mary, University of London

Dr Michael Kandiah University of London

Dr Margaret Myers retd

Dr Teresa Tiffert University of Cambridge

Dr Virgilio Lew University of Cambridge

Dr N.E.Scott-Samuel University of Bristol

Sophie Garside University of Manchester

Dr SM Lewis Imperial College, London

Dr Yuri Bazlov University of Warwick

Dr Anna Zecharia Imperial College, London

Rob Stevens Sheffield Hallam University

Dr Howard Kahn Heriot Watt University

Derek Meyer St Georges, University of London

I.Lewis Chemist, English Electrical Company (retd.)

Dr Nina Collins University of Leeds

Dr Jeffrey Ketland University of Edinburgh

Dr Ray Noble University College London

Dr Shoshana Squires University of Cambridge

Dr Jennifer Mindell University College London

Dr Liz Lightstone FRCP Imperial College London

Louis Lyons Imperial College London

Mark Katz CEO, Mark-IT

Brian Kerner MRPharmS (retd)

Barry Landy University of Cambridge (retd)

Dr Jose Liht University of Cambridge

Dr Ariel Hessayon FRHistS Goldsmiths, University of London

Yael Benn student, University of Sheffield

Julian Love University of Derby

Dr Elijah R Behr St George’s University of London

Maria Toledo University of Nottingham

Dr Sygal Amitay Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham

Dr Norman Solomon University of Oxford

Dr Sharon Morein University of Cambridge

Dr Hillary B. Katz London South Bank University

Dr Alan Benster

Peter Fine University of Sussex

Dr Michael Bardill

Marta Carroni PhD Student, Imperial College London

Dr Jonathan Rosier University College London

Dr Federico Carafoli Imperial College, London

John Akins Imperial College, London

Also in The Independent, a piece about Israeli science and the difference it makes:

“International co-operation in science is near-universal because scientific research recognises few borders. Indeed, there have been attempts to forge more direct links between Israeli scientists and their Palestinian colleagues. An umbrella organisation called the Israeli- Palestinian Scientific Organisation was established in 2002 to distribute grants worth about £50,000 for joint research projects.

One British scientist who has close links with Israel said that many of his Israeli friends and colleagues strongly disapprove of the recent actions in Gaza. But his view is that it is counter-productive to call for a boycott of Israeli science and scientists: isolating the most liberal-minded Israelis would only make matters worse.”]#

UPDATE (DH)

See also yesterday’s Times editorial

Howard Jacobson on the “Israel Must Lose” letter

Howard Jacobson

Howard Jacobson

This piece by Howard Jacobson is from The Independent.

How does he get that dimple in his tie? Obama, I mean. Who else? Obama the beautiful. Obama the sonorous. Obama the Messiah.

I don’t make a habit of admiring people younger than me, unless they are of another time and long dead, in which case their anteriority makes them older. You can love someone younger – for love is part protectiveness – but it is not seemly to admire them. That way dotage lies. The trouble is that after a certain age there isn’t anybody older than yourself left standing. So Obama it is. He’ll be pleased to know he enjoys my esteem.

In fact I know how he gets that dimple in his tie. He ties it by a method known as the four-in-hand, a phrase that might have something to do with the horse-drawn vehicle of that name. Maybe it describes the way coachmen tied their cravats or hitched their reins. Whatever the etymology I am taken with the effect, and spent most of last week following instructions on how to achieve it on YouTube. You start with the wide end (“W”) of your tie on the right, then cross it over the narrow end (“N”), ensuring that “W” is kept about a foot longer than “N”. Then you…

It was only when I’d completely mastered the four-in-hand, holding a mirror to my computer and getting my wife to check me over every step of the way, that I realised I was being taught how to tie a tie in the way I have always tied a tie. Only I can’t get the Obama dimple. The narrowness of the knot, yes. The insolent asymmetry of the knot, yes. But not the dimple in “W” just below the knot.

It still isn’t clear how he manages it, but I suspect the secret lies in hauling the tie tight into the hot V-shaped hollow of your collar, and for that you need exactly the right spread of collar – not English Bufton-tufton cut-away, and not with the points limp and close together in the manner of mafiosi and art dealers. It goes without saying that you also need exactly the right amount of neck. Too little and you concertina the collar (think Cameron), too big and the dimple is lost in pleats of flesh (think Kenneth Clarke).

Here again Obama is perfection. The neck slender, but not wasted. The shirt white. (Only a fool wears a shirt of any other colour and only a scoundrel wears stripes.) The suit black, two buttoned, with long lapels. And thus tailored he will set about solving the problems of the world. Don’t laugh. I attach immense significance to the tailoring of Messiahs. There lingers in the British psyche – particularly the left side of it – a sentimental belief that political conviction must come in an untidy package. Michael Foot overdid it even for a socialist, but there remains an ideological association of dishevelment with truth. You can’t go on a march in a black suit bought from Hartmax in Chicago and a dimple in your tie. You can’t go on a march in a tie full stop. And there, reader, is the rub.

I measure a man’s seriousness by the degree of moral ambivalence he is able to intimate in his appearance. Here is surface, the subtle politician and thinker says, here is my homage to gorgeousness, worldliness and good manners, but don’t suppose I do not have that within that passeth show.

Too much attention to exterior show and the man is trivial; too little and he is a fanatic. The person who cannot smile urbanely even when the world is falling apart is no better than the person who can do nothing else. And those who think they prove their integrity by looking shabby by the standards of their own society, or by adopting the dress of the oppressed (as though the oppressed are a model by virtue of their oppression), only demonstrate the narrowness of their sympathies.

Showing just the right amount of white shirt cuff – inviting them to tea, as it were, in the Oval Office – Obama addressed the world’s political villains – “We will extend a hand, if you are willing to unclench a fist.” The metaphor is good. In the midst of war it reinstates the civilities. I’ll dimple my tie, you dimple yours, and we will talk it over. But it contains the necessary threat within the wit as well, for if they don’t unclench their fists…

Well, we shall see. In the meantime, in the far less sophisticated moral world we call our own country, the intellectually challenged who staff our universities are down on their knees kissing every clenched fist that will consent to their sycophancy. Take as an example plucked at random – trust me, reader, it just fell to hand – the letter written to The Guardian last week, demanding that Israel lose. Not withdraw, not seek a truce, not radically change its thinking – as many of us wish – but lose. Lose to the clenched fist of Hamas.

It was signed by those who exist to sign such things – professors of Media and Communications, lecturers in Visual Cultures and Gender Studies (gender studies and Hamas: get that!), boycotters, sandal-wearers, banner wavers, professionally ashamed Jews. As an exercise in simple-mindedness – what else do universities teach now? – it could hardly be excelled.

Israel had been waging war against the Palestinians for 60 years it said, omitting to mention the war that Arab armies had been waging against Israel, 60 years ago promising “a war of extermination” – extermination, note, not a two-state solution – culminating in the joyous prospect of “feeding the fish of the Mediterranean with the bones of Jews”. (Imagine starting a history of the Second World War with the bombing of Dresden and you have the picture.) Thus decontextualised, Israel, the letter continued, must now accept that its security depends on “peaceful co-existence with its neighbours”. Gosh, why hasn’t anyone thought of that before. Peaceful co-existence. You hear that, Mr Obama?

There is no monopoly on compassion. Signing a letter doesn’t make you a humanitarian. I too don’t want to see another dead Palestinian child. Not a one. But peace won’t come just because, ignored and impotent in your campuses of moral simplicity, with only the young and the like-minded to address, you wish for it.

Regard Obama. You have to work at truth. What seems isn’t always what is. And what will be waits on more than the velleities of the ill-informed. In the taut and intricate resolution of Obama’s dimpled tie is our most realistic hope for peace.

This piece by Howard Jacobson is from The Independent.

More critique of the “Israel must lose” letter from David Hirsh here.

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