The EUMC definition says it may, in some contexts, be antisemitic to accuse Jews of being more loyal to Israel than to their union; to say Israel is a racist endeavour; to apply double standards; to boycott Israelis but not others for the same violations; to say that Israeli policy is like Nazi policy; to hold Jews collectively responsible for the actions of Israel. All of these things have been going on a lot inside the academic unions for the last eight years. Instead of addressing the antisemitic culture, the leadership of the union now proposes to alter the definition of antisemitism. The union wants to carry on treating ‘Zionists’ as disloyal; singling out Israel and only Israel for boycott; holding Israeli universities responsible for their government; allowing ‘Zionist’ union members to be denounced as Nazis or supporters of apartheid.
The precise form that bullying typically takes within UCU is that people who complain about antisemitism are accused of doing so in bad faith in a dishonest attempt to outlaw criticism of Israel. The antisemitism isn’t seen, isn’t acknowledged, the accuser is accused; and Israel is blamed for the unseen and unacknowledged antisemitism.
The new motion makes this form of bullying into official union policy. Even though the definition says that ‘criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic’, the new motion declares that the definition outlaws criticism and is intended to silence debate.
UCU will now oppose all bigotry except for one particular category: racism which can be said to resemble criticism of Israel. UCU will oppose racist and religious antisemitism, but political antisemitism will be protected under the new policy.
Israel murders children? Not antisemitic. Israel controls US foreign policy? Not antisemitic. Magen David = Swastika stuck on your office door? Not antisemitic. Jews invent antisemitism to de-legitimise criticism of Israel? Not antisemitic. Host a man found guilty of hate speech by the South African Human Rights commission? Not antisemitic. Exclude nobody but Israelis from the global academic community? Not antisemitic.
It is clear now how antisemitism against Israelis far away, in the form of a boycott campaign, also threatens ‘zionists’ within the union. We have learnt that the boycott campaign brings antisemitism with it into any organisation which treats it as one side in a legitimate debate. UCU have understood it too, now. The only thing left for them, now, is to change the defiinition of antisemitism so that they fall outside of it.
People ought to be clear: they ought to specify precisely what it is they want to say and to do which would be defined as antisemitic by the EUMC definition. Then we will understand why they want so much to dump it.