Antisemitic Professor in the UK goes unchallenged by colleagues

This from Eve Garrard:

Bloody Jews,’ he said. ‘Bloody Jews, bugger the Jews, I’ve no sympathy for them.’

I gazed at him, aghast. Where had this suddenly come from?

The encounter I’m here describing took place very recently, in the course of a large academic dinner at a University in another city, not my own one. It was a pleasant occasion, and the people at my table were innocuously and comfortably talking about sociological issues connected with the economic crisis, all completely harmless and (relatively) uncontentious. And then I heard the academic on my right hand side say to the person opposite him, ‘Bloody Jews.’

When he saw my appalled stare, he said impatiently, ‘Oh well, I’m sorry, but really…!’

‘I’m glad you’re sorry,’ I replied politely, collecting myself together for a fight. But then he asked, ‘Are you Jewish?’ When I nodded, this academic – whom I’d met for the first time that day – put his arm around me and said, ‘I’m sorry, but really Israel is terrible, the massacres, Plan Dalet, the ethnic cleansing, they’re like the Nazis, they’re the same as the Nazis…’

Read the rest on normblog.

67 Responses to “Antisemitic Professor in the UK goes unchallenged by colleagues”

  1. David Hirsh Says:

    Why not name the antisemite Eve?

    I think I know why you don’t.

    But it is worth asking and answering the question as to why you don’t explicitly I suspect.

    • Bill Says:

      “…put his arm around me…” (and all the rest)

      Expletive of surprise deleted. His boy-person arm around a girl-person colleague after an antisemetic rant in which her identifiable group was an object, for which he’ll apologize to everyone else in the room but not to her because she’s one of “them.” All of which at a university function. Is he trying to win some sort of a prize?

      The only reason not to do-tell is to let human resources at that school do their job. You don’t let a matter like this “drop.” Eve Garrard may have a thick skin but if this were to have happened to a junior female faculty member…

  2. Bialik Says:

    Can someone who was there name him? There were lots of people in the room.

  3. Andrew MacFarlane Says:

    Eve

    I’m appalled that you had to put up with this bigoted behavior, has he no shame?

    best regards,

    cheers
    andy

  4. Absolute Observer Says:

    Dear Eve,

    I am quite sure he didn’t mean “you”.

    Remember that in the past, apart from racist antisemites, good people (especially English liberals) have always distinguished between “two types of Jew”. One type, and, hey, we all know them, are money grabbing, loud parvenues and the other type, kind. generous, good sense of humour, self-effacing.

    Indeed, I was at a discussion on antisemitism, when in a q and a session, an academic explained that we should distinguish between “Jews” (hoorray) and “Zionists” (boo)

    And, from what he said, he must have meant those other Jews, Israeli Jews. After all, as Jacqueline Rose reminds us, Israeli Jews are psychologically warped and so are entirely different from well-adjusted diaspora Jews such her and you.

    I am sure that when push comes to shove, he really adores Jews, if only the right type.

  5. Susan Greenberg Says:

    I used to dismiss reports of anti-semitism in the UK as over-sensitive, but now feel that is becoming a non-option. I am grappling with a similar problem – to challenge or not to challenge – arising from a discussion in a reading group. I would be interested in hearing from others about what has happened, when comments (especially more subtle hints and allusions) are challenged.

  6. Eve Garrard Says:

    Thanks, guys, for the kind words of support. The reason I’m not naming the academic is the same as the reason I didn’t take him on more ferociously at the time – doing so, given the special circumstances, would have caused considerable distress to other persons present who I definitely didn’t want to hurt, and who bore no responsibility at all for what was going on. I can’t say any more without destroying the anonymity which I’ve been at pains to preserve. But I have a lot of sympathy with those who feel you should always take this kind of thing on full-frontally, and I’m still not sure if I did the right thing by being so restrained. Certainly if it happens again I’ll be a great deal more explicit about what’s wrong with such disgusting views.

    • GideonSwort Says:

      Sorry you had to go through this Eve. I fully understand your reluctance to cause a scene and discomfort for those present. However, I feel that those who witnessed this do not deserve your manners and generosity. By choosing to continue the evening silently, not engaging the racist Sus scrofa domesticus while this was going on, they themselves join the family Suidae hoof to hoof in the muck.

      Going back to this twit you so graciously protect, – by now this will have reached his ears. What a hero he must be, cowering behind your silence.

  7. David Hirsh Says:

    Why don’t we name these people?

    I don’t always name people either.

    There may be a few reasons, some valid some not, some about choosing which battles to fight and which to step over.

    Perhaps I lack courage, I do not publicly name every antisemite I come across in academia.

    It is worth remembering that Eve is one of the fighters. She fought in the union and she fights now by going public with what happened. She is not one of those who keeps silent, nor is she one who blames antisemitism on the bad behaviour of Jews.

    We can’t all fight all of the time.

    But I think the underlying reason why we don’t always go public is that we know it wouldn’t be a big deal.

    Eve could go public with this guy’s name and it wouldn’t do him any harm. Not one tiny bit of harm.

    Eve was not the only person who heard this. The other people who heard it said nothing. Did nothing.

    Eve reports that one person there said he should apologise, as though antisemitism was a minor infringement of etiquette, a mistake, understandable.

    The point about this story is that it isn’t a big deal. He wouldn’t lose his job, he wouldn’t lose his academic reputation, he wouldn’t be thought of as a racist.

    He would be thought of somebody who was a victim of a Zionist smear campaign to de-legitimize his criticism of Israel, Plan Dalet etc.

  8. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    “He would be thought of somebody who was a victim of a Zionist smear campaign to de-legitimize his criticism of Israel, Plan Dalet etc.”

    You are letting them dictate the terms of the dialogue David.

    • David Hirsh Says:

      I think they do dictate the terms.
      That is what worries me.

    • Bill Says:

      “Eve reports that one person there said he should apologise, as though antisemitism was a minor infringement of etiquette, a mistake, understandable.”

      Nah, I think it was more than required for him to directly apologize to Eve for both the antisemetic behavior and, yes, the “arming.” And the fellow was very very right to demand that he apologize. And it was, in turn, right for Eve to be briefed on the second-party demanding the apology. But when the we-can’t-call-him-an-antisemite would apologize to everyone *but* Eve then he set a new set of wheels in motion (just keep digging, fellow). It shouldn’t have been dropped and should have been bumped upstairs.

      I know that some people frown on such things. They think it not only does it make waves and is “uncollegial” but also makes it look like we’re hiding behind the nanny’s skirt.

      But he crossed not one (antisemetic rant) or two (the arm) but three (he was boozed, Eve?!?? Good god, he WAS going up for Douche of the Year!) lines of professionalism at a *university* function. Make that FOUR with his post-grope petulant, “I won’t apologize to “one of them,” crap (yup, Eve got it right).

      Discrimination and harassment rules are there because it’s morally and ethically a good idea for the broader interests of our universities, not because it’s our Plan C when we can’t get through to the sexists’, racists’, homophobes’ or antisemites’ better angels. Sad but true.

  9. gary carp Says:

    So we’re damned if we don’t name and shame and damned if we do? Then we must. There can be no alternative to a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism.
    The Professor quoted “bloody Jews” isn’t offering a critique of Israel, his leap is to direct and blatant antisemitism.
    Complaints should be lodged by all means – across his faculty and by the student union etc.
    Infact, it’s time to mount an alternative campaign to bar racist lecturers from campus. Jews, even “bloody Jews”, have a right to be taught and to work in an atmosphere
    of freedom and Professors, even “bloody Professors” must not behave with decorum and can’t go around preaching racial hatred.
    What can’t be allowed is for us to be collectived tamed into wall of silence because others will attack us for defending ourselves. We will not go away, we will not be silenced.
    Name and shame this “bloody Professor” and let him defend himself publicly and don’t allow him, and those who know him and have said nothing, to retain their anonymity.

  10. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    David, you say above that “Eve reports that one person there said he should apologise, as though antisemitism was a minor infringement of etiquette, a mistake, understandable.”

    Eve actually says that: “I was later informed that one (Muslim) academic told the professor that he should apologise to me, a suggestion which he rejected, saying that he never apologised to ‘one of them’. Apart from that, the matter was allowed to drop.” I think this is more significant than you seem to suggest. A Muslim academic – also potentially subject to similar sorts of racial abuse – closes ranks with Eve. He doesn’t appear to say that what was said was okay, or a minor infringement of etiquette. Rather, apologising to those _not_ insulted hardly clears the offence, if anything, it compunds it.

    That is, we should be praising the demander of the apology, and hoping that he would say it again. If the professor’s reported comment following this – never to apologise to one of “them” – then the prof has no defence of drunkeness. He’d already noticed that he’d broken the rules by apologising to the others at his table. Hopefully, someone else may yet report him or optherwise bring him to book.

    After all, even if Eve was the only Jew present, she qualifies as the victim according to the EUMC definition.

    Should it ever happen to me, I hope that I would have at least as much courage as Eve in stating loudly that “I didn’t have to put up with this crap”.

  11. amie Says:

    I know its easy for me to say, Eve but even if you didn’t want to cause a scene at the time, out of consideration for the other guests, I can’t understand why you can’t name and shame him now. I assume they are able to read this here or on normblog, so how will it mitigate their distress at this stage if you name him. I do think that in the balance of distress to your colleagues on the one hand, and the greater distress to fellow Jews and decent people generally now that you have disclosed this much of the story, the latter ought now to weigh more heavily. I know it is extreme, but the old photos of Jews being taunted by Nazis as they scrubbed the streets and the civil society just standing by and watching just popped unbidden into my head. I often wonder if my grandparents killed in Kaunas, were in some unfilmed scene of unrequited humiliation like this. For them, and for us, I feel you need to name and shame.

  12. amie Says:

    How will it mitigate their distress if you continue to keep merely his name from public knowledge, is what I meant to write

  13. Eve Garrard Says:

    Hi Amie,

    I do of course share many of your concerns about this, and I too have just those pictures coming into my mind more often than I would wish. I can’t explain exactly what the circumstances are that make me reluctant to name and shame, without undermining the anonymity I’m trying to preserve; but believe me, if I gave names and places then distressing consequences to other people would occur which won’t if I don’t mention them. In many, perhaps most, situations I think that explicitly combating anti-Semitism is the most important thing to do, but sometimes other considerations can outweigh that, or at least alter the means by which we do it.

    I thought it was worth writing about this event even though I couldn’t be entirely open about it, partly because it’s better to do something, even if it’s unsatisfactory, than to do nothing at all; and partly because I thought it might strengthen myself and perhaps others to deal better with another such case, should it occur. I expect it will, more’s the pity.

  14. David Greenstein Says:

    This professor’s comments about nazis do indeed have some resonance in relation to those who should have known better; academics, sociologists and judges who displayed fealty to the Reich and its philosophies (and who of course emerged unscathed after the war to continue their professions).

    The closing of ranks with a racist and bigot who showed the very opposite of remorse afterwards is perhaps the saddest part of this.

    Racists and antisemites must be confronted not only when they are bus drivers or builders but also where the abuser has a position of power over impressionable young adults and other potential victims.

    Out the ‘b*****’ .

  15. amie Says:

    Eve. Thanks for your response. Knowing your battle record, I have to respect your judgment on this.

  16. Joseph Says:

    Dear Eve

    You’re hanging out with the wrong type of people.

    Regards

  17. sackcloth and ashes Says:

    Eve, this man should be named, and should also be recommended for disciplinary action. He’s a racist, pure and simple, and he does not deserve a job in higher education.

  18. James Mendelsohn Says:

    Eve,

    So sorry to hear about this. Never easy to know how to react in these situations, I’m sure you did what you felt was right at the time.

    Best wishes,
    James

  19. amie Says:

    “he does not deserve a job in higher education.”
    It is worrying that this man may be at left at liberty to wreak his bigotry by undetected discriminatory treatment of Jewish students.

  20. Susan Greenberg Says:

    > It is worrying that this man may be at left at liberty to wreak
    > his bigotry by undetected discriminatory treatment of Jewish
    > students.

    And/or of Jewish academic colleagues?

    • David Greenstein Says:

      It is not uncommon that victims are hesitant to take such matters further but in my experience it is a mistake to bury one’s head thinking that is the ‘decent thing’ to do. Bigots such as this professor have no respect for decency.

      This matter should not be allowed to rest (I do believe in second chances but this man’s compounding of the original offence and subsequent failure to attempt to make amends obviated that possibility).

      If anyone out there knows the fellow’s name or any more relevant details please forward it to me in the strictest confidence at d_greenstein@workrep.co.uk

  21. zkharya Says:

    Miriam Shaviv carries the story in the JC:

    http://thejc.com/blogpost/bloody-jews

  22. zumb Says:

    I’d add that we must name any an every person or entity involved in anti-semitism . Why not publish a list?
    These people are grown-up adults and are not going to change their minds and the least we can do is to expose them.
    Racism of any kind cannot be tolerated!

  23. Noga Says:

    “Bloody Jews,’ he said. ‘Bloody Jews, bugger the Jews, I’ve no sympathy for them.’”

    He says this in a social venue attended by academics and no one, no one(!) tells him he is out of line, at the very least? I fully understand why Eve Garrard was stupefied into silence. What could she do, what could she say, in answer to such an outburst? But she should not have been alone there. Someone else should have said something, not quietly and politely, after she had left the table but right then and there. She should not have been allowed to leave the table. SHE did not commit any breach of decency and decorum. It’s this thunderous silence from the rest of the guests that is so disturbing. By maintaining this cowardly silence and accepting her decision to leave the table they became de-facto complicit in her humiliation.

    _____________

    “I am not Jewish. Ideologically I am left and by profession a journalist. Why am I not as anti Israeli as my colleagues? Because as a non-Jew I have the historical responsibility to fight against Jewish hatred and currently against the hatred for their historic homeland, Israel. To fight against anti-Semitism is not the duty of the Jews, it is the duty of the non-Jews.”

    http://portalofideas.blogspot.com/2009/01/pilar-rahola.html

    __________

    Now that such an incident has occurred and the question of proper response has surfaced it might be a good idea to discuss and suggest pertinent and cool ways of dealing with such things when they happen. For I’m pretty sure that this was just the harbinger of similar occurrences to come.

  24. zkharya Says:

    It’s the paternalist “hugging” that really creeps me out. Talk about reactionary dinosaur…

  25. Absolute Observer Says:

    Hoffman says this on the JC blog.

    “I would go further. If Eve Garrard is not prepared to name and shame, then she loses her right to complain.”

    Now, that is what you call understanding, sensitivity and support!

    This indicates Hoffman’s inability to understand, and so challenge, contemporary antisemitism.

    If Eve chose to name this Professor (and I understand fully her reasons not to do so), then the question of antisemitism in academia would be lost, and it would become a question of “this” professor and “that” comment”.

    The consequence of this would be (assuming there would be a consequence) a slap on the wrist for the individual and its reduction to one person’s “opinion”. It would serve the purpose of masking just how structural antisemitism has become amongst the “academic community”.

    Antisemitic comments such as the one complained of has been prevalent within the UCU activist list for years. As Engage has shown, they have become common currency in “debates about Israel”.

    As Eve and other have noted, the real question is the existence of an “environment” in which people feel that such comments can be made openly and freely, and, no doubt, with an expectation of acceptance.

    In this context, the Professor’s comments are as much a symtpom of the “drip, drip, drip” of antisemitism that has characterised academic “activists” as it is the cause.

    https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/david-hirshs-talk-at-ucu/

  26. Absolute Observer Says:

    James,
    It’s not Hoffman’s blog from the Jewish Chronicle.
    Here’s the link,
    http://www.thejc.com/blogpost/bloody-jews
    Regards,
    AO

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      Jonathan Hoffman is bugging out because he doesn’t think anybody is doing enough, or keeping faith with anti-racism. I’ve seen him challenge antisemitism to people’s face and in rooms full of hostile people, and I admire him for that. But it is overbearing of him to force his naming and shaming way of dealing with this on other people, when those people judge it as the wrong decision.

      I think Eve was justified in not naming for the reasons she has given, and because of some other reasons: it avoids the charge of initiating a witch hunt; the man was not at work, he was drinking; also – incidentally but helpfully – the episode has the chance to feel as immediate as it should feel, rather than simply some pissed up rogue professor far removed from us.

  27. Tarquin Says:

    No, it is not ‘overbearing’ of Jonathan. First of all, he is not ‘forcing’ anything on anybody: he is simply stating his opinion, an opinion I share completely. Evil triumphs when good people do nothing.
    Eve is simply in the wrong here. There is no ‘witch hunt’ involved in outing racism, and I am surprised to see Mira using this argument. It’s the sort of argument that the professor himself might use in desperation once outed, but it is entirely specious. It is certainly not one that the victims of racism should use to justify keeping silent, because keeping silent means that the perpetrator is not punished and is encouraged to do it again.

  28. Blacklisted Dictator Says:

    David Hirsh concludes:
    “The point about this story is that it isn’t a big deal. He wouldn’t lose his job, he wouldn’t lose his academic reputation, he wouldn’t be thought of as a racist.

    He would be thought of somebody who was a victim of a Zionist smear campaign to de-legitimize his criticism of Israel, Plan Dalet etc.”

    Now let’s assume that David is correct. What’s the point of this web-site? Don’t you realize… there’s nothing that you can actually do to change anything?

    If The Prof was named, and it was all a bottle of beaujolais off an academic’s back, then it would at least show how the world currently works. And that would be an important step forward. Highlighting the problem, so that all can see it, is an extremely important part of the fight, that people like David, “engage” in.

  29. Blacklisted Dictator Says:

    Tarquin writes:

    “keeping silent means that the perpetrator is not punished and is encouraged to do it again.”

    Actually, it gives carte-blanche to other anti-semitic Profs. That is precisely why this issue is worth discussing. Now Eve Garrard might have personal reasons for not wanting to disclose the name, but such reasons should not muddy the parameters of this debate. Let’s be quite clear what the issues are.

  30. Blacklisted Dictator Says:

    Let’s pose this hypothetically:

    (1) Eve Garrard goes to a large acadmic dinner.

    (2) ‘Bloody Muslims,’ she says. ‘Bloody Muslims, bugger the Muslims, I’ve no sympathy for them.’

    Would she be outed? Or would they all sit around the table and keep shtumm forever more?

    I think that somebody would report her. I think that the story would reach The Guardian and Eve would be in serious trouble. She would be publicly villified as an Islamophobe, and would face some disciplinary hearing.

  31. Will Says:

    I just googled Eve Garrard’s name. It would be wonderful if everybody criticising her did as much as Eve has done over the years combating antisemitism and the academic boycott.

    Don’t whinge, organise !

  32. David Greenstein Says:

    Another angle to this:

    “We had 35 people in the room: 20 of them were non-Jewish, 15 were Jewish. And I didn’t tell anyone who was which. And I’d recruited them by telling them “we’re going to talk about Iraq, Iran and the Middle East,” not telling them that the real focus was Israel.”

    Got them all into the room. It was so crowded that we had kids sitting on the floor. But that added to the intensity. They felt like they were in a dorm room. And within 10 minutes, the non-Jews started with “the war crimes of Israel,” with “the Jewish lobby,” with “the Jews have a lot more power and influence” – stuff that’s borderline anti-Jewish.”

    “And guess what? Did the Jewish kids at the best schools in America, did they stand up for themselves? Did they challenge the assertions? They didn’t say sh*t. And in that group was the leader of the Israeli caucus at Harvard. It took him 49 minutes of this before he responded to anything.”

    http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=181565

  33. Jonathan Hoffman Says:

    Mira: “Jonathan Hoffman is bugging out because he doesn’t think anybody is doing enough, or keeping faith with anti-racism.”

    No that is not why I am “bugging out” – whatever that means.

    As Tarquin says, racism should have consequences.

    Jewbashing has been a costless option for far too long.

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      Jonathan, Tarquin, I agree that racism should have consequences, but taking a broad view of what constitutes ‘consequences’. Yes there is the direct disapproval, severing of links, and deserved revision of reputation, as in the case of James Watson, the geneticist who, in his professional capacity, said that black people are less intelligent than white people.

      But at Eve’s event we have a bunch of other people. I think we should consider them important actors in this account, and if Blacklisted Dictator is right about how different it would have been if the outburst had been about Muslims rather than Jews (which I have a hunch he is), then we should consider that a milestone has been reached in the decline of our society’s defences against antisemitism that the naming of one individual (whose lucidness at the time we can’t vouch for) is only going to be of limited use. I don’t wish to divert attention from the professor, but nobody commenting here in disagreement with Eve’s decision has been demanding to know the names of those bystanders, and with good reason – knowing who they are doesn’t help all that much. Nevertheless, you can call it English inhibition, some kind of societal trend or whatever, but whatever that silence was due to, it’s no less worrying for being normal.

      As for Eve’s decision not to name names and places, that doesn’t make her account inconsequential. The identifiers may be withheld, but the account is now part of the fabric of the web. Others know about it, will raise it as an example, will think about their own behaviour. Those are consequences, aren’t they, and I’d say they are fitting ones for something that happened at a social (even as it was academic) event.

  34. Isca Stieglitz Says:

    Dear Eve,
    I do get it and I’m sorry for you. It’s scary; with very similar ‘psychological mechanisms’ which prevent the reporting of other crimes, especially rape.
    What makes me more angry is the ‘Bystander Apathy’, you owe these folk, so called colleagues, nothing. They owe you so much more.
    Could you not now go through proper channels, (with Union support); get the other present colleagues to come forward? I, for one, would help you anyway I could.
    I don’t believe someone like this should continue to live a privileged life in an ivory tower. I think to myself, what if he were teaching my daughter?
    She would not be safe, the same way as other staff & students, especially females, are not safe; right now, working under or with him.
    I am going through a bullying & harassment case, with the help of my union, right now.
    I’m so scared, but the alternative was to live feeling ‘sick’ everyday.
    All the very best & do use us all for support. These posts & threads will count as evidence of ‘impact’.
    I mean it most respectfully when I quote…Feel the fear and do it anyway.
    With regards,
    Isca

    • Isca Stieglitz Says:

      Oops, forgot to add that my case is bad enough without the added anti-semitism of you experience.
      I still think other students & staff, jewish ones in this case, are now in a very unsafe position. This man has a message that he can do what he likes with impunity.
      Sadly, all too common eh?
      Best,
      Isca

  35. Lawz Says:

    Sometimes it’s sensible to go public and expose anti-Semites immediately you hear a racist comment being made; at others, it may be prudent to bide your time.

    It’s quite rare, in my experience, for an intelligent person to come out with something quite so overt as a reference to ‘the bloody Jews’. I suspect drink may have loosened this man’s tongue, and so his bile flowed forth unbidden.

    Although no less offensive, most antisemitism from the middle classes is far more subtle: we, who are accustomed to the innuendo of antisemitism, know what they mean. But non-Jews, or those Jews complacent or unaware of modern anti-Semitism may miss it completely.

    I’ve witnessed this type of subtle prejudice myself: in one case, it took the form of a snide reference to the Wailing Wall in a conversation otherwise completely unrelated to Judaism. A ‘friend’ and I were discussing a prominent brick wall around a large park. The friend then said with obvious sarcasm, “heh, a bit like the Wailing Wall, then…”.

    You can’t go and report this kind of thing.

    But it can be helpful to quietly observe a suspected anti-semite, noting each remark carefully, but waiting until they ‘drop the clanger’ before you expose them in full.

    It’s a shame that Eve Garrard didn’t grass up this particular bigot, though I daresay she had her reasons.

  36. vildechaye Says:

    RE: Eve is simply in the wrong here.

    Ridiculous. Why? Because you think you might have done differently in her situation? Easy to say when you’re not faced with it in a social setting, though, isn’t it. I bet you don’t have 10% of her guts given the same circumstances.

  37. Tarquin Says:

    What nonsense, vildechaye. You don’t know me from Adam, and yet you feel justified in hurling personal abuse at me. Why is that, I wonder? Is it because you yourself would be too gutless in that situation? Is that why you are projecting your own gutlessness on others?
    As I said, you don’t know me, and you have just lost your silly bet, because I HAVE done differently in her situation. I have done exactly what I am criticising Eve for not doing.

  38. Larry R Says:

    Apology? For what should he apologize? He has honestly shown himself to be what he is: a racist scumbag.

    One must also have faith in other people and hope that although these people heard his remarks and remained silent, they have made considered ethical and personal judgments about Eve and this other person. They know who is the racist boor and who is the gracious guest.

    Finally I am sure that there will be another occasion when he will again publicly proclaim his reprehensible views; then at this more appropriate time he will receive his comeuppance and the public shaming he so richly deserves.

  39. Brian Robinson Says:

    During the Clinicians’ Tour of West Bank hospitals and mobile clinics in November 2008 some of us were made extremely uncomfortable by a couple of participants making comments relating to the then recent appointment of Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff. The same people expanded these comments to relate them to reports that the firm Goldman Sachs had provided funding for Obama. At the time these kinds of innuendos were pervasive on antisemitic websites.

    The people making these remarks were clearly recapitulating a Weimar Republic cartoonist style, depicting a caricature of the rich Jewish banker capitalist.

    When you’re with a small group of people on a tour of this kind, you don’t want to upset feelings of solidarity and mutual support, and those of us (Jewish) who were disturbed by the antisemitic sentiments expressed did not say anything (except amongst ourselves) until we had returned to the UK.

    Our group continued discussions by email, and a couple of us directly challenged the antisemitism we had experienced (but without directly naming the perpetrators, correctly believing that everyone knew whom we were talking about). In one email I wrote, “There is a vast distinction to be drawn between those who criticise Israel perfectly legitimately and those who are using Israel merely as a peg on which to hang their antisemitism”.

    The point was made by another colleague that many Jewish individuals and groups in the UK, and increasingly in the US, feel ill at ease about what is going on in Israel and the Occupied Territories, but that “virulent diatribes against ‘Zionists’ which are virtually cut-and-paste copies of anti-Semitic propaganda alienate many otherwise sympathetic people”.

    The group received a response from the main perpetrator (cf “Qui s’excuse s’accuse” perhaps?), but directed at myself and my colleague who wrote heatedly as follows (I extract from a longer diatribe): “And you and [Dr X] concern yourselves with ‘anti-semitism’ when a people are crying out for warm hearts to embrace them. Shame on you and shame on [Dr X] for raising it”. There was much more in this vein.

    This is the same colleague whom I quoted in a recent Guardian CiF response who emailed me referring to “the crucifixion of Palestine”. The context this time was a short sequence of emails in which I had tried to put a case for widening the diameter of our focus, i.e. to include all state human rights abusers, not merely Israel (the specific issue was alleged medical complicity in torture during interrogation of suspects). My aforementioned antisemitic colleague denounced me again, this time for remonstrating with an American professor for writing this:-

    “The fact is that Zionist influence spreads far beyond Israel’s area of dominion and has, for a long while now, exerted a corrupting power within many of the policy making institutions of western governments, and particularly that of the United States. In other words, unlike the Russians or the Chinese and other such governments, the Israelis and their supporters
    directly influence the policy makers of our own countries and this often results in our abetting Israel’s crimes. This makes it imperative that Zionist Israel be made a high priority case from among the many other oppressive regimes that may very well be candidates for boycott.”

    I confess that although I reacted very strongly against this rhetoric, I just did not know how to deal with it, and I am grateful to David Hirsh whom I consulted on the issue. His analysis helped me to recognise the Jewish-power-Jewish-conspiracy worldview behind the replacing of the word ‘Zionist’ for the word ‘Jewish’. I also began to understand – belatedly – how the significance of the Israel-Palestine conflict has been inflated by those with the habit of putting Jews at the centre of everything.

    I realise that I should not have found trying to think about this conflict, and the way it is discussed, as profoundly disorientating as I have. To some, the issue is crystal clear, but to others the issue is just as crystal clear the opposite way. I’ve used an analogy before derived from my previous practice as a psychiatrist – for example you go into a family situation and find the same facts described in incompatible ways by those in conflict. Conscientiously you listen to everyone, try to empathise, ask yourself how they must be framing it to see it this (or that) way.

    Sometimes there’s no answer and you – and they – have to live with uncertainty, ambiguity, irresolvability. That might often be the outcome for stretches of a lifetime in psychiatry, but it hardly serves as a way of dealing with political conflict. Sorry this has been rather a long post.

    • Brian Robinson Says:

      I forgot that the professor (of history) added, after the paragraph I’ve quoted above, this:-

      ‘So you see, Mr. Robinson, I would not agree to any “tactical withdrawal.” The world is undoubtedly a mess and has been for a long while. However, while there are many horrible local diseases raging across the globe, Zionism represents an infectious one that our own governments (including the UK) have caught. We have to treat it first just because it is infectious.’ (Italics his)

      I’d like to quote more from his email because it seems to encapsulate so many of the common prejudices in such a concentrated form, but I’m not sure if I should. Is it ethical to quote publicly from emails without permission? Do you think I should ask the writer’s permission? (I’m guessing that he might be delighted to have his views promulgated.)

  40. Blacklisted Dictator Says:

    Brian Robinson,

    Zionism as an “infectious disease”??

    The Prof of history would have been well aware that the Nazis compared Jews to vermin. So his views are hardly original.

  41. Joseph Says:

    Very sorry to hear about this.

    Joseph W

  42. Joshua Says:

    “Zionism as an “infectious disease”??”

    “The Jew’s life as a parasite in the body of other nations and states explains a characteristic which once caused Schopenhauer, as hasalready been mentioned, to call him the ‘great master in lying.’ ” – Adolf Hitler

  43. zkharya Says:

    I want to thank Brian Robinson for his contribution. I wonder if one may deduce from him that the conference was the recent one on clinical ethics at Cardiff, my current university. I am even more curious as to whether it is a Cardiff professor.

  44. zkharya Says:

    Also, Brian, I think the contents of emails are the property of the sender by law, and they can object, strictly, to their publication.

  45. Tarquin Says:

    Letters belong to the recipient under English law. At least, they always used to do. I suspect that emails are deemed to be letters.

    Sorry, I don’t buy the argument that you say nothing about explicitly antisemitic comments in order to preserve the ‘camaraderie’ and ‘friendly professional spirit’ (or words to that effect) of the trip. This attitude is one of the reasons why racism has persisted for so long, and specifically why antisemitism has persisted for so long: people give it and its perpetrators a free pass, a free Get out of jail card.
    Until people stop being afraid to meet it head on and to make a big fuss, it will continue unabated.

  46. Blacklisted Dictator Says:

    Tarquin,
    I think that subconsciously many Jews feel….

    “Well that antisemite doesn’t like me. If I make a big fuss about the antisemitic remark then he/she will like me even less. So I better keep quiet. And if I start complaining, I will become an obnoxious Jew. And the antisemite will then be justified in hating me.”

  47. Tarquin Says:

    Blacklisted Dictator,
    You may well be right. If so, it’s very sad when we know where this thinking led in our parents’ and grandparents’ generation.

    Mira,
    I fail to see the relevance of not asking for the names of the bystanders. Since the posters have already declined to name the principal players, they are not going to give us clues by naming those with walk-on parts, are they?

    “Others know about it, will raise it as an example, will think about their own behaviour. Those are consequences, aren’t they?”
    Well, no, they are not. The Web is full of examples of antisemitism. Harry’s Place alone could float a batteship on them, examples from academia through the courts to the civil service. Examples where people like Jonathan stood up to antisemites, examples where senior civil servants foamed at the mouth without Jews being around (as far as they and we know), and so on. Those antisemites were named. One more example from academia without a name adds nothing to our knowledge of the extent of this disease in Britain, or to our ability to combat it.

  48. Blacklisted Dictator Says:

    Tarquin,
    The psychology underlying this actually might be even more self-destructive. In the back of a Jew’s head is the awful feeling that the antsemite might be right. After all, lets say, we are uncertain about the morality of the Zionist dream. Perhaps we feel ambivalent about the way that Israel has treated the Palestinians. We might even feel ashamed. Now the antisemite, spots this confusion. How are we to confront him? After all, are we actively plotting for Israel’s demise? And if we are not, are we somehow complicit in the Zionist enterprise? And, in such circumstances, is it not reasonable that the antisemitic finger is pointed directly in our direction?

  49. Brian Robinson Says:

    zkharya — thank you for your appreciative comment — I felt sad that I had to write the account and my only regret is that I should have done it earlier. The prof’s remarks and the medical colleague’s table-talk weren’t at Cardiff — the former were in emails to a small group concerned about medical complicity with “enhanced interrogation techniques” and the latter was either in Bethlehem or Jerusalem — but nothing to do with Eve’s account. (Sorry if I’ve misunderstood your question, but I wanted to clarify.)

    Tarquin, you’re right and under normal circumstances I never let antisemitic remarks or innuendos pass unchallenged. It’s arguable that we should have called the doctor out on it at the time (hmm… I don’t mean *that* kind of calling out). We probably thought we should but felt we shouldn’t. Anyway, we did, strongly, when we got home — but he’s insightless and impervious. Even when he’s being antisemitic he “knows” he’s not antisemitic.

    I’m not sure about publicly copying emails — there’s a netiquette about it (or there used to be). Actually copying the rest of them here wouldn’t add anything new — it’s really more of the same, only with increasingly emetic effect. Perhaps all would be glad to be spared!

  50. Thomas Venner Says:

    There’s another thing that nobody seems to have mentioned here yet – considering the situation in many of our universities now, unless any of the other people who witnessed the incident can be persuaded to back Eve up on this, she could be risking her career by reporting it. If she reports it alone, without anyone else to back her up, the un-named professor can easily just say that she’s lying or “misrepresenting” his words, that all he was doing was “criticising Israel” and that this is a perfect example of a “Zionist” trying to silence this “legitimate criticism” by making false accusations of anti-Semitism against him. As a result, Eve could be hounded out of her job. Anyone who wants to criticise her for not naming the professor in question or making a formal complaint about his behaviour to the university in question should bear that in mind.

  51. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Thomas, two things: one, Eve is retired so has no job to be hounded out of, so she doesn’t have that concern dogging her – although you might not have known that. However, you are right to bring it up: the apparently powerful (such as the unnamed Prof) always have allies prepared to side with them, if only to curry favour or avoid being the victim themselves in future. Bullying is never nice and I was the attempted victim at least three times in my career, each time by the Head of a different Dept. I stood up to it (as a tu member and branch officer I knew I had the union on my side if it had gone any further) but wasn’t supported by anyone else at the time.

    Secondly, no-one, apart from the equally (and correctly) unnamed Moslem lecturer, stood up to the antisemitic and sexist Prof at the time. Why should they in the future?

    • Thomas Venner Says:

      Sorry, I didn’t know that Eve was retired, my mistake there. The point does still stand, though, with regards to the other witnesses – if Eve was going to report this without running the risk of having her reputation dragged through the mud with false accuations of trying to “silence criticism of Israel”, she would need to get several witnesses to back her up in order to back each other up as well so that they won’t be hounded out of their jobs. The problem is that none of them are willing to stand up and do this because they don’t know that the others will be willing to do the same. This is a major problem at the moment – the “anti-Zionist lobby”, as I think it is appropriate to call it, has such a strong hold over our universities that to criticise them in any significant way without having equally strong-willed supporters to help make your case can put you in very hot water.

  52. PaulK Says:

    I’ve been away so just catching up on this.

    What doesn’t appear to have been mentioned so far is that – as an academic – the unnamed antisemite at the unnamed university will be protected by the university’s charter which will have, as they all do, something along the lines of: “Academic staff employed by the University shall have freedom within the law to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, and to test and question received wisdom, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their privileges or their jobs”.

    Antisemitic ranting may well be considered – by some though clearly not all – as controversial or unpopular, but it’s not illegal, and university charters would appear to give academics the freedom to spout any old pernicious rubbish Though – as it’s already been pointed out – I bet it would have been completely different if he’d used the ‘n’ word and ranted about racial superiority and intelligence, or, alternatively, if he had NOT been an academic member of staff.

  53. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Well, sort of, PaulK. It is possible to imagine (though one might need a vivid imagination) a scenario in which the University authorities in question might wonder about said academic’s attitude towards Jewish students, especially given his reported comment to the Moslem academic who suggested that his apology be directed towards Eve and not the other members of the table.

    It is very easy to discriminate against students who display certain attitudes, never mind a particular ethnicity, unless one polices oneself with great care. Someone who blurts out the sort of comments reported by Eve is unlikley to be _that_ self-aware, unfortunately.

    Though, as you suggest, it might be a pious hope that university authorities care that much if it doesn’t hit the media, especially the national media.

  54. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    A further thought (with apologies for the delay): “Antisemitic ranting may well be considered – by some though clearly not all – as controversial or unpopular, but it’s not illegal…” Actually, it _may_ (stress _may_) be unlawful. It might depend on the reading of the Race Relations Acts, and the court in question. See the debates about the continually proposed boycott by the UCU and _its_ legality.

  55. Tarquin Says:

    Brian,
    I could have sworn I had already addressed that point early on, but perhaps not.
    The UCU’s proposed boycott has been stated by experts in the field to be illegal, which presumably why the union’s leadership has decided to step back from the brink and not implement it.
    As to antisemitic ranting in public: I have sought advice privately, and there is no doubt in my advisor’s mind about its illegality under the RRA (which is in place precisely to cover such situations, inter alia). As to ‘the court in question’: well, yes, I have pretty much given up on the courts after the infamous Hove judgement, which frankly throws us back to the Dark Ages and forms part of Britain’s determination to commit national suicide as a civilised country. Peres is entirely right, unfortunately.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      “I could have sworn I had already addressed that point early on, but perhaps not.” Be careful about what you swear by!

      Unfacetiously, there’s, quite literally, no answer to that.


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