Time to leave UCU argues Eve Garrard

Eve Garrard

Eve Garrard writes:

… Continued membership of the UCU now involves complicity with this exercise in denial. It is appalling that the Union has put its members in the position of having to forego Union protection or collude with Union discrimination. Like many others, I always believed that people had a duty to join their union and to support it; but this belief rested on a prior assumption that unions wouldn’t discriminate against their members. That assumption is no longer a reliable one where the Jewish members of the UCU are concerned. It’s increasingly evident that this institution is one in which Jewish concerns about racism, unlike all other concerns about racism, are dismissed as unimportant, with the Jews who have these concerns being derided as dishonest and manipulative. It’s time for Jews who are unwilling to collude with this treatment, unwilling to accept the role of lower-class citizen which the Union is scripting for them, to leave the Union.

Read the whole piece on Normblog

For the resignation letter of Dennis Noble, Michael Yudkin and David Smith, click here.

Here are links to a number of other previous resignations and statements of concern, relating to antisemitism in the union, writen by members.

This is Michael Yudkin’s case against the academic boycott of Israel.

This link reports that there are no longer any Jews left in UCU who are willing or able to oppose the boycott view at UCU Congress.

This is the Oxford motion relating to Bonganu Masuku, found guilty of antisemitic hate speech by the South African Human Rights Commission, which was rejected by UCU Congress.

This is the formal complaint relating to antisemitism in UCU that David Hirsh made and which was rejected by UCU.

6 Responses to “Time to leave UCU argues Eve Garrard”

  1. Brian Robinson Says:

    I’m not an academic so can only comment as an outsider. The Working Definition states, “However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic”. The UCU could have expressed, and could still express, its collective disapproval of Israeli policies and remain free of the taint of racism.

    My impression (right? wrong?) is that it’s only a relative few amongst the membership pushing for boycott — they’re noisy, energetic and (mostly) articulate. But, again as an outsider, I don’t understand why it hasn’t been possible to “[alter] the behaviour of the leadership or [galvanize] the membership to resist the leadership’s obsessions”, as Eve notes in her piece.

    Eve refers to “the majority of union members, who I am quite sure have no interest in boycotting Israel and who would vote against doing so by a huge majority if they were ever given the chance … nonetheless content to remain silent as their leaders dance the Union down the well-paved path to institutionalized anti-Semitism”.

    Is this laziness, passivity, indifference, complicity, timidity? Do the bystanders have too many problems of their own to get involved?

    There seems to be a whiff of totalitarianism about all this, a groupthink with elements of mass hysteria, evidence of vulnerability to pathological suggestibility; probably combined, in some cases, with a self-justifying and misplaced moral narcissism.

    But to this outsider it’s a shocking thought that people might resign their membership en masse. Shouldn’t somebody keep goal while others muster the fightback?

    • Harry Goldstein Says:


      As to why the members don’t change the policy, you have to understand how these things work. The policy is made by those who are elected as delegates to the annual congress, and these are usually the extremists.

      Why is that? Because the people who sit on the branch committees and do the work are the ones who will tend to be elected as delegates. The extremists are ideologically committed to taking these roles – indeed, for organisations like the SWP, it is a requirement that they become activists in their union. The rest of us, who have no ambition to take these roles (we want to get on with our jobs and have a life) effectively have no chance of being elected. It isn’t that most members agree with the extremists’ politics, it’s that they are (properly) concerned about bread and butter union issues, and understandably feel that those who do the day to day work in the branch should represent them at congress. Also, the election of delegates takes place at a branch AGM to which only a small (probably also unrepresentative) proportion of members bothers to turn up.

      The other approach is to seek to mandate the delegates. This will also take place at a branch meeting (see problem above). However, there is a further problem of getting the branch officers to make the time at a meeting. In our branch a couple of us have tried this on occasion, only to be told that there isn’t time to discuss these issues because we have to concentrate on the current industrial disputes. Ironic or what?

      However, whether as Eve says we ought to leave the union, is a moot point. Being a member at least enables us to make the case within the branch, and we have found that small local successes are possible. Is this enough reason to stay? Not sure.

      • Brian Robinson Says:

        Thanks very much Harry. I see the problem better now. I don’t know if things are different in the BMA — every few years something comes through the post with advance notice of a postal ballot, consisting of potted CVs (with photos) of the various candidates, almost all of whom I’ve not heard. One can read through the CVs and vote for the most convincing ones (although it’s also possible simply not to bother).

        The BMA over the past few years has (controversially) resisted considerable pressure from activist members to issue declarations, to make representations (public and private) to the World Medical Association etc in respect of allegations of complicity by the Israeli Medical Association in so-called enhanced interrogation of suspects (aka torture, as practiced by some professionals in the USA, UK etc etc — with complicity by some doctors).

        The BMA is probably very different from the UCU, perhaps larger for a start? But at one time there was a very lively (ie acrimonious) correspondence in the pages of the BMJ on the issue of Israel. I suppose it’s much more difficult for fringey activists to get hold of the levers of power in a union which, however progressive many of its members may be individually, is probably still essentially quite conservative. (Although it did get considerably involved in anti-nuclear-weapons issues in the 80s).

        I hope all this gets wide coverage in the national press and broadcast media. Lecturers are for the most part paid out of public funds (I believe). Has an MP asked a question of the Secretary of State in the House? Should a question not be asked?

  2. Ex-UCU Says:

    It seems to me that we are dealing here with something that cannot be reduced to matters of Israel.

    The NEC has proposed a motion that assumes (mainly) Jews lie when they raise the question of antisemitism and that the purpose of their dishonesty is to “silence debate” about Israel.
    It is to counter this Zionist/Jewish dishonesty that they have proposed the motion.
    The motion is antisemitic – antisemitic in its assumptions, antisemitic in its practice and effects.

    In the USA, a group has been formed called “Move Over Aipac”.
    It says its aim is to counter “Zionist’s stranglehold” over US Middle East policy.

    Like the UCU NEC motion, its premis is that Zionists/Jews are in a position to determine policy of the most powerful state on Earth even against that state’s own interests.

    In Hungary, politicians claim that Israel is seeking to undermine Hungary for its own interests.

    Marches and demonstrations are held under the auspices of this claim.

    None of these motions have anything to do with Israel and Palestine.

    They have everything to do with antisemitism and the way in which it has increasingly become not only an acceptable apect of contemporary political debate, but also how it is put to service in the most diverse circumstances and context.

    In proposing this motion UCU is taking an active and forward role in diseminating and legitimising the praxis of antisemitism

  3. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    At one level, it’s easy for people like Eve and me to suggest that people should leave the union (as I do to Alex, below). After all, we’re retired and, hopefully, will never need its services ever again. We probably have good friends who can point us in the direction of where to obtain the services of the sort of professionals the union would otherwise provide us with. And we have better uses for the money.

    Yet, it’s the very fact of retirement that enable us to do this. We are, to a degree, distanced (as Norm acknowledges in the last paragraph of another normblog post that Eve links to) and thus have less of a bias than those still in paid employment. And it gets tiring not being listened to, being patronised by people who are no better educated than we are, who have, voluntarily, taken on important roles in a trade union, and then spend their (our) time _not_ pursuing matters related to pay and conditions and general employment levels.

    What’s worse is that they keep telling us what is and isn’t antisemitism _without_ any reference to definitions, because, as Eve notes, a definition would oblige them to be not antisemitic. They ignore the actual implementation of laws and practices based, in effect, on the EUMC Working Definition, because to acknowledge it would, as Eve notes, hamstring their activities.

    These people are academics and would-be intellectuals. They demean both terms.

  4. The tipping point for UCU -David Hirsh « Engage – the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism Says:

    […] and the penalising of anti-boycott activists; the failure to engage with people who raised concerns; the failure to address resignations; the refusal to meet the OSCE’s special represenative on antisemitism; the hosting of Bongani […]

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