Trevor Philips and Sally Hunt respond to the JLC letter

The Jewish Leadership Council has published two responses which it has received relating to the letter it sent to Sally Hunt concerning antisemitism in the UCU.

The Chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission has responded.  Click here for a pdf of Trevor phillips’ letter.

He says that he is “surprised” that UCU had brought the motion on the definition of antisemitism “without consulting the EHRC” at all.

He expects UCU’s National Executive Committee to discuss the motion with the EHRC as Britain’s National Human Rights Institution, even if it passes

 EHRC stands by the MacPhearson Report, which requires organisations to start from the perception of the victim. Trevor Phillips says:

 “..if the object of harrasment or attack regards her treatment as being anti-semitic, even if the perpetrator maintains that their action is politically motivated, the presumption is that the victim’s perception is what defines the incident”.

 On the issue of reporting incidents –  both for students on campus and academics inside UCU – he says: “Nothing should be able to prevent Jewish students (or any other group, for that matter) being able to complain of harrasment, racism or anti-semitism”

 He suggests that there could be legal problems under Human Rights and Equality law if the motion is fully enacted.

The General Secretary of UCU has responded.  Click here for a pdf of Sally Hunt’s response.

She says:

1. UCU opposes antisemitism and there will probably  be some sort of statement to this effect at Congress.

 2. UCU still endorses the MacPhearson definition of racism

 3. She specifically asks for a meeting to discuss how UCU should define antisemitism.

 4. The letter ignores any references to antisemitism within UCU itself.

David Hirsh writes:

What Sally Hunt seems to be doing is continuing the compromise with the boycotters in the union which she has been relying upon for some years now.

She allows antisemitic debates at Congress and she allows antisemitic motions to be passed by Congress.  She allows the SWP and the boycotters to whip up the Jew-baiting atmosphere within the Union.  She protects them from any charges of antisemitism.  She does not speak up against antisemitism.

Her price is that none of this nonsense is ever implemented, so the union doesn’t get sued.  She doesn’t want trouble from the TUC or from Trevor Philips or from the courts.

The leadership has not allowed the union to adopt a policy of boycott.  But the price has been a slow but relentless gain for the politics of BDS and the denial of antisemitism which comes with it, in the union.

Sally Hunt will be up for re-election during the next year.  She is afraid that the beast she has been feeding for the last five years will eat her too.  And it might.  The SWP controlled Broad left faction may well stand a candidate against her.

Expect Sally Hunt to look for the support of people who oppose antisemitism in the union.

13 Responses to “Trevor Philips and Sally Hunt respond to the JLC letter”

  1. Brian Robinson Says:

    Here’s something for the UCU to get cross about, although perhaps they have?
    14,000 British professors – but only 50 are black
    Guardian, 28-5-11

  2. Rebecca Says:

    From this side of the Atlantic, it looks like Sally Hunt has been worse than useless. When the open letter from presidents of American universities was published a few years ago, she gave utterly mealy-mouthed and misleading answers to those who asked if their charges were true. At least on this issue she is a follower not a leader.

  3. Sarah AB Says:

    Isn’t the Broad Left the more moderate wing? (As opposed to UCU Left.)

    • David Hirsh Says:

      Yes, the Broad Left opposes the boycott. But:

      1. It has been ineffective. It keeps losing.

      2. It has been timid in speaking up against BDS. Its key people sometimes don’t bother to speak against the boycott at all – perhaps it is bad for their cred. It hasn’t been effective in working with the opponents of the boycott.

      2. It has done nothing to speak out against antisemitism in the union or on the activist list. Indeed at least one of its key people was involved in the move to have people excluded.

      3. Some of its key people are soft on the politics of boycott and antizionism.

      Last time Sally Hunt stood for election Engage backed her. We campaigned for her on the strength of her anti-boycott promises. I, personally, won’t be backing her again, since she didn’t deliver either resistance to the boycotters or opposition to antisemitism. She facilitated the boycott campaign. Under her leadership, the union became ever more inhospitable to Jewish members – apart from antizionist Jews who felt very comfortable.

      I’d back you, Sarah, if you stood.

  4. Gideon Swort Says:

    Looking at Mr. Trevor Philips’ response, one would be encouraged to:

    1) Amass all racism complaints by former and present members of AUT, NATFEH and UCU.

    2) Collate the aforementioned union’s response to these complaints.

    3) Out of these responses, one would have to examine the procedure with which the union processed and investigated these complaints.

    4) Examine the actions taken by the union in view of these complaints, and establish whether there’s any difference between treatment of a “common garden” racism complaint and one pertaining to Antisemitsm.

    The data could be requested (sequestered?) by any current or former AUT, NATFEH, UCU member with an appropriate application (injunction?).

    Having read Ms. Hunt’s positive response to Mr. Davis’ letter, I’m confident that she would welcome, even initialize the above detailed process to clear up any allusions or presumptions pertaining to institutionalized racism within the UCU, once and for all.

  5. Absolute Observer Says:

    “3. She specifically asks for a meeting to discuss how UCU should define antisemitism.”

    Yeah, right. So Hunt might be able to buy some time
    to set up a “meeting” on antisemitism.

    With whom?
    Tom – let’s ask those found culpable of antisemitic hate speech to educate the Untion – Hickey?
    Mike – Jews fund the Labour Party – Cushman?
    etc. etc.

    Or, will she call on those with some real expertise, such as EHRC? EU? the Parliamentary Committee on Antisemitism? The CST (no, not the last two) – for many in UCU, no doubt, they are simply a Zionist front – part of the problem not the solution.)

    My guess – just another stitch up that culminates in a banal statement that UCU opposes all forms of racism, including antisemitism and, when incidents of antisemitism within the Union are raised, will use such a statement as “proof” that it cannot be so.

    Or she could simply accept the EUCM working defintion as, erm, a “working defintion”.

    Problem is that for the UCU NEC the real issue is as much those who have no other recourse than to rely on it as it s the EUMC document itself.

    Perhaps, Hunt and the UCU can convene a meeting that not only deals with the problem of defining antisemitism, but also deals with the problem of lying Jews.

    After all, that is as much the essence of the NEC motion as the definition itself.

    Hunt misrepresents the motion as being “about” antisemitism.

    It is antisemitism in itself.

    The fact that Hunt ignores that fact says it all about UCU’s “commitment” to the fight against anti-Jewish racism.

  6. Brian Robinson Says:

    The classic, although too simple, working definition of antisemitism is hostility to Jews *as* Jews or simply *because* they are Jews. But Brian Klug’s reworking of this definition in a number of essays has always appealed to me.

    For example, in a 2003 essay for ‘Patterns of Prejudice’ (vol 37, no 2), he asks, “Who, then, are the ‘Jews’ that the antisemite hates — or fears or despises or envies or admires?” and after listing the classic antisemitic stereotypings and malevolent pathological projections that have wilfully depicted Jews falsely, he argues that “In short, antisemitism is the process of turning Jews into ‘Jews’. More recently he has put this even more pithily: “Antisemitism is a form of hostility to Jews as Jews, where Jews are perceived as something other than what they are. Or more succinctly: hostility to Jews as *not* Jews”.

    “The ‘Jew’ towards whom the antisemite feels hostile is not a real Jew at all … Thinking that Jews are really ‘Jews’ is precisely the core of antisemitism.”

    Now I know that Klug’s views are not shared by everyone, and perhaps not by everyone who contributes to Engage, but it seems to me that in this instance they could form one of a number of starting points for a possible response to Hunt’s invitation.

    Ms Hunt writes, “The UCU has consistently expressed its abhorrence of antisemitism and will continue to do so”, but I think it was Bertrand Russell who once wrote (although I can’t trace the exact quotation), you never know exactly what you’re asserting until you know precisely what you’re denying.

    UCU needs, on this issue, to say not so much what it believes to be true, but to be very precise as to what it is denying. Of course what it *thinks* it’s denying might not in effect really be what it is denying.

  7. modernityblog Says:

    There is a disparity which must be obvious to the academics in UCU.

    If you are going to reject a particular definition, be it a historical one, sociological or even scientific, then generally you would advance one of your own, or at least *try*

    In this case, that the opponents of the EUMC working draft should take it upon themselves to draw up some reasoned definition of antisemitism as they see it, and in doing so logically defend their position, ie “we don’t like that one, but here is our alternative….” etc

    But it is noticeable that they don’t adopt this approach.

    Perhaps such a line of thinking hasn’t occured to them? Or could it be that they are not intellectually up to the job of defining antisemitism?

  8. Ex-UCU Says:

    “My guess – just another stitch up that culminates in a banal statement that UCU opposes all forms of racism, including antisemitism and, when incidents of antisemitism within the Union are raised, will use such a statement as “proof” that it cannot be so.”

    Read Hunt’s letter. It is exactly as you say.
    UCU and its predecessor unions have always opposed antisemitism, etc. etc. etc.
    Banal rubbish that let’s UCU off the hook. And, why? because UCU says it opposes antisemitism.

    Pure BS.

  9. Analogy Says:

    I know people who, whilst eating a mouthful of a cream cake insist they are on diet.

    I have read comments by `UCU activists that are four squared antisemitic who insist they are not antisemitic.

  10. Absolute Observer Says:


    The problem for UCU is that they have sought a distinction between the EUMC definition (with the wider claim that criticism of Israel can never ever be antisemitic or, rather, be expressed in antisemitic on the one hand and “genuine antisemitism” on the other.
    This distinction is unsustainable, unless, of course, they reduce “antisemitism” to its far right, “racial”type (1871-1945).
    As Gidley shows, such a “definition” ignores the fluidity of racist and antisemitism phenomena. One need only look at the recent resurgence of the Lobby thesis (which is not defined, indeed, was never defined, even by the nazis, in race terms; nor, for that matter blood libel nor Jews equals liars).

    As Hannah Arendt notes at the start of he dissection of antisemitism, antisemitism, if not by name, has been present for a very long time prior to its utilisation by nazism.

    Rather than dealing with the phenomenon itself, my guess is that UCU will magic it away through semantic construction and, having done so, claim antisemitism does not/cannot exist in the Union.

    And, to follow Arendt again, the totalitarian aspect of such semantics is hard to miss.

    After all, as he says, once Stalin declared the Moscow subway to be the finest in the world, it became the finest in the world.


  11. Absolute Observer Says:

    You are dead right. Antisemitism has never confronted “real” Jews; indeed, if it did, it could not imagine a millionth of what it imagines. In short, antisemitism tells us nothing whatsoever about Jews.
    What it does do is to rip people out of their myriad social relations and reifies one particular aspect (their being a Jew; although even this is not necessary). It then imposes of this figure a multitude of crimes and onmipotence.

    And on a more general point, the lack of any real understanding of what antisemitism is, its social and political origins, etc. is a problem. More often than not, it is reduced to a “subjective” feeling devoid of all “objective” reality or as an irrational “longest hatred”.

    Somewhere or other Hirsh argues that antisemitism is a distortion of social relations in which Jews (as Jews) are involved. Nowhere is this point more in evidence than in “debates” over Israel and Palestine.

    However, the difference with the motion on the EUMC’s working definition is that it is not based on anything real or actual, but on a libelous myth that Jews lie and silence debate by raising the question of antisemitism.

    That motion is not a distortion of actually-reality, but is a motion whose whole rationale is antisemitic. It is antisemitism building upon antisemitism; a motion that endows jews with a malevolent omnipotence that, as noted, has nothing whatsoever to do with real Jews, but only a fantastic image of Jewry.

  12. Ex-UCU Says:

    “one of a number of starting points for a possible response to Hunt’s invitation.”

    That assumes good faith on behalf of Sally Hunt.
    After years of allowing motion after motion through, on refusing in all this time to take serioulsy complaints of members on the proliferation of antisemitism in the UCU,

    In the light of these facts, I am not inclined to assume such bona fide on Hunt’s behalf.

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