SOAS UCU and SOAS students union are trying to ban lectures from Israelis

toplogoThere is a lot of huffing and puffing – and increasing frustration – that they are unable to shift the SOAS administration or Colin Shindler. This has manifested itself in a plethora of highly aggressive and vituperous emails from some academics and union members at SOAS sent to Colin and other people involved.

A number of members of staff at SOAS have been very positive about the Department of Israel Studies’ firm stand and insistence that the lecture series to commemorate 100 years of the city of Tel Aviv should go ahead.

The UCU, led by Graham Dyer, has attempted one calumny after another in order to provoke a response and to escalate the situation.

The SOAS Israel Society held a very successful and civilised meeting on Tuesday at which Colin Shindler and Emanuele Ottolenghi spoke to a packed audience.

Graham Dyer’s comment about the Gaza tragedy as a ‘holocaust’ appears publicly in this Jerusalem Post piece. In addition, he has compared Gaza to the Warsaw ghetto in other emails – implied in this piece but not stated.

As an academic he should be asked to explain this by colleagues.

This is the first time that there is a serious campaign for the rhetoric of an “academic boycott of Israel” to be put into practice.

The UCU branch at SOAS is:

  • employing antisemitic propaganda such as the constant insistence that the current situation in Gaza is like the Holocaust
  • campaigning to silence Israeli academics who have been invited to SOAS
  • picketing lectures given by Israelis
  • focusing their aggression and vituperation against a Jewish member of staff who is not Israeli

8 Responses to “SOAS UCU and SOAS students union are trying to ban lectures from Israelis”

  1. Observer Says:

    Is there a relationship between this hostility to a Jewish lecturer and a specialist on the Middle East and the firebombing of Starbucks? Should they not be seen as a two points on a spectrum of antisemitic responses to the situation in Gaza?

  2. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    If the emails referred to in the article are signed and go beyond the usual give and take of academic discourse, shouldn’t they be referred to the administration for action? If they are arguably libellous, threatening or demanding any other breaches of UK law, then the senders should be so warned and given an opportunity to withdraw such emails and also to give an undertaking not to repeat this behaviour.

    If we are talking about students, then the risks they are running by refusing to withdraw, etc, should be pointed out. Not least, they risk expulsion and therefore failing their courses. Demanding “free speech” at the expense of other peoples free speech is hardly a good example of freedom, is it.

    Further, attempting to stop others from attending lectures etc is also against the law – it goes beyond legal picketing (didn’t think I’d find myself still finding uses for Thatcher’s anti-trade union lew this far into a Labour government).

  3. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    BBC Radio 4, 15.01.09, 20.00-2030 GMT:
    The Investigation,
    Simon Cox delves into the world of the UN’s Human Rights Council. Since its creation two years ago, it has been accused of weakness and subject to gross political manipulation. So isit really protecting people from violence and persecution or is it a club of governments trying to cover their own backs?

    If missed, can be listened to via or downloaded as a podcast via

    I shall resist assuming that I know the answer to the question before listening!

  4. N. Friedman Says:

    In answer to Observer’s question, there may well be a connection that ties those who firebomb Starbuck with those who find Jewish lecturers objectionable.

    My view is that Israel’s actions are merely the occasion for hatred of Jews to be expressed. In the words of Bernard-Henri Lévy, from his book Left in Dark Times, the Antisemites have found, in Israel, a “respectable” way to stir up hatred against Jews.

    As he writes:

    [Beginning of quoted material ===>]EVERY HISTORIAN OF the phenomenon agrees that the story is both very simple and very complex.

    They know that its core hardly varies but that the discourse that expresses it, that clothes it, changes with the times.

    And they know that, if it changes, if it feels the need to evolve, it does so because it needs to stand out, to convince, to be heard by the greatest number of ears, to reach into souls and to rally them-and that is why it has to embrace the fears, the fantasies, and the rhetoric of the moment. [] The way things are in this day and age, today’s religion is more and more clearly founded on the triple pillars of the cult of victimhood, the taste for memory, and the punishment of evildoers (triumphant antifascism, the love of victimhood, and the duty of memory). Anti-Semitism can only return, can only rediscover the power, the rallying capacity—I almost said the freshness—that all the preceding models
    once enjoyed, if supported by three new pillars. [] All that energy, all that intelligence, all those means, that immodestly insisted-upon duty of memory, has no other goal than to support a cause, and a basically indefensible one at that, which is the Jewish State. Let’s just say a State. But what a State! Stolen from the beginning. Perpetuated thereafter by crime, occupation, violence, and lies. [<=== End of quoted material]

    I think that Mr. Lévy has it correct. And, I think that Israel’s behavior is the occasion, not the cause, for what is occurring.

  5. shriber Says:

    “A.B. Yehoshua / An open letter to Gideon Levy”

    A.B. Yehoshua has an important critique of the rush to judgement on Gaza.

    This letter should be required readin for all members of UCU.

  6. David Hirsh: The Campaign to Boycott Israel Is Now Fighting for a Concrete Exclusion of Israeli Scholars - Campus News & Climate, Civil Discourse and Academic Freedom - SPME Scholars for Peace in the Middle East Says:

    […] UCU branch at SOAS, University of London, is campaigning to have Israeli lecturers silenced. The students union is also campaigning for such an exclusion. […]

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