UCU’s exclusion of David Hirsh from the internal union activists’ list – David Hirsh – 27 August 2008

UCU's exclusion of David Hirsh from the activists' listThe full text of David Hirsh’s formal complaint about his exclusion from the UCU activists’ list and institutional antisemitism in the union. The complaint has already been officially dismissed. His exclusion was made permanent. In the official response to the complaint there was no consideration of antisemitism. The word antisemitism did not appear in the response. David Hirsh’s formal charge of institutional antisemitism was not investigated. The union’s response did not say why it had decided not to investigate the charge of antisemitism.

In my judgment the union has now shown itself to be unable and unwilling to deal with the problem of antisemitism internally. It is for this reason that I now choose to break the confidentiality fo the internal discussions and to expose what has been going on publically – DH

This is a formal complaint by David Hirsh, Goldsmiths UCU to Sally Hunt against the decision of Matt Waddup permanently to exclude David Hirsh from the UCU activist list


(1) Matt Waddup is the manager of the UCU activists e-list which has routinely been circulating, to approximately seven hundred members of the union, material which violates rule 6.1 of the union, para 2.5 of the Aims and Objects of the union and the Race Relations Act 1976 (Amendment) Regulations 2003.

(2) This includes:

i A very large amount of material which encourages union members to discriminate against Israelis on the grounds of their nationality

ii A large amount of material which fosters antisemitic ways of thinking

iii A significant amount of material which is antisemitic under the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights working definition of antisemitism

iv Material which is antisemitic by any reasonable definition

(3) This material constitutes harassment particularly to those Jewish and Israeli members of the union who do not support proposals to exclude Israeli academics from the global academic community [I assert this but I do not offer evidence for this claim here. I can produce the evidence if necessary.]

(4) While allowing the circulation of all this material to the activist list, Matt Waddup has excluded me from participation in the activist list. He offers a trivial, accidental and quickly reversed breach of confidentiality as the reason for my exclusion. There was no due process and there was no length of exclusion specified. The permanent exclusion was out of all proportion:

i to the seriousness of the offence and

ii to the ways in which offences relating to antisemitism are treated

(5) I have taken a reasonable approach to my exclusion and I have sought a compromise solution. I have worked patiently to sort this matter out without the need for a formal complaint. I am disappointed that it has been necessary to make a formal complaint. Matt Waddup has not shown any willingness to find a way through the problem or to negotiate an end to the problem. It is his absolute intransigence over many months, more than the initial error of judgment by which he excluded me, that has made a formal complaint appropriate.

i My colleague Jon Pike talked to Matt Waddup on more than one occasion in an unsuccessful effort to negotiate a way for my exclusion to be lifted.

ii I was excluded on 28 November 2007 but the problem was only raised openly within the union on 15 April 2008, and then not by me. I had hoped for four and a half months that this matter could be dealt with reasonably and without any public scandal within the union.

iii I have admitted my breach of the rules and I have apologized for my offence on a large number of occasions – in writing, to the General Secretary, to Matt Waddup and, via colleagues, to the e-list as a whole.

iv On a large number of occasions I undertook, in good faith, to obey the rules of the list in future, if my exclusion from the list was rescinded. I made this solemn undertaking in writing, to the General Secretary, to Matt Waddup, and, via colleagues, to the e-list as a whole

v I repeatedly sought ways out of the problem of my exclusion which would have avoided further embarrassment to Matt Waddup and to the union.

(6) One of the things that is provided in this complaint is evidence of institutional antisemitism within the union. This is not an accusation that any individual is motivated by antisemtism. However, it is the case that I, one of the leaders of the anti-boycott campaign in the UCU, and an outspoken Jewish member, am being treated much more harshly than other members of the list.

(7) There is a hierarchy of causation:

A The union and its predecessor unions have organized major national debates on an antisemitic proposal to exclude Israeli academics six times in the last six years.

B Debates on the antisemitic proposal have normalized antisemitic rhetoric within the union and ways of thinking which treat Israelis as uniquely evil. [I assert this, I do not offer evidence for this claim here. I can produce the evidence if necessary.]

C This antisemitic rhetoric has functioned as harassment against people who do not support the boycott campaign, a group containing a disproportionate number of Jewish people [I assert this, I do not offer evidence for this claim here. I can produce the evidence if necessary.]

D My exclusion from the list cannot be reasonably understood without reference to the context: an antisemitic proposal; a proliferation of antisemitic rhetoric; a proliferation of antisemitic harassment.

I am seeking

i my reinstatement on the activist list

ii the full reinstatement on the activist list of those who have been excluded or partially excluded for forwarding my words onto the list

iii reassurance that steps are taken to ensure that the manager of the e-list does not take arbitrary and unjust action in the future against union members

The bases for this complaint:

UCU rules:

6.1 All members and student members have an obligation to abide by the Rules of the University and College Union, and shall refrain from conduct detrimental to the interests of the Union, from any breach of these Rules, Standing Orders or directions (properly made in accordance with these Rules or Standing Orders) and from all forms of harassment, prejudice and unfair discrimination whether on the grounds of sex, race, ethnic or national origin, religion, colour, class, caring responsibilities, marital status, sexuality, disability, age, or other status or personal characteristic.

Aims and Objects of the UCU:

2.5 To oppose actively all forms of harassment, prejudice and unfair discrimination whether on the grounds of sex, race, ethnic or national origin, religion, colour, class, caring responsibilities, marital status, sexuality, disability, age, or other status or personal characteristic;

The Race Relations Act 1976 (Amendment) Regulations 2003

5. After section 3 of the 1976 Act insert –

‘ Harassment
3A. – (1) A person subjects another to harassment in any circumstances relevant for the purposes of any provision referred to in section 1(1B) where, on grounds of race or ethnic or national origins, he engages in unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of –

(a) violating that other person’s dignity, or

(b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him.

(2) Conduct shall be regarded as having the effect specified in paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (1) only if, having regard to all the circumstances, including in particular the perception of that other person, it should reasonably be considered as having that effect.’.

UCU’s own legal advice:

‘It would be beyond the Union’s powers and unlawful for the Union, directly or indirectly to call for or to implement a boycott by the Union and its members of any kind of Israeli universities and other academic institutions; and that the use of Union funds directly or indirectly to further such a boycott would also be unlawful.’

‘…to ensure that the Union acts lawfully meetings should not be used to ascertain the level of support for such a boycott.’

1 The antisemitic proposal

The proposal to exclude Israelis and only Israelis from the global academic community is antisemitic in effect.

It violates the Aims and Objects of the UCU and the The Race Relations Act 1976 (Amendment) Regulations 2003 which both outlaw discrimination on the grounds of nationality.

The published extracts of UCU’s own legal advice state clearly that the boycott would violate the law. I assume that the law it violates is anti-discrimination law.

Under any adequate impact assessment, the proposal would be seen to impact Jewish members of the UCU disproportionately, as well as Jewish academics who are not members of the union.

The proposal would make it impossible for union members to work in the field of Jewish Studies, Middle East Studies, or in the academic study of antisemitism, since it would cut them off from significant global centres of their field of expertise. Jewish academics would be disproportionately hit in this way.

The proposal seeks to exclude a significant proportion of the world’s Jewish academics from the global academic community and for no morally or politically relevant reason.

2 The institutional antisemitism which comes with the antisemitic proposal

i UCU Congress 2007 passed the following antisemitic clause:

…Congress believes that in these circumstances passivity or neutrality is unacceptable and criticism of Israel cannot be construed as anti-semitic.

In fact, regardless of the circumstances, some kinds of criticism of Israel are antisemitic while other kinds are not. The clause legitimizes that proportion of antisemitism which resembles criticism of Israel. It also implies that when people are concerned about antisemitism which resembles criticism of Israel, they are construing it as antisemitic in bad faith in order to de-legitimize all criticism of Israeli human rights abuses. It therefore constitutes a charge of Zionist conspiracy.

UCU’s adoption of this exemption from normal policy prohibiting racism should be taken as an indication of its institutional antisemitism.

The claim that people who raise the issue of antisemitism in our union do so in bad faith and as part of a dishonest plan to de-legitimize criticism of Israel is one which routinely leads to Jews in our union being wrongly and relentlessly accused of acting dishonestly and in bad faith. No evidence of their bad faith or dishonesty is ever offered. This often repeated charge of bad faith and dishonesty constitutes harassment. The frequency of the appearance of this charge, and the fact that it has never been discouraged or rebutted by the management of the list or by the leadership of the union or by the antiracist unit, should be seen as an indication of the institutional antisemitism of the UCU.

ii The official UCU response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into antisemitism ‘emphatically reject[ed] the suggestion that criticism of the Israeli government is itself antisemitic’. In doing so it failed to take seriously the criticisms that the report actually made, preferring to respond to a straw-man argument. The UCU failed to respond to the criticism of its response which was put together by Jon Pike and me and which may be read here: http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=839. The criticism was endorsed by 76 union members, many of whom are Jewish. The UCU’s failure to take the report of the Parliamentary Inquiry or this document seriously should be taken as an indication of its institutional antisemitism.

iii Gert Weisskirchen, the Personal Representative of the Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE on combating antisemitism, asked for a meeting with the UCU in August 2007. 39 members of the union, mainly Jewish, published a letter in the Times Higher asking the union to meet with him. The union refused to meet with him then or since, and made no response to the request. The UCU’s failure to take this request seriously and to find half an hour to talk to Weisskirchen should be taken as an indication of its institutional antisemitism.

iv The fact that the National Executive Committee of the union has now backed a boycott motion and sent it to Congress should be seen as an indication of the institutional antisemitism which is current in the union.

v The failure of the management of the activist list, the union leadership, or the antiracist unit of the union, to challenge antisemitic rhetoric and to educate the membership about the nature of contemporary antisemitism should be seen as an indication of the institutional antisemitism which is current in the union.

vi The hostility which Matt Waddup has shown to me, a leading academic expert in contemporary antisemitism and a leading voice in the anti-boycott campaign within the union should be seen as an indication of the institutional antisemitism which is current in the union; in particular his repeated insistence that when I commit to abide by the rules of the list, I do so in bad faith.

vii The tour of Palestinian academics and trade unionists which was recently organized and paid for by the UCU went around the country making the case for a boycott of Israeli academics. This union advocacy for the boycott campaign appears to contravene the union’s own legal advice. The message of the tour, the make up of the delegation, the text which introduced the tour and the function of the tour to advocate for an exclusion of Israeli scholars from UK campuses should be seen as evidence of the institutional antisemitism which is current in the union.

Note: I do not here outline and analyse the antisemitic rhetoric which has come with the antisemitic proposal and the institutional antisemitism. I can provide this evidence if necessary.

3 My own exclusion from the UCU activist list

a Matt Waddup makes it clear that he is concerned with the content of emails on the activist list

Matt Waddup wrote to me on 31 August 2007. He made it clear that he was concerned with the content of a particular post which I had made on the activist list. He judged that I had not been careful with my language, particularly in relation to what I said about another individual member.

This stated concern with the content of emails on the e-list was in line with what he had written on 28 June 2007 in an email to the whole list:

I will moderate the views of anyone who steps outside what I consider to be robust but fraternal debate and argument.

He says that he is concerned with the form of debate but not with the content. Matt Waddup’s record shows that antisemitic emails have not been considered to be worthy of criticism or of sanction by the management of the list so long as they have been written in language that he considers to be ‘robust and fraternal’.

Matt Waddup made this point again on the activist list on 10 May 2008 when he was responding to complaints which related to open and clear antisemitism on the list:

1. Be civil even to those with whom you disagree. (Civil means being polite and respectful).

(i) Matt Waddup misconceives the problem of antisemitism as a problem of incivility.

(ii) He also makes it clear that he considers it his business to make judgments about the content of emails on the list with the possible sanction of exclusion in mind.

b What I had written that Matt Waddup judged to be insufficiently ‘careful with language’

I had written a response on the e-list to Phil Marfleet (23 August 2007). In my response I had made a critique of Marfleet’s position. I argued that Marfleet had a strategy of trying to normalize discussion of the antisemitic boycott proposal.

I believe that the union’s own legal advice says the boycott proposal is antisemitic. Certainly it says that the proposal is unlawful and I’m fairly sure that this must be based on the fact that it is discriminatory.

I pointed out that people who fight for antisemitic or racist politics routinely adopt an analogous strategy of normalization, citing the example of David Irving and Holocaust deniers, who fight hard to be accepted as one side of a legitimate debate. I also gave the example of Nick Griffin and the BNP, who make every effort to be treated as part of the normal political debate in Britain.

Matt Waddup judged that it was not ‘careful’ to make an analogy between a named union member and other well known people who fight for antisemitic and racist proposals. In his 31 August 2007 e-mail Matt Waddup threatened to remove my posting rights on the grounds of the inappropriateness of the content of a post – the one which responded to Marfleet.

It was inappropriate that Matt Waddup should threaten to exclude me for making an analogy between Marfleet, Irving and Griffin in respect of their strikingly common normalization strategy.

The ‘debate’ about the boycott is unpleasant. This is not because I am rude – in fact I am not rude or careless or thoughtless or offensive. The ‘debate’ is unpleasant because we are debating an antisemitic proposal which many union colleagues relentlessly support. My offence against the norms of the debate was to say so.

Subsequently Matt Waddup has made much of two passages of my email to him of 1 September 2007 which responded to his threat relating to the Marfleet email. First he has interpreted the following passage as being an attack on his professionalism and integrity:

You, Phil Marfleet and Sue Blackwell may not agree with me that the proposal to ‘boycott’ Israelis – and nobody else on the planet – is antisemitic. I think that it is. I have the right to say so. I will continue to say so.

On 7 September Matt Waddup wrote the following about my response, saying:

There are a number of things in it which are offensive to me personally and to my professional integrity, including the frankly risible suggestion that my management of the list and treatment of complaints about your postings is an indication of my bias towards the pro boycott lobby.

He later wrote (23 April 2008):

This seems to me to be a very offensive suggestion of bias to make to a moderator and union employee who simply asked you to take care with your comments about other list members.

I have never made the suggestion that Matt Waddup supports the boycott campaign. I suggested that he could only have judged my email to be an infringement of the rules if he had judged that it was entirely inappropriate to compare Marfleet with Irving and Griffin – ie if he had judged that it was inappropriate to say that Marfleet fought for an antisemitic policy.

I did not write anything offensive to Matt Waddup, I did not make any risible suggestions of bias, I did not question his personal integrity. His indignation was entirely due to his own mis-reading and mis-understanding of what I had written.

It is clear that Matt Waddup was threatening my exclusion from the list because he did not approve of the content of my writing. The only basis on which he could have judged that the content was inappropriate was if he judged (contra the union’s legal advice) that Marfleet was not proposing an antisemitic policy.

It was therefore reasonable for me to say that whether or not Matt Waddup (or anybody else) judged the proposal to be antisemitic was immaterial because I had the right to express my own opinion.

What Matt Waddup referred to as ‘a very offensive suggestion of bias’ was in fact an important and relevant difference of judgment between me and him. I had the right to express my view and it was inappropriate of Matt Waddup to threaten to exclude me for having done so.

c The first alleged breach of list confidentiality

Matt Waddup now relies on his email of 31 August 2007 as a first warning against me for publishing confidential material from the e-list. But I do not think that I was guilty of breaking any confidentiality.

On 23 April 2008 Matt Waddup says of his email of 31 August 2007:

This email also warned you against posting extracts from the UCU list onto the Engage public website, which you had done without permission.

In his email of 23 April 2008, Matt Waddup quotes the rule that he was referring to:

‘No material from this list may be reproduced without the express permission of the original poster.’ [my emphasis]

I do not think I ever reproduced anybody’s email from the activist list on the Engage website without their permission (if that memory is wrong, I’m sure somebody will show me the occasion on which I did so. Matt Waddup has never done so).

If I did so then I certainly changed my policy later when, in order to fit in with the way that people were interpreting the rules of the list, I adopted the policy of writing an introduction to every email from the list that I published on Engage saying explicitly that I did so in accordance with the wishes of the writer.

I was usually careful to hide the identity of the others who were engaged in the debate. One exception was Jon Pike’s response to Sue Blackwell’s threat of legal action against him. She had made the threat in public on Engage and it would have been forced to try to hide her identity in the response: http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1204. We had every right to respond openly to Blackwell’s threats, which had been made on our own website.

I developed the policy of blanking out people’s names and adding a note making it clear that the author wanted to be published. For example:


Anti-boycotters were spending significant time and effort engaging in debate on the activist list and it seemed to us to be appropriate that their work should be available to people who were not members of the activist list, if the authors asked for it to be so.

Our aim was to educate, in the broadest sense of the word, as wide a milieu as possible on the nature of contemporary antisemitism and on the case against arbitrary exclusions from campuses. We wanted to help people to make arguments against the boycott and against antisemitism.

The warning which Matt Waddup later relies on as a pretext for my exclusion was not legitimate, since I had broken no rule and breached no confidentiality by publishing material, with the express permission of the original poster, on Engage.

e My alleged refusal to be bound by confidentiality

On 15 April 2008 Matt Waddup made the following half-true allegation about me and he sent it to hundreds of my union colleagues via the activist list. I was not allowed to reply although I am pleased to say that others replied on my behalf. Matt Waddup subsequently punished those who did so. Matt Waddup mentioned a person who he had excluded from the list. That person was easily identifiable in the context as me. He wrote about the person:

they made it clear to me in correspondence that they were unwilling to respect the confidentiality of postings made on the list by colleagues.

This alleged confession was actually from the email I sent Matt Waddup on 1 September 2007 as follows:

I find your comments about what may be published on Engage worrying. It looks as though UCU is trying to protect those who argue for an antisemitic boycott.

I will put any of my own writing I choose on Engage. If somebody else asks me to publish something that they have written, on Engage, then I will do so, subject to an editorial decision.

UCU should stand against antisemitism – even with its current policy which excludes antisemitism that takes the form of ‘criticism of Israel’ from being regarded as antisemitic. UCU should not protect those who argue for antisemitic policy while threatening those who oppose it with removal from the discussion.

1 I will continue to oppose antisemitism inside our union.

2 I will continue to argue against the normalization of the ‘debate’ about the exclusion of Israelis from our campuses.

3 I make no undertaking whatsoever to keep any of this secret.

4 I make no undertaking whatsoever not to publish antisemitic material that is distributed on the UCU activist list.

Matt Waddup seriously misrepresented my position when he wrote about my ‘unwilling[ness] to respect the confidentiality of postings made on the list by colleagues’ to my union colleagues. While it may be argued that at that point I did refuse in some ways to respect the confidentiality of the list, it is evident that this is not the whole truth of the position I was adopting (see below).

It is equally evident that rules, for example this one about confidentiality, are rarely absolute, but must necessarily be judged alongside other principles.

f My subsequent softening of position

In relation to the just quoted material, I wrote in an email to my colleague Mira Vogel, which she published on the activist list, the following:

Since I wrote that last summer I have softened my position and I have been clear, in writing, four times, that I will respect the confidentiality of the list.

Since then I have made it clear a number more times, in writing, that I am prepared to respect the confidentiality of the list.

Matt Waddup replies (24 April 2008):

‘I am not convinced that you are prepared to follow the current disclaimer rules.’

He judges that my apologies and assurances of future compliance with the rules are made in bad faith.

g this union is not a private golf club

I have repeatedly said that I will respect the rules of the list if and when I am re-admitted. This commitment is made in good faith.

Nevertheless I am not comfortable with the rules of confidentiality being regarded as absolute. I believe that the ‘boycott debate’ is fundamentally a public debate. What people are willing to say to 700 union colleagues on the question of the boycott and of antisemitism, they should be willing to say in public; and de facto they are saying in public.

It is not right to enforce a principle that the kind of antisemitism which is currently normal within the UCU should be kept secret and ‘within the family’. This over-zealous and disproportional campaign by Matt Waddup to protect absolutely the privacy of those who are using antisemitic rhetoric within the union is, in my view, another indication of the institutional antisemitism which is current within UCU.

The union should be concerned first and foremost to take racism, racist arguments and racist harassment seriously. But Matt Waddup seems more concerned to protect the privacy of people who are employing antisemitic rhetoric, harassment and bullying within the union.

It has been claimed that a person who doesn’t believe that antisemitism should be kept secret and within the union cannot be trusted to keep, for example, individual case-work confidential. I don’t accept this unfounded allegation. I also think it unwise to publish individual case details or anything else genuinely confidential to 700 people up and down the country.

h the offence which sealed my permanent exclusion

At the end of November 2007 I published a substantial piece of academic research on antisemitism, hoping that this work would, amongst other things, make a substantial and serious contribution to the debate about antisemitism and boycotts within the union.

Hirsh, D (2007) Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: Cosmopolitan Reflections, Working Paper #1, Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism, New Haven CT, Print ISSN 1940-610X; Online ISSN 1940-6118 (165 pages), http://www.yale.edu/yiisa/workingpaper/hirsh/index.htm

The only part of this paper, however, that the union seemed to be interested in, was footnote number 71. Amongst discussion of many other manifestations of contemporary antisemitism in the paper, there was a small amount of discussion of the activist list in that paper. I was careful to obey the rules of the list and to avoid naming any of the participants who I quoted. I inadvertently left in the name of one participant in footnote number 71, which I had used as an example of one of the common tropes of anti-Zionism. The example was fairly inconsequential and furthermore the participant had written much more in this vein openly on the internet under their own name.

There are a number of references to the activist list in my paper but only one reference named a specific person.

It is clear therefore that this was an error.

Further evidence that this was an error was that as soon as it was pointed out to me, I made sure that the text of the online version of the paper was changed immediately, and the printed version was published without the name of the UCU colleague.

If I had been concerned publicly to name and shame the boycott campaign within the union for its acceptance of antisemitic rhetoric then I would have done so – overtly, effectively and in a high profile way. I didn’t do so.

Nevertheless, Matt Waddup decided that I should now be excluded from the debate. He claims that he had no choice. In truth, he made a judgment to interpret the rules in a particular way and to punish the rule-breaker in a particular way.

i attempts to deal with the issue quietly

The punishment was out of all proportion to the offence. In a situation in which antisemitic rhetoric was commonplace on the e-list I was surprised that I had been the one singled out for exclusion.

However I made no immediate protests and took no action, assuming that people would calm down and realize that they had over-reacted.

I spoke with my colleague Jon Pike and we agreed that he would make representations to Matt Waddup and the union on my behalf, quietly, without making a fuss or a scandal either within the union or outside.

I agreed to apologize and I agreed to abide by the letter of the rules.

Jon made no progress in his talks with Matt Waddup. Matt Waddup stood firm, as though on principle, arguing that I deserved permanent exclusion. He expressed annoyance to Jon that I had written to Sally Hunt about the matter, thus ‘going over his head’.

j due process

There was no due process. The decision to exclude was made arbitrarily by a single member of staff.

There was no hearing or trial.

I was not asked to give evidence or to make any representations in my own defence.

I was not told how long my exclusion would continue.

I was not told how I could appeal the decision.

There was only silence from Matt Waddup and from the union.

I wrote to Matt Waddup on 4 December 2007, to Sally Hunt on 28 January 2008, 7 February 2008, and 3 March 2008; I sent a hard copy by registered post on 3 March 2008. I wrote again on 15 April 2008. Not only was I being excluded from the activist list but I was also being excluded from any contact of any sort with my union.

It was and is difficult to find a rational explanation for this remarkable and uncomradely failure to respond, and in the circumstances it is hard not to see it in terms of a discriminatory silence and an attempt to ostracize somebody who had, for some reason, been judged to belong outside of the union family. I have experienced the fact that the union ignored six reasonable attempts by me to communicate over five months as an antisemitic exclusion. Others will judge whether or not I have been reasonable to experience it in this way.

Only after my colleague Ariel Hessayon published this latest letter to Sally Hunt on the email list, did Sally Hunt and Matt Waddup think it was worth responding. I believe that if Ariel had not gone public with my grievance within the union then I would have been permanently frozen out and even the fact of my exclusion would have continued to be hidden and secret, kept within the small family of those in the know, within the email gossip cliques.

k a new offence of making ‘attempts to circumvent suspension by getting others to post on your behalf’

When I showed the email I had sent to Sally Hunt to Ariel Hessayon, he was incredulous and outraged and he decided to share it with the e-list. The fact of his sharing has now been taken by Matt Waddup as new evidence against me. He claims that it demonstrates that I am not prepared to respect the rules of the list. It has also led to Ariel’s exclusion. Ariel is a leading academic expert in the history of English antisemitism. The debate is poorer for the exclusion of Ariel Hessayon.

Other union members have committed technical breaches of confidentiality by sharing the material on the list with me. Others have posted my words, which is not a breach of the rules, since it is normal practice on the list for people to post other people’s words. I made a judgment that it was more important for me to be involved in the debate than it was to acquiesce in my own unfair exclusion. In any case I have broken no rules – others have broken the rules by sharing with me.

The contributions of mine that my colleagues decided to forward to the e-list made, in my judgment, important additions to the debate. I am proud of them and I do not wish that they had been kept away from the eyes of my union colleagues by this bureaucratic ban. The union should have welcomed my participation. It made the wrong decision to push me out and exclude me.

The idea that I should be punished for ‘getting others to post’ on my behalf is curious. It ascribes responsibility to me but not to them. To me it echoes a stereotypical image of me as a manipulative Jew behind the scenes. I report that I experience it as an antisemitic claim. Others will judge if this is a reasonable way to experience it. Of course people who posted my words have done so of their own free will and because they judged that it was right, not because I have been engaged in ‘getting’ them to do it.

l a technicality or a fundamental breach of confidence?

I wrote the following to Sally Hunt on 25 April 2008:

The email that Matt sent me yesterday morning (25 April) confirmed the assumption that I put to you yesterday: that Matt and myself have different interpretations of what has happened and that this attempt to exclude me from debate within the union will continue until I say that I agree with Matt.

I have apologized to Matt and I do so again now. I have agreed to abide by the rules in the future, and I do so again now. I agree that Matt is the moderator and has the authority to moderate.

But I do not accept Matt’s narrative of events. We have a genuine difference of view as to what has happened. So we have to find a way forward which does not involve me having to say that which I do not believe. Steve Cohen reminded me of the piece he wrote when Natfhe adopted the McCarthyite test in 2006 and he suggested that my unwillingness dishonestly to ‘re-cant’ my view may be connected to the revulsion he felt then for Natfhe’s loyalty test. I’m sure you remember his piece: http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=444.

Matt Waddup continues to be intransigent. He is not convinced that I intend to obey the rules. It is clear that so long as I have a different understanding of what has happened from his understanding, that he will regard me as speaking in bad faith when I promise to abide by the rules.

I am not prepared to say that Matt Waddup’s narrative is accurate while mine is wrong since I do not believe that to be true. I experience his demand for recantation as unjustified and discriminatory, and hence effectively as an antisemitic demand. Others will judge whether this is reasonable or not. I can report, however that I experience it in this way.

I also experience Matt Waddup’s fixed and often repeated assertion that when I promise to obey the rules I do so in bad faith, as an antisemitic incident. It is up to others to judge whether these relentless and unfounded allegations of bad faith could have some other explanation.

I have shown myself, repeatedly, willing to apologize for my mistake, to correct my mistake, and to promise to obey the rules in the future. But Matt Waddup requires more than this from me. He requires me to acquiesce. I would recommend that people read Steve Cohen’s article referred to above if they would like to understand the significance of this attempt to make me acquiesce. Matt Waddup has been directed to this article, has been told of my subjective understanding of its significance and he has chosen to ignore it.

m other breaches of confidentiality

I am aware that somebody calling themselves ‘UCU Whistleblower’ is sending a large amount of the text of the UCU activist debate to very many people in a number of countries by email. A number of people from outside the union who have been following the debate have contacted me and expressed their outrage at my treatment. Some have asked me how I can put up with it. All I have been doing is to shrug, and say that I am trying my best, within the union, to end my exclusion.

My exclusion was reported in the Jewish Chronicle. I declined to comment when the JC reporter asked me what was going on. I felt that there was a requirement on me not to speak publicly about my exclusion.

Large amounts of text from the activist list have been published on ‘Harry’s Place’ and on the blog of ‘Boycotted British Academic’.

Sue Blackwell, one of the leaders of the boycott campaign in the union recently copied in a whole thread of the activist list to Deborah Fink. This should be taken as evidence that the activist list debate is not in fact confidential or private. Fink is a well known campaigner for the boycott of Israel and a founder member of the small extremist group named ‘Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods – JBIG’. She has written publicly that Israel is ‘satanic’ and is a ‘shitty little country’. In truth, the debate on the UCU activist list is routinely followed by many people who are involved on both sides of the boycott debate. It is simply untrue to claim that the list is in fact confidential and it can only be disingenuous to treat a technical breach as though it were grounds for exclusion when there are real and huge breaches going on left right and centre.

As far as I know, it is only me and my anti-boycott colleagues who have judged my words worth forwarding to the list, who have been excluded from it.

Those who are employing antisemitic rhetoric continue to do so on the activists list unimpeded and only challenged by a now diminishing group of people who are able and willing to recognize and oppose antisemitic rhetoric.

It is the union leadership, the list management and the antiracist unit who should have been challenging and opposing the antisemitic rhetoric but none of them have.

n My work is misrepresented in the activist list, is sent to my union colleagues and my academic peers, and I am denied a right to reply

On May 8 I wrote the following to Sally Hunt. Neither she nor Matt Waddup responded to this point:

I note with concern that you have not allowed me to respond to the misleading accounts of my work which have been sent by email, by the union, to hundreds of my fellow union activists and fellow academics on the activist list. I take that very seriously. In my view it is not within the remit of my union to facilitate the misrepresentation of my own academic work and to deny me a right of reply.

I also made a similar point to Matt Waddup on 4 December 2007.

Matt Waddup seems content for this practice to continue and has proposed no remedy. Indeed, he has simply ignored me on this point.

o A self-policed list?

Many colleagues on the list have spoken against my exclusion, including Robert Fine, Mira Vogel, Dov Stekel, Eve Garrard, Oonagh Reitman, Jon Pike, Josh Robinson, Ariel Hessayon, Marion Hersh, Mike Cushman and David Miller. Nobody has explicitly spoken in favour of my exclusion.

Sometimes Matt Waddup has claimed simply to follow the expressed wish of the list. But not in this case. In this case he has taken a position against the expressed advice of the list and has stuck by it absolutely intransigently.


My exclusion from the list cannot be seen in isolation from the context. The context is:

A The union and its predecessor unions have organized major national debates on an antisemitic proposal to exclude Israeli academics six times in the last six years.

B Debates on the antisemitic proposal have normalized antisemitic rhetoric within the union and ways of thinking which treat Israelis as a unique evil on the planet.

C This antisemitic rhetoric has functioned as harassment against people who do not support the boycott campaign, who are disproportionately Jewish

I do not know what motivates Matt Waddup’s behaviour in my case but this exclusion is so disproportionate to the offence and to the way that others have been treated for much more significant offences that it can only be read politically.

It is one event which is part of a six-year campaign, hosted by the UCU and its predecessors, to exclude Israeli academics from the global academic community.I am seeking

i my reinstatement on the activist list

ii the full reinstatement on the activist list of those who have been excluded or partially excluded for forwarding my words onto the list

iii reassurance that steps are taken to ensure that the manager of the e-list does not take arbitrary and unjust action in the future against union members

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