Elections for the UCU NEC – don’t forget to vote – Sarah AB

The UCU is going through turbulent times as its membership continues to fall.   There is a split between those, such as Sally Hunt, who want to retrench – for example through reducing the size of the executive committee – and those who resist such moves, calling instead for renewed efforts to increase membership.

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=422602

On Engage, stories about the UCU have obviously focused on Israel boycotts and anxieties about other manifestations of antisemitism. But the reason people react so strongly to such concerns isn’t because they are anti-union but because they fully recognize the importance of unions, particularly in the current climate, and don’t want them to adopt policies or practices which are both wrong and divisive.

http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=6515

If you are a UCU member you will probably have received your ballot papers by now.  Candidates typically invoke the same issues – job security, pay, pensions and equality. Given the fact that all candidates are signed up to such core trade union values, it seems reasonable to identify those who seem least likely to further alienate members – and of course potential members. These are the candidates for whom I will be voting:

Vice President

Dominique Lauterburg who describes herself as ‘an independent voice [who] will always put the interests of our union’s members first.’

Honorary Treasurer

Angela Roger who points out that ‘we can’t afford to lose members because they see the union as wasting money on divisive and ineffective campaigns driven by political ideology.’

Representative of Disabled Members

Roger Walters who wants a union which ‘listens to and respects the views of members rather than thinking that the activists and leadership know best, and which avoids futile gesture politics’.

Representative of LGBT Members

Mary Jennings who says she ‘resist[s] attempts to waste union resources on peripheral political causes.

Representatives of Black Members

Gifty Burrows

NEC HE Sector

Joe Gluza who says the union shouldn’t ‘waste our limited resources … to pursue causes which have little support amongst Members and which detract from the Union’s main duty to look after Members’ interests’

Jimmy Donaghey  

Julia Charlton

Gordon Watson

Roger Brooks

I will most certainly not be voting for Sean ‘Lehman Brothers’ Wallis.

http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/06/12/sean-wallis-antisemitism-lehman-brothers-anti-boycott-lawyers-when-in-a-hole-stop-digging/

Sarah AB

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

James Mendelsohn, Senior Lecturer in Law, Huddersfield University, Resigns from UCU

Dear Sally

Thank you for your message.

I was happy to sign the petition of no confidence in the government’s HE policies and, like you, I have very serious concerns about the White Paper.

Regrettably, though, I am no longer able to join in UCU’s fight against the government’s measures. This is because I am no longer a member of UCU. Following the passing of Motion 70 at the most recent annual Congress, I felt that I had no choice but to resign. Not only does Motion 70 reject the most widely-used definition of anti-Semitism in the world, it fails to provide any alternative definition. The motives of those who proposed the motion are clear: they rightly understood that, according to the EUMC Working Definition, their obsessive campaign to single out Israeli academics for boycott year on year might indeed be anti-Semitic. Whether intentionally or otherwise, this has made UCU an even more uncomfortable place for Jewish members than it was previously. I can no longer contribute money to such an organisation in good conscience.

Please do not send me the same generic response you have sent to others who have resigned on  these grounds. Sadly, your repeated claim that UCU abhors anti-Semitism is not borne out by the evidence; rather, the evidence points overwhelmingly in the other direction. For example, a union which truly abhorred anti-Semitism would have no truck with Bongani Masuku, whose statements were correctly defined as anti-Semitic hate speech by the South African Human Rights Commission. UCU, by contrast, invited Masuku to promote the boycott campaign. Does that sound to you like the mark of a union which abhors anti-Semitism?

Speaking on a more personal level, I sent you three emails on related issues in 2008, which are attached. 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. I am sure I will not be the last Jewish member who feels forced to resign, even at a time when trade union protection and solidarity are more important than ever.  Once again -please do not send me your generic reply. All I would ask you is: do you realise that the boycott campaign is now weakening the union’s numbers and credibility, at a time when a strong union is needed more than ever? And do you ever lie awake at night wondering why, in the 21st century, Jewish members have left UCU in droves?

Yours sincerely

 James Mendelsohn

Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Huddersfield

In 2009 UCU Congress was asked to mandate the union to investigate these resignations.  But Congress said no, it didn’t want an investigation into why people were resigning from the union citing antisemitism as a reason.

UCU members who have resigned:

David-Hillel Ruben

Ariel Hessayon,  Goldsmiths

Michael Yudkin, David Smith and Dennis Noble, Oxford

Shalom Lappin, King’s College, London   

Jonathan G. Campbell, Bristol University  

Colin Meade, London Metropolitan University 

Eric Heinze,  Queen Mary University of London

Tim Crane, Univesity College London

Eve Garrard, Keele University

Raphaël Lévy, University of Liverpool

Sarah Brown, Anglia Ruskin University

The Following UCU members have not resigned; their points of view too need to be taken seriously:

Norman Geras, Manchester University

Lesley Klaff, Sheffield Hallam

Deborah Steinberg, Warwick

David Hirsh, Goldsmiths

Stephen Soskin, Buckinghamshire New University

Ronnie Fraser, Barnet College

Ben Gidley, Oxford

Jon Pike, Open University, Resignation from NEC

Dov Stekel, University of Birmingham

Mira Vogel, Goldsmiths

Robert Fine’s account of Congress, Warwick U

Eva Fromjovic, Leeds University

Robert Simon, LSE

76 UCU members signed a public protest about UCU’s failure to take seriously the criticism made against it by the Parliamentary Inquiry. Read their protest, published in the Times Higher.

39 UCU members signed a public protest at the UCU’s refusal to meet with Ger Weisskirchen at his request. Weisskirchen is the OSCE’s Chairman-in-Office Representative on antisemitism. The protest, which went unheeded and ignored by the UCU.

What overseas issues are UCU Congress interested in? – Ronnie Fraser

Analysis by Country of the International motions debated at UCU annual conferences 2007- 2011

The University and College Lecturer’s union obsession with Israel and Palestine is clear for all to see when one analyses by country the international motions discussed by the UCU’s annual conference in the five years since its incorporation in 2007.

Nineteen of the forty-six motions (41%) debated are about Israel and Palestine, an average of nearly four every year.  The UCU National Executive Committee (NEC) and The University of Brighton each have their names as proposers on six of the nineteen motions.  Tom Hickey, a leader of the boycott campaign, is a member of the NEC and a lecturer at the University of Brighton.

This list does not include the 2011 EUMC working definition of anti-Semitism motion which was discussed came under the Equality Committee heading.

Notable absences from the list are Afghanistan, North Korea, Somalia, Saudi Arabia….

Israel and Palestine -19

General -4

Burma -2

Colombia -2

Egypt and Tunisia -2

Iraq-2

Turkey -2

Zimbabwe-2

China -1

Cuba -1

Egypt -1

Greece -1

Haiti-1

Iran-1

Libya -1

Sri Lanka -1

Sudan -1

Why I am still in the dire UCU

“Now I’m going to explain why, in spite of this shocking state of affairs, I am not going to resign from the UCU.”

Geoffrey Alderman writes in the JC.

Martin Bright on Ronnie Fraser’s Legal Action

 

Martin Bright

This piece, by Martin Bright, is from the JC.com

Pivotal moment for unions and Labour

For many years, too many trade union members have stood by as their officers expended significant time and money on international “solidarity” campaigns. The honourable cause of Palestinian national self-determination has thus been swallowed up in an ideological pudding that bundles together Venezuela, Chile and Cuba within campaign groups often run by the same small number of hard-left organisations.

Mr Fraser, director of Academic Friends of Israel, has been driven to this course of action by his treatment at the hands of his fellow trade unionists. This should be a matter of deep shame to all his comrades in the UCU. The union that represents the country’s intellectuals and thinkers should never have allowed itself to be drawn into this kind of fringe politics. Now it finds itself the subject of a harassment complaint under the Equality Act 2010.

As it has done so often over recent years, the trade union movement has provided the stick with which its opponents can beat it. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles was able to occupy the moral high ground when he wrote in the JC last week that the UCU was sending a “chilling message” to Jewish academics and students.

The labour movement and the party that represents it has been left flat-footed once more.

The TUC leadership has so far held the line against an all-out boycott on Israel but it will come under increasing pressure to harden its stance in the run-up to this year’s Congress in September. So far Ed Miliband has been silent on the issue. He has the rest of the summer to reflect, but then he must show some leadership.

This piece, by Martin Bright, is from the JC.com

Norm – the Hunt elucubration 4

Norm with a  further UCU chestnut.

See 1, 2, and 3.

Posted in UCU. 2 Comments »

Sarah Annes Brown – more on UCU and the EUMC working definition of antisemitism

From Sarah Annes Brown’s further reflections on the University and College Union and the EUMC’s working definition of antisemitism:

“The working definition notes that, with all these possible diagnostic criteria, the overall context must be taken into account when making a judgement. One probably isn’t going to fret too much about the ‘overall context’ of a call to genocide. But it is true that some of the criteria are calculated to help identify rather less threatening cases, including the accidental use of an antisemitic trope, which – just like a single chance use of the epithet ‘narcissistic’ to describe a homosexual – should probably be overlooked. But where there is a whole cluster of subtle innuendos in a single article the Working Definition can help pinpoint a real problem. For in order to be truly useful any guidelines for helping identify prejudice must go beyond the obvious. For example, burning a mosque is pretty clearly Islamophobic, but what about criticising Halal slaughter? Here, as with antisemitic tropes, there would be a need to look at the overall context. The issue of Halal food is certainly often manipulated by anti-Muslim bigots – but that fact shouldn’t be used to close down debate about animal welfare. “

Read it all.

Four UCU members resign from the union in Scotland

[letter available as pdf from the website of The Scottish Council forJewish communities]

30 June 2011

Dear Sally Hunt,

We have all been members of UCU and its predecessors throughout our careers. We are also, however, members of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, the representative council for Scotland’s Jewish communities. Now that UCU has adopted a racist policy towards Jews, these positions have become incompatible. We are resigning in consequence.

At the end of May, the UCU Congress adopted motion 70 on antisemitism. The resolution criticises the definition of antisemitism proposed by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) and now sponsored by the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights. The resolution states that UCU will make no use of this definition of antisemitism, and that it will dissociate itself from the definition. It takes the view that the effect of objecting to antisemitic comment is to “silence debate”. In other words, UCU is claiming a licence to vilify Jews in service of its political aims.

The EUMC definition, which you have rejected, reflects the perceptions of many people in the Jewish community at large. The Macpherson report’s test for racist action is widely accepted: “a racist incident is any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.” The problems identified in the EUMC definition are all problems of which the Jewish community in the UK is acutely aware, and the denial of those problems is a denial of our experience.

The definition gives a range of examples of positions to avoid. Antisemitism is often presented covertly – holocaust denial is an example – and it has become common for antisemitic comments to be masquerade as comments about Israel. Last year, SCoJeC explained the problems to the Scottish Trades Union Congress in these terms:

“… criticism of Israel is often expressed in racist terms. When you read, for example, that Israel’s behaviour is determined by the character of the Jewish people, that a powerful Zionist lobby exerts a sinister influence on Western governments, or that Israel is setting out to kill non-Jewish children, you are reading the politics of hate.”

The issues identified by the EUMC, such as “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel”, have been at the root of intimidation and harassment of Jews in Britain.

As officers and members of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, we take no position on Israel. Our role, and democratic remit, is to represent the interests of Jewish people in Scotland. We have grave concerns in this respect. The racist propaganda brought in the wake of the Middle East crisis has exposed Jewish people in Scotland and the UK to a wave of hostility. From a recent survey, more than half the Jews witnessing antisemitic incidents attribute those incidents to anti-Israeli sentiment. This is the situation you are feeding.

The UCU resolution claims that the effect of accepting restrictions on what might be said is to “silence debate”. The motion declares that defining antisemitism in the terms of the EUMC definition “confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine antisemitism”. On the contrary, that distinction is made by the document you are attacking: it says explicitly that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic”. It is UCU that has failed to recognise the distinction. The heading on the order paper states openly that the resolution is about antisemitism. The resolution seeks to remove restrictions on people’s ability to make antisemitic statements, so long as they appear in the form of criticism of Israel. Your resolution gives licence to racists.

UCU continues to claim, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that it remains opposed to racism. Congress chose to ignore what they were told in the debate: Ronnie Fraser said: “I, a Jewish member of this union, am telling you, that I feel an antisemitic mood in
this union and even in this room. I would feel your refusal to engage with the EUMC definition of antisemitism, if you pass this motion, as a racist act.” By the Macpherson test, you had a duty to listen. You did not listen. This is a racist policy.

We cannot continue to participate in a union which legitimises antisemitism.

[signed]

Professor Paul Spicker, The Robert Gordon University, UCU no 7561

Ephraim Borowski, formerly Glasgow University; former President, Glasgow AUT and national Trustee; AUT member no 9975

Walter Sneader, formerly University of Strathclyde, UCU no 28619 (resigned May 2011)

Prof Gillian Raab, St Andrews University, UCU no 5741

In 2009 UCU Congress was asked to mandate the union to investigate resignations.  But Congress said no, it didn’t want an investigation into why people were resigning from the union citing antisemitism as a reason.

Other UCU members who have spoken out:

Ronnie Fraser

Joseph Mintz

Ben Gidley

Brian Cowan

David-Hillel Ruben

Jon Pike, Open University, Resignation from NEC

Ariel Hessayon,  Goldsmiths

Michael Yudkin, David Smith and Dennis Noble, Oxford

Shalom Lappin, King’s College, London   

Raphaël Lévy, Liverpool University

Jonathan G. Campbell, Bristol University  

Colin Meade, London Metropolitan University 

Eric Heinze,  QMUL

Tim Crane, Univesity College London

Eve Garrard, Keele University

Dov Stekel, University of Birmingham

Raphaël Lévy, University of Liverpool

Sarah Brown, Anglia Ruskin University

Mira Vogel, Goldsmiths

Robert Fine’s account of Congress, Warwick U

Norman Geras, Manchester University

Eva Fromjovic, Leeds University

Robert Simon, LSE

Lesley Klaff, Sheffield Hallam

Deborah Steinberg, Warwick

David Hirsh, Goldsmiths

Stephen Soskin, Buckinghamshire New University

76 UCU members signed a public protest about UCU’s failure to take seriously the criticism made against it by the Parliamentary Inquiry. Read their protest, published in the Times Higher.

39 UCU members signed a public protest at the UCU’s refusal to meet with Ger Weisskirchen at his request. Weisskirchen is the OSCE’s Chairman-in-Office Representative on antisemitism. The protest, which went unheeded and ignored by the UCU.

Rob Marchant on UCU and antisemitism

In short, UCU, supposedly representing the cream of our intelligent people has, in its ignorance, rather shown itself deserving of our condemnation.

We must always be aware of the dangers of race-paranoia. But the reverse is also true: we are sometimes not aware of racism that really exists – like, for example, when institutional racism in the Met was highlighted by the MacPherson report – and that not everyone quite is as enlightened as we think.

UCU is just an example of a worrying wider trend. We spend a lot of time rightly criticising the white racists of the BNP and the EDL. But it’s high time we confronted those who condone those other kinds of racism around us. Before they really start to hurt the credibility, and the ethos, of the whole Labour movement.

The whole piece is on Labour List.

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