Richard Kuper, ‘Asa Jew’…

UPDATE: Writing of the usual quality from Antony Lerman:

…But the truth is that, given the genesis of the ‘working definition’, which in my view was a scandal, the fulminations of the Jewish establishment, the CST, Engage, John Mann MP, the World Union of Jewish Students etc. over the UCU vote are farcical. Certainly, the UCU activists who pressed for the adoption of Motion 70 are not angelic philosophical types approaching this issue with nothing but defence of the purity of academic research in mind. They have a political agenda in relation to Israel-Palestine and they’re fighting for it and their tactics are not pretty. It’s not an agenda I share, but as Professor David Newman of Ben Gurion University, who spent a few years in the UK combating proposals to institute a boycott of Israeli academic, concluded, it’s a political fight that needs to be fought with political arguments, not with accusations of antisemitism.

The critics of the UCU decision don’t seem to understand this. They think nothing of accusing Jews who see things differently from them of being antisemitic. At one moment they tell us the ‘working definition’ is ‘the EU definition’ (which it isn’t and it never was). The next moment they tell us it’s only advisory and is a work in progress. They manipulate the findings of the report of the Macpherson inquiry into the killing of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence and falsely claim it decreed that only members of the group who experience racism can define what that racism consists of – so that anyone who denies Jews exclusive rights to define what is and what is not antisemitism – i.e. the UCU – is antisemitic.

Lerman’s whole piece is well worth reading, it is a classic of the genre.  Here.


Richard Kuper is one of the leading voices in Jews for Justice for Palestinians.  He is fond of speaking “as a Jew”.  He has written a piece on the EUMC working definition:

“… the EUMC working definition has little to do with fighting antisemitism and a lot to do with waging a propaganda war against critics of Israel. It is time it was buried and the UCU decision to take it on is hopefully a step in that direction. The fight against antisemitism should not be muddied by those who confuse criticism of Israeli violations of human rights and international law with hatred of Jews. It is clearly no such thing.”

The whole thing is well worth reading, here.

Robert Fine responds to Richard Kuper’s piece:

To my mind this article misses the point. UCU’s decision to ‘redefine’ antisemitism and to ditch the EUMC definition is based on the absurd proposition that no criticism of Israel – from any source, of any kind – can be construed as antisemitic. What the much reviled EUMC definition says is that some forms of ‘criticism’ of Israel should be recognised as antisemitic and it makes a provisional stab at providing criteria to help us judge where criticism ends and antisemitic abuse kicks in. These criteria are not perfect but they provide a start. Take an analogy. Criticism of the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe is of course legitimate but some kinds of ‘criticism’ – e.g. ‘criticism’ based on the notion that black people don’t have the capacity to govern themselves – is manifestly racist. It doesn’t require a ‘behind closed doors’ conspiracy to see this. UCU doesn’t object to the particular criteria the EUMC offered some years back; rather they object to the whole project of distinguishing antisemitic abuse and political critique when it come to Israel. UCU should be utterly ashamed of themselves for what they have done and antiracists should campaign to have this resolution repealed.

Richard Kuper was wheeled out in the debate at UCU Congerss by Sue Blackwell, when she told Congress that it was his position that concern for antisemitism was an affection of those who were trying to lead a “strong fightback by Israel and its supporters” against criticism.

Richard’s piece is also endorsed by Ran Greenstein: “Another (better and more thorough) effective refutation of the manufactured hysteria of pro-Israel-state-apologists, by Richard Kuper”.

Why do the  ’68 radicals, like Richard Kuper find themselves totally incapable of recognising antisemitism when they see it?

David Hirsh on the Livingstone Formulation.

David Hirsh (2010) ‘Accusations of malicious intent in debates about the Palestine-Israel conflict and about antisemitism‘ Transversal 1/2010, Graz, Austria

Howard Jacobson:

“When it comes to Jewish anti-Zionists, their Jew-hatred is barely disguised, not in what they say about Israel but in the contempt they show for the motives and feelings of fellow-Jews who do not think as they do. There is, of course, nothing new in such schismatics; Jews have been railing against one another and indeed against Judaism from its inception. It was a Jew who invented Christianity.”

“Monotheism probably explains this enthusiasm for dissent. The Jewish God demands a oneness it can feel like a positive duty to refuse. It might even be to our greater glory that we splinter with such regularity and glee. In our variousness is our strength.”

“But then let’s call the thing that drives us by its proper name. Hiding behind Israel is a cowardly way for a Jew to express his anti-Jewishness. That half the time he is battling his psychic daddy and not his psychic homeland I don’t doubt, though I accept that, in political discourse, we have to pretend that what we are talking about is what we are taking about.”

“But here is the beauty of being a novelist —- I can have fun ascribing pathology to whom I like. I know what’s really bothering them. They are my creations, after all.”

27 Responses to “Richard Kuper, ‘Asa Jew’…”

  1. Toby Esterhase Says:

    One of the highlights for me is where Kuper relies on Shlomo Sand’s book – the one that says the Jews aren’t really the Jews – as though it was a serious argument.

    Also the classic Kuperian argument: “it’s all so much nonsense.”

    I think Kuper should tell us what it is that he wants to say about Israel which he thinks would be prohibited by the EUMC working defiinition.

    Also I am just breathless at the inability of Kuper to sniff antisemitism. He sniffs. And smells only roses.

    He then sees that nearly all the other Jews can sniff it.

    And instead of asking what’s wrong with his nose, he accuses all the other Jews of being liars.

  2. Absolute Observer Says:

    “I think Kuper should tell us what it is that he wants to say about Israel which he thinks would be prohibited by the EUMC working defiinition.”

    How about, Israel treats Arabs like the Nazis treated Jews?
    How about, The Israel Lobby “makes and unmakes Governments”?
    How about, Jews use the Holocaust to silence criticism of its policies by other states?
    How about, when Jews raise the question of antisemitism, they do so dishonestly?
    How about, when Jews raise the question of antisemitism, they do so to silence others?

    • Bill Says:

      And this. Targeting group-A and only group-A for ideological queries on issues of global contention.

      Note that I didn’t say “Jews” just as a reminder that if the shoe won’t fit on any other demographic…

  3. Ben Says:

    David, in your own minutes, you had a delegate down as saying that “some West Bank settlers” are an “expansionist people”.

    This, you concluded, was an “antisemitic claim”. How so? I suppose you must agree with the conclusion of TULIP, who tweeted that someone at the conference had said “Jews are ‘an expansionist people'”. And thus, in a disgusting bit of antisemitism, equated “some West Bank settlers” with all Jews.

    • David Hirsh Says:

      What a surprise, Ben White is unable to spot antisemitism.

      And Michael Winner is unable to spot sexism.

      And Nick Griffin is unable to spot Islamophobia.

      • Ben Says:

        lol…no answer.

        By the way, perhaps you need to get more tips on how to fight “antisemitism” and BDS from Avigdor Lieberman. He could hold another conference perhaps!

        • Comment is not free Says:

          And on the subject of conferences………….

          But, of course, nothing antisemitic about Durban 1 and 2, eh Ben? Just good ol “criticism of Israel”.

        • Comment is not free Says:

          I note you have not said a word about Blackwell’s reliance on comments made by someone peddling antisemitism as a justification for boycottiing Israel.

          I note you have said nothing on the fact that Cushman cites an incident found by UCU to have been antisemitic as an argument against the EUMC working definition.

          Looks like Hirsh gets you dead right. lol

        • Toby Esterhase Says:


          UCU changes the definition of antisemitism so that it no longer includes denouncing Jews as being supporters of apartheid.

          And Ben White comes to laugh out loud at the Jews who ineffectively protest.

        • Not Ben but Lichtenstein Says:

          “UCU changes the definition of antisemitism so that it no longer includes denouncing Jews as being supporters of apartheid.”

          B..B…But, (sob), that would make my book on Israel as an Apartheid state (weep) nothing but racist rubbish…..I….I can’t……..I…..I won’t believe it.

        • Bill Says:

          Try this one on for size:

          “Some Blacks like rap music, which contains profanity and misogynistic imagery. Therefore the administration now declares that all students of color should be sent through sensitivity and professionalism training before being allowed to register for classes. This is not racist. Why? Because we say so. Oh yeah, and it’s also about creating a safe campus environment (which pretty much trumps everything). So do stop crating a hostile environment for our female and white students and crying racism to silence discussion on this topic, which everyone knows is closed.”

          How do those Manolo Blahniks feel, Cinderella? Comfy? Of course racism and antisemitism aren’t supposed to feel comfy. That’s ok, when you wear them I’m sure you think you look fabulous.

          Oh wait a minute again, I was changing the subject, we’re not talking about harassment and discrimination. We’re talking about Jews, right? Sorry about that.

        • James Mendelsohn Says:

          Hi Ben
          Just in case you’re still reading:

          1 how did the Roger Garaudy quote make it into your book?

          2 How did the fake Ben Gurion quote make it into your book? Did you deliberately lie or are you just a poor scholar?

          I’ve tried asking you this question in various places over the last two years and have never yet managed to get an answer, guess we keep missing each other…

        • conchovor Says:

          ‘By the way, perhaps you need to get more tips on how to fight “antisemitism” and BDS from Avigdor Lieberman’

          What has that to do with the EUMC? Unless you mean by ‘Liberman’, for instance, ‘Zionism’?

          You do tend to define your opponent as extremely as possible, and your client as moderately. That is a common polemical, rhetorical technique.

          But is it really Justice with a capital ‘J’?

    • conchovor Says:

      Ben, ‘some West Bank settlers’ are only ‘a people’, expansionist or not, if one assigns to them discrete ethno-nationality.

      ‘And thus, in a disgusting bit of antisemitism, equated “some West Bank settlers” with all Jews.’

      But that it was the speaker who assigned ‘some etc’ a discrete ethno-nationality, and it is hard to understand unless they did so qua ‘Jew’.

      i.e. it was they who indulged in ‘disgusting etc’, not David.

      Again, Ben, you don’t seem very sensitive to picking up this kind of thing.

      You missed in Ahmadinejad, more recently in Stephen Sizer, perhaps also in Azzam Tamimi.

      Ben, you don’t have a good track record. Perhaps you should learn to listen, and think, before speaking, or pronouncing forth?

    • conchovor Says:

      The other thing, Ben, is that the number, even of settlers, who have genuinely expansionist aims up to the Nile and Euphrates are very small. That trope appears in early (and subsequent) Palestinian Arab Christian and Muslim nationalist discourse, probably in an attempt to exaggerate the claims of Zionism and Zionists to garner pan-Arab and pan-Islamic support.

      It is a little surprising to see it crop up in more sophisticated western discourse and, again, the speaker muddles this very small group with Jews in general, qua and via ‘a people’ i.e. does exactly what you impute to David Hirsh.

  4. Richard Gold Says:

    I was on a panel debate on Seven Jewish Children with Richard a few years ago. Richard’s contribution was an “as a Jew speech” where he said that the play wasn’t antisemitic and the real problem was the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. He also said their were no rocket attacks against Israel in the lead-up to the Gaza war.

  5. Avi in Jerusalem Says:

    Mr. Kuper seems to be purposely obtuse in his understanding of the issue in hand. This is not a theoretical and abstract discussion about possible anti Jewish activities but the actual question of how the union of academics in the UK could be so obtuse and cowardly as to reject a field proven tool to prevent racism against its Jewish members.

    The fact that a steady stream of academics, most of them Jewish, have left the union due to clearly perceived antisemitism has no effect on the likes of Mr. Kuper. The atmosphere created by the activities of Mr. Kuper and his friends is exactly similar to that in Soviet Russia and its satellites both during the solidification of the regime in the 1920s and 30s and also after the second world war in Eastern Europe.

    One has to be blind not to see the obsession on the Jewish question by the leadership of the union, to the detriment of its members who have much more important things to worry about.

    Finally, if this was a theoretical academic discussion, then no one would really care about all the ignorance displayed by Mr. Kuper and his friends, but Mr. Kuper and his comrades seem to ignore that fact that the Jews have a country, Israel, where we have implemented national self determination. It may not be perfect, but where is? Arguments against Jewish national self determination only and activities aimed at opposing the very right of the Jews to self determination today are obviously anti semitic, as the results of the dissolution of the State of Israel and its replacement by a State of Palestine will be a major massacre.

    Instead of promoting such genocidal daydreams, Mr. Kuper would be better advised to look for Justice for Palestine within the framework of a two state solution which has the backing of a large number of Jews and Arabs too who actually live here and encourage his comrades to do so too.

  6. Absolute Observer Says:

    Over at Open Democracy, Kuper fiinally admits that he thinks Jews lie when they raise the question of antisemitism and have recourse to the EUMC has an aide.

    He states,
    “it is being used to silence debate about
    Israel and Palestine on campus.” I believe [this[ proposition to be true……..”the stories I have heard about
    campus politics around the issue would seem to bear this out.”

    It transpires that Kuper is willing to call Jews and Jewish liars – that when they raise the issue of antisemitism there real aim is to silence debate – because of some “stories” he has heard (he does not tell us the substance of these “stories”.

    In the light of his belief in tales, it is even more interesting to note Kuper’s refusal to acknoweldge the role the EUMC has played in actual real-life, documented and proved cases of antisemitism within UCU itself.

    In these actual events the EUMC has proved to be both workable and working.

    Rather than confront this fact – and it is a fact – he relies on nothing more than “stories” to argue against reality and to fall back on the antisemitic claim that Jews cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

    But, of course, this is not the first time that reliance on “stories” has been detrimental to Jews as a group and as individuals.

    Kuper then completes his denigration of Jews’ trustworthiness with his usual “I’d be more than happy to join with you in trying to set up a serious discussion about
    antisemitism in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict. But I wouldn’t start from the “working definition”.”
    And why not? Obviusly, because of what Kuper has “heard” those who do not think the EUMC document is nothing but an instrument of Jewish mendacity, are not “serious”.

    This is not the first time that Kuper calls for a discussion of matters whose premise is antisemitic.

    • Bill Says:

      He states, “it is being used to silence debate about
      Israel and Palestine on campus.” I believe [this[ proposition to be true……..”the stories I have heard about
      campus politics around the issue would seem to bear this out.”

      This is of course bunk but even if someone were to use EUMC’s working definition to cry wolf, using that scenario as a broad brush to paint “all Jews as making it up” to dismiss all charges of AS-inspired H/D is likewise unacceptable. Plus, I’m pretty sure that the EUMC alone doesn’t consider that to be a discriminatory statement. Will they have to blow off all forms of best practices while through all of this, everyone else (especially the cognizant authorities for UCU employees – and guess what, it ain’t the union!) will continue with business, and policy, as usual.

      Jiminy Christmas! How a big a clue-bat does it take to beat some sense into these people?

  7. Comment is not free Says:

    So Kuper wants a “serious debate”.

    Judging what AO has said this would exclude,

    the CST and all other mainstream UK and European Jewish bodies.
    It would exclude representatives from the Fundamental Rights Agency.
    It could well exclude the UK Equality institutions.

    Sure, just like the “debate” at UCU Congress.
    No wait, UCU allowed Fraser to speak. He supported the EUMC, so, sorry Ronnie, no point keeping your diary fee.

  8. Absolute Observer Says:

    The right in the UK pick up a story of a person who is said to “abuse” the system – be it welfare, be it assylum – and start screaming and ranting about how the system needs “reform” – i.s. stop welfare and stop assylum.

    Even if the “stories” Kuper has “heard” – from whom one can ask? since for some the mere fact that a Jew raises antisemitism in campus is evidence of their being part of a Lobby – bear any resemblance to reality (which I doubt), it seems strange that Kuper, rather than seeing his “story” as an aberation, sees it as the essence, as the truth about Jews, tars all Jews with his “findings” and demands abolition of a protection for antisemitism from Jews.

    He is the Daily Mail personified.

  9. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Actually, of course, what both Lerman and Kuper object to is that the vast majority of their chosen audience – UK and diaspora Jews – continue to refuse to listen to them and remain staunch in their support of Israel’s right to exist. Furthermore, they remain clear-eyed in their ability to recognise antisemitism when it happens.

    Shame when prophets are ignored in their own land, but, hey, that’s the way the intellectual cookie crumbles.

  10. vildechaye Says:

    RE: it is being used to silence debate about
    Israel and Palestine on campus.

    Yes, university campuses in the U.K. are well known for their silence on Israel and Palestine. Talk about an inversion of reality. Bloody cheek.

  11. mark gardner Says:

    I have sent this comment into the OpenDemocracy chain:

    David Hirsh (above) explains exactly why the UCU decision is part and parcel of what has become a deepening cycle of institutionalised racsim. David, thank you for that.

    Having dealt with both UCU and EUMC over the years, I certainly know which group I believe has the well-being of European Jewry as its primary motivation in all of this; and that is why I am sickened to see the bile that is directed against those of us who have come to EUMC’s defence as a consequence of its banning.

    Finally, the suggestion that EUMC has somehow muddied a previously clear understanding regarding what is antisemitic – well, that is simply a deeply and absurdly pathetic lie.

    The UCU activists of today are essentially the same far left idealogues who called me and my fellow Jewish students Nazis in the 1980s, and put on shows of Perdition (in the original).

    They are the same people who on occasion sought to ban Jewish societies, and paraded their fellow Jewish idealogues to prove that they didn’t hate all Jews – only those Jews who stood up for Israel’s right to actually exist.

    They are the same people who in the late 80s and early 90s accused mainstream Jewish repesentative bodies of downplaying antisemitism. (Becase ‘we’ were supposedly covering up the racist impact of Thatcherism.)

    They are the same people who responded to the early 2000s wave of antisemitism by accusing mainstream Jewish bodies of hyping antisemitism. (In order to shield Israel, of course – because ‘we’ are not truly British, ‘we’ are Israel’s Fifth Column.)

    They are the same people who responded to escalating antisemitism in the late 2000s by either: 1. silence, or 2. blaming the victims, or 3. blaming Israel.

    To summarise: they are the same self-proclaimed anti-racists who have always shown nothing but conempt and derision for mainstream Jewish attitudes to antisemitism. When was it ever not the case?

  12. Brian Robinson Says:

    Not for the first time here I feel I must protest at some of the grotesque ad hominem remarks about Richard Kuper. He’s not a close friend, indeed we’ve not met more than perhaps a few dozen times when we’ve exchanged no more than a few sentences, although we’ve sometimes exchanged emails over the past 7 or 8 years.

    Someone above (for example) put together several strawman non-quotes suggesting that such things are what Richard might believe. Anyone who knows about some of the battles he has fought within JfJfP against extremist language and actions will know how absurd such caricatures are.

    The atmosphere around the blogosphere on the issues of Israel/Palestine and antisemitism have in recent weeks become increasingly perfervid and the kind of attacks we see on this page on Richard, and indeed on Tony Lerman, someone whose thoughtful writings on the conflict I greatly admire, generate more heat than light.

    Over the past several years I have immersed myself in the arguments from as many sides in this dispute as I’ve been able to find. Even in those views that are reciprocal polar opposites there are to be found some vital truths, and part of the way to understanding this conflict, and finding a resolution to it, is about living with ambiguity, uncertainty and cultivating some sort of ability to tolerate cognitive dissonance and the apparent incompatibility of contrarieties.

    I believe also (and I’m aware this is controversial) that there are times when one ought to say to oneself, What does it feel like to believe this? What is it like to write about and argue for it? After you’ve done it, you understand better either why you really believe it or you don’t, and more usefully why you believe some of what one side says as well as much of the opposition. Difficult as it is, far better to suffer some confusion, as well as the consequences internal and external of self-contradiction, than to fall into the error of “feeling absolutely certain” of everything. (See, by the way, Bertrand Russell’s “Ten Commandments” )

    Neither Richard nor Tony need me to defend them. But please can we cool some of the rhetoric? I realise that many people are angry and some are apprehensive for the future. I share some of both feelings. But much of what I’ve read today on this page does nothing to ameliorate my own share of the anxiety.

    • Toby Esterhase Says:

      Kuper and Lerman’s “asaJew” legitimation of the antisemtiic currents in UCU have been hawked around the activist list in the union today by “asaJew” Mike Cushman.

      To: UCU activists e-group
      Subject: [activists] FW: Hue and cry over the UCU openDemocracy

      A sane and carefully argued analysis of our Congress debate on the EUMC draft working definition of anti-Semitism from a former chair of Jews for Justice for Palestine


      Date: Fri, 3 Jun 2011 15:45:59 +0100
      To: UCU activists e-group
      Subject: [activists] The Farcical Attack on the UCU For Voting Against Use of the EUMC ‘Working Definition’ of Antisemitism

      The Farcical Attack on the UCU For Voting Against Use of the EUMC ‘Working Definition’ of Antisemitism

      by Anthony Lerman former director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Resaerch.


  13. Absolute Observer Says:

    “Not for the first time here I feel I must protest at some of the grotesque ad hominem remarks about Richard Kuper.”

    Tell you what Brian, when Kuper stops libeling Jews, when he stops libeling David Hirsh, when he stops libeling the CST, when he stops libeling Jewish students through “stories he has heard”, when he stops saying the Jews lie in their concern over antisemitism, then, and only then, will people not call out Kuper for legitimising and legitimating an antisemitic campaign against Jews.

    You may call it ad hominem, for others it is an adequate reflection of both what he says and the meaning of what he says.

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