UCL UCU branch secretary Sean Wallis lines up with antisemitic Lehman Brothers conspiracy theorists

Sean Wallis, UCL UCU Branch Secretary

Sean Wallis, UCL UCU Branch Secretary

The campaign to exclude people who work at Israeli universities – and only them –  from the global academic community is being pushed hard this week, for the 7th year running, by a small coterie of antizionists in the University and College Union.

One thing we have learnt in that five years is that whenever this campaign is pushed, antisemitic rhetoric, tropes, images and jokes are not far behind.

The following comes from Arieh Kovler of the Fair Play Campaign from UCU Congress in Bournemouth:

BRICUP, the British organisation behind the boycott of Israeli academics, held a fringe meeting at UCU Congress yesterday in Bournemouth.

The official speakers took up most of the time, but there was time for a few questions from the audience. Of course, these ‘questions’ were really statements from the various pro-boycott attendees.

One of these was Sean Wallis, UCL UCU branch secretary. He wanted to speak about how UCU should debate a boycott whether it’s legal or not. One of the threats he mentioned was from lawyers backed by those with “bank balances from Lehman Brothers that can’t be tracked down.

The remark elicited a few sniggers, though not the outright laughter of an earlier joke by Haim Bresheeth about Israeli friendly fire casualties.

Now, a popular conspiracy theory circulating online claims that Jews transferred $400 billion out of Lehman Brothers to untraceable bank accounts in Israel, a couple of days before Lehman filed for bankruptcy. This lie first appeared on a website run by the Barnes Review, an American ‘revisionist’ organisation with a particular interest in Holocaust denial, and spread on various right-wing anti-Zionist websites.

It is not entirely obvious what Mr Wallis is referring to by claiming that legal threats against UCU are funded by “bank balances from Lehmann Brothers that can’t be tracked down.” Perhaps he could clarify his remarks.

Update – see Harry’s Place for Sean Wallis’ non-refuting denial.

Update 2 – more from Harry’s Place, further to correspondence with Sean Wallis. Sean Wallis “doesn’t seem to appreciate that antisemitic theories are antisemitic because they spread poisonous lies about Jews, not because they’re authored by “a racist right winger”.”

There was not due to be any debate on any other international issue at this Congress – only debate about the exclusion of Israelis and a one-sided and ahistorical discussion of Palestine.  The NEC slipped in a last minute emergency motion relating to Colombia so that the union could not be accused of singling out Israel.

There is nothing on Sri Lanka.

There is nothing on Darfur.

There is nothing on Iraq.

There is nothing on Afghanistan.

There is nothing on Zimbabwe.

There is nothing on Russia.

There is nothing on China.

The only boycott campaigned for is a boycott of Israelis.

18 Responses to “UCL UCU branch secretary Sean Wallis lines up with antisemitic Lehman Brothers conspiracy theorists”

  1. Mira Vogel Says:

    I suppose when your union is facing an enormous sector funding black hole and its international agenda is an embarrassment, you’d better try to make some dots to join. Well done Sean – what a pleasingly tidy analysis.

  2. James Mendelsohn Says:

    There is some illuminating but disturbing commentary on Haim Bresheeth’s past life as a Holocaust falsifier at


    The fact that he appears to have such influence within the boycott campaign speaks volumes.

  3. Saul Says:

    So, let me get this right. A UCU branch secretary argues that,
    1. the anti-boycott movement is financed by “Jewish capital”
    2. that Jewish capital is part of the $4bn dollars that conspiracy theorists claim was taken by the Jewish firm Lehman Brothers and given to Israel.
    3 that the anti-boycott movement is financed by Zionist (now at one with Jewish) capital.

    He is pushing classical, traditional antisemitism, which, by definition makes him an antisemite.
    Why is he still in post? Why has he not been suspended?

    Does UCU have an anti-racist policy? Why aren’t members (including Engage) demanding action from the UCU exec on suspending this antisemite? Why has the UCU exec not taken action by itself?

    Is there no proceedure to complain about racism in the UCU (what more evidence does one need in this particular instance)?

    Does UCL staff know what this man is saying as their

    Why do they permit him to remain their representative?

    UCL was the first institution to accept Jews, now its staff are being represented by an antisemite.

  4. Absolute Observer Says:

    Is it possible for UCL UCU members to initiate a “no confidence” motion in their UCU representative?

    We have a UCU/SWP member at York university posting antisemitic material in facebook
    We have a UCU/SWP member at UCL pushing antisemitism.

    We have a UCU member linking to neo-nazi webpages
    and that is even without thinking hard of examples.

    At what point is the virulent antisemitism that runs through UCU “activists” going to be taken seriously by an organisation that claims to be “anti-racist”?

  5. Sarah Says:

    It seems ironic that a UCU boycotter should be grumbling about how legal campaigns are funded given how much money the UCU has spent on legal fees/advice relating to the boycott.

  6. Shmuel Says:

    The racists are in charge.

  7. Mira Vogel Says:

    It’s worth keeping in mind that it was Sean Wallis’ UCL branch which proposed the amendment to investigate resignations from UCU in connection with institutional antisemitism. That was a good amendment. I’m not sure about his role in getting it onto the agenda.

  8. Absolute Observer Says:

    So what do we have?

    A UCL branch motion opposing antisemitism (that gets voted down) and a UCL branch secretary spouting antisemitism doing the rounds of conspiracy theory and holocaust denial sites.

    Can you help explain the absurdity of this for me.

    Wallis is a UCU/SWP hack, the word “figleaf” comes to mind.

    Regardless of his branch, Wallis appears to be an antisemite. He is personally responsible for him comments. If the UCU is serious about racism, he should go now.

    It strikes me also that the voted down motion is, with all due respect, an irrelevance. Surely, the idea of racism in the Union is covered by its alleged commitment to anti-racism. This fact the motion list shows, 1 the UCU does not care about the harassment of Jews; and 2. that they can claim that they have a “democratic” mandate to keep up the harassment.

  9. Mira Vogel Says:

    I found out a little more – the amendment wasn’t the product of a quorate meeting, and SW had little to do with it. So, not a figleaf. Just a coincidence.

  10. Jacob Says:

    “Now, a popular conspiracy theory circulating online claims that Jews transferred $400 billion out of Lehman Brothers to untraceable bank accounts in Israel, a couple of days before Lehman filed for bankruptcy.”

    This is in line with other antisemitic theories du jour such as the claim that 4,000 Jews were told not to go to work on 9/11.


    The point of these antisemitic claims is to formulate them in such a way that it would be impossible to disprove.

    The fact that they can’t be disproved is what gives them pseudo credibility.

    The Lehman Brothers story isn’t new. It first appeared in 08 and was taken up by Hezbollah and by Hamas among other antisemitic organizations. It’s spread gives the lie that you can divorce anti-Zionism from antisemitism.


  11. Jacob Says:

    I should have mentioned that the first quote above is from z-word:


  12. Malfunction in the University and College Union « Greens Engage Says:

    […] UCL UCU branch secretary Sean Wallis lines up with antisemitic Lehman Brothers conspiracy theorists […]

  13. John Baxter Says:

    To “Absolute Observer” with reference to”UCU member link to neo nazi web pages” comment. I suggest you read the recent outcome of the Press Complaints Commission resolution of some of the issues between Jenna Delich and the Jewish Chronicle.
    This UCU member intentionally cited a 2006 article about conditions in Gaza in the heat of a furious e mail exchange on a UCU discussion forum on 21 August 2008. They did not intentionally cite David Duke’s website knowing it to be associated with a white supremacist or seek to draw attention to it as a website(it had itself taken this article from its original home site).
    If you read the PCC report I think you might see that the Jewish Chronicle accepts the truth of that situation. Please tell me if you think I am misreprersenting their position as reported there.
    John Baxter, UCU member at Sheffield College

      • David Hirsh Says:

        The article Delich passed around the union was (a) itself antisemitic and (b) on David Duke’s antisemitic website.

        Baxter might be right when he argues that Delich was too simple to notice this – but Cushman is the leader of a campaign against Israeli intellectuals and he speaks “as a Jew” – and therefore should be expected to recognize antisemitic material when he sees it.

        Instead he apologizes for it.

        The reason these “mistakes” keep getting made is because there are people on the left who believe in antisemitic conspiracy theory – that is why they “mistakenly” link to right wing antisemitic material.

  14. Toby Esterhase Says:

    Is it also your position, John Baxter, that Sean Wallis “did not intentionally” mean to connect the employment lawyers representing Jewish members of our union with the allegation that Lehman Brothers was bankrupted by Jewish fraud which siphoned money off to Tel Aviv, and which was responsible for the global credit crunch?

  15. Toby Esterhase Says:

    Here is the PCC judgment.


    It is a disgrace and it misses the point.

    The point is not only that material from David Duke’s website was being circulated around the union. The point was also that the material itself – the material which the PCC say Delich intended to circulate – was also antisemitic from the very first sentence.

    That is why it was on David Duke’s webiste. d’oh.

  16. New Israel Fund needs international solidarity; non-Israeli Jews need theirs « Greens Engage Says:

    […] deep disquiet about dominant forms of pro-Palestinian campaigning, which slide into antisemitism with alarming frequency, stems from this concern and not concern for Israel, which we approach as we […]

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