UCU Congress backs UCU’s antisemitic speaker

UCU Congress debated and voted against the following motion:

Congress notes that:

UCU invited Bongani Masuku to a meeting in December 2009 to discuss Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions against Israel;

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has found that at a rally at the University of the Witwatersrand in March 2009 Masuku ‘uttered numerous anti-Semitic remarks which were seen to have incited violence and hatred amongst the students who were present.’

The SAHRC has determined that these statements, and others made publicly by Masuku, amount to hate speech prohibited by the South African constitution;

the SAHRC finding makes it clear that Masuku does not deny making the remarks attributed to him;

These remarks were publicly available on the internet well before UCU’s invitation to Masuku was issued.

Congress dissociates itself from Masuku’s repugnant views.

Congress censures those elected members responsible for inviting Masuku to participate in a meeting hosted by the union.[Michael Yudkin tells us that this final sentence of censure was removed before the motion was put]

This is what the South African Human Rights Commission said about Masuku:

“21. On the day in question Mr Masuku was speaking to students who included both Jewish Zionists and Palestinian supporters. There appeared to already have been noted tension between these two groups. Therefore by Mr Masuku making those remarks he surely intended to incite violence and hatred that was already potentially imminent amongst these two groups. COSATU members of Palestinian supporters present at this rally could easily have been incited to hate, and even attack their Jewish counterparts. This is exactly what Section 16(2) of the Constitution seeks to prevent.

22. Mr Masuku’s heated statements made amidst an already tense audience appeared to advocate hatred against Jews and all other supporters of Israel. This is inciting violence based on religion, an area which freedom of expression does not protect.

23. Mr Masuku in his response to the allegations put to him by the South African Human Rights Commission, states that he was heckled by what he refers to “as a particular section of the audience – most of whom seemed to be members of the South African Union of Jewish Students”. This statement leave little doubt that the references made by him referred to Jews.

24. The statement that “it will be hell” for any group of students, taken in its proper context is intimidatory and threatening. It is conveyed as a warning to the effect that should one support Israel, one would suffer harm. Harm for the purposes of Section 16(2), as confirmed in the Freedom Front decision is wider than mere physical harm.

25. In responding to the allegations relating to the emails sent by him, Mr Masuku fails to deal with the context in which he used the words “…whether Jew or whomsoever does so, must not just be encouraged but forced to leave…” These words in effect come across that unless South Africans agree with his views they should be forced to leave South Africa.

26. In view of the content of the speech made and emails sent by Mr Masuku it is clear that the expressions amount to the advocacy of hatred and thus would not fall under the protection of Section 16(1) of the Constitution.

27. The comments and statements made are of an extreme nature that advocate and imply that the Jewish and Israeli community are to be despised, scorned, ridiculed and thus subjecting them to ill-treatment on the basis of their religious affiliation. A prima facie case of hate speech is clearly established as the statements and comments by Mr. Masuku are offensive and unpalatable to society.


28. In light of the above, the Commission hereby finds that the statements made by Mr. Bongani Masuku amounts to hate speech.”

Posted in UCU. 11 Comments »

11 Responses to “UCU Congress backs UCU’s antisemitic speaker”

  1. Bill Says:

    What were the yea vs nay numbers on the motion? (Also was there a call to record the vote by delegate?)

  2. David Hirsh Says:

    Overwhelming majorities by show of hands. No need for card votes.

    • Bill Says:

      I’m assuming UCUC can’t go back and retcon the minutes (correcting a “typo” of course) and remove it. That sort of thing needs to stay in the record.

  3. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    As I asked below on the Ben Gridley article thread, does anyone know what happened to the far from anodyne Motion on Iran, noting the disputed Presidential election result there, the protests, the deaths, etc.

    There appears to be a long, loud silence on the UCU website.

    Should I be surprised or otherwise at this state of affairs?

  4. Absolute Observer Says:

    How interesting. In other motions on Israel, the UCU calls on the government, etc. etc.
    Just like the present majotiy party in the coalition, the UCU ally themselves were overt, proven antisemites.

    And, like overt, proven antisemites, the UCU has placed the “Jewish Question” (the place of Jews in the world) at the centre of their “politics”.

    The UCU have shown what Engage has been saying for years. That the UCU is an overt, provern antisemitic institution.

  5. Harry Goldstein Says:

    It’s worth for a moment considering the two motions, SFC15 and SFC17, side by side.

    SFC15 commits UCU to funding an annual pro-boycott conference – that is, paid for with members’ money.

    The defeat of SFC17 says, in effect, we don’t care if people invited to speak at UCU conferences have a known record of antisemitic hate speech. So we must assume they will be happy to invite such people to future conferences.

    Put the two together, and UCU is telling us that we as UCU members are now officially committed to funding known antisemites.

    All of us still in the union have to consider carefully whether we are prepared to continue being forced to subsidise antisemitism out of our UCU subs.

    I have always supported staying in the union and continuing to fight, but I am now seriously reconsidering whether this is still a viable or worthwhile (or even morally tenable) option.

  6. Michael Yudkin Says:

    May I make a small but significant correction to the account of the debate on the motion, submitted by Oxford UCU, about Masuku. The last sentence in the motion (about censuring elected officials) was withdrawn before the debate started, for technical reasons that are not relevant here. Nonetheless, as David says, the motion was defeated overwhelmingly on a show of hands. So what the delegates voted down was a motion which, without censuring anyone, would simply have dissociated the union from Masuku’s repugnant views.

    Michael Yudkin

  7. Sarah AB Says:

    I agree that the fact that this motion was defeated so overwhelmingly is particularly dismaying given the additional information supplied by Michael Yudkin.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    I have now been at three UCU meetings where there has been a motion of interest to Engage. Each of those three motions have gone resoundingly in favour of the direction that would be favoured by Engage. Given that two of these motions were directly related to motions at congress (one distancing ourselves from one of the more odious ones, and this motion), it suggests that there is a considerable disconnect between what goes on at branch level and what goes on nationally. Either that or the two branches I have been at have been at have been significantly at odds with the rest of the British universities.

  9. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Anonymous, it has been noted more than once in these columns that the only time that (the then) AUT held a branch ballot specifically related to the boycott, followed by an Emergency General Meeting, only one branch (or was it none?) voted _for_ a boycott, and all the rest voted against. The EGM, in turn, decisevely rejected the boycott motion.

    Are you surprised that the Executive Committee and the majority of delegates who attend the Annual Congress will _not_ put this matter to a membership wide ballot? They do, however, appear determined to elect another membership, to paraphrase Brecht, by driving out silenced and alienated members.

    In answer to your final point, no, the two branches you have been at are not at odds with the rest of British universities and colleges. It’s just that the mass of members who are looking for their union to represent them on matters of pay and conditions _before_ these other matters do not have the time or the commitment to become activists, with all that this would involve.

    Look what happened to Jon Pike when he tried to start a fightback: it was so dispiriting that he felt forced to resign. Just the outcome that, one might suspect, the “usual suspects” would welcome.

  10. Howard Moss Says:

    Brian Goldfarb is of course absolutely right. The positions taken by the UCU National Executive and the motion passed by UCU Congress in no wayl reflect the views of the vast majority of UCU members. As a long-time UCU activist at local level with a fair knowledge of what goes on in local associations, I make an educated guess that less than 5% of UCU members would support the kinds of policies and motions we are talking about if they were able to vote on them. Of course the membership is not given the right to vote on such things and, as Brian said, are on the whole not sufficiently concerned with the ‘politics’ (in reality it’s just empty gesturing) engaged in by their Executive and ‘delegates’ to kick up a fuss or want to become involved or active themselves. That’s the real democratic deficit in the union and it’s difficult to see a plausible way of remedying it. In the meantime, the vast majority of UCU members are happy to remain members in order to protect their their day-to-day interests around pay and conditions and to ignore their union’s incursion into world politics which they either do not know about or they consider irrelevant to them. It is a pity, however, that those few who have left the union over this are the very people who, because of their concern, could best help to even up the odds against the politicos, who are actually very pleased to see them leave and regard it as job well done.

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