We need a union campaign against antisemitism

“…when you start talking about Jewish ritual murders of Christian priests, or organ-harvesting by the Israeli army, or deny the very existence of anti-semitism — you’ve crossed a red line. Trade unions in Europe, including in the UK, are increasingly crossing that line.”

“It’s not enough that the Jewish community has spoken out on this. Trade unionists must speak out and say that enough is enough — that anti-semitism has no place in our movement and should be outcast.”

“It’s time for a trade union campaign against anti-semitism in the UK and Ireland.”

Read the whole piece on the AWL website.

Sally Hunt pretends not to understand the term “institutional racism”

Before UCU Congress the Jewish Leadership Council wrote this letter to Sally Hunt, arguing that its repudiation of the EUMC Working Definition of antisemitism would constitute yet another manifestation of the institutional racism which is present within the union in relation to Jews.

Sally Hunt replied, as did Trevor Philips, the Chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, who had been copied in.

UCU Congress, with the support of the National Executive Committee of UCU voted overwhelmingly to repudiate the EUMC Working Definition.  The reason that the definition was repudiated was that the union wanted to carry on doing things which the definition warned ‘could be’ antisemitic in certain contexts.

Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said, following Congress: ‘After this weekend’s events, I believe the UCU is institutionally racist.’

The Board of Deputies of British Jews president, Vivian Wineman, also wrote to university vice chancellors asking them to consider whether maintaining a normal relationship with UCU could still be compatible with their requirement to ‘eliminate discrimination and foster good relations’ with minorities.

Engage is a pro-union network and so is highly criticial of this move to help University managements to de-legitimize the union.  Of course we are highly critical too, of our unoin, which has a serious and unacknowledged problem of institutional antisemitism.

Sally Hunt has now sent out a letter to all UCU branches.  It is an astonishing letter.  She says that the union is “implacably opposed” to antisemitism and that it has expressed its “abhorrence” of antisemitism.  The letter also says that the union supports the Macpherson principle which says that a person who experiences an incident as a racist incident should, at first anyway, be presumed to be right by an institution which is responsible for investigating.  The principle was established in the Macpherson report, which found that the Metropolitan Police in the 1990s had a problem with institutional racism.  At that time, everybody understood that the term ‘institutional racism’ did not mean that individual police officers were racist and it didn’t mean that the police failed to ‘abhor’ or to ‘oppose’ racism. What it meant was that there were racist assumptions, practices and norms within the institution which had led to Stephen Lawrence’s murder inquiry being screwed up and to his friend and family being treated apallingly.

In her new letter, Sally Hunt pretends that she doesn’t understand what institutional racism is.  She responds to a charge, instead, that the union hates Jews.  In this way, she refuses to take the charge of institutional racism seriously.

Sally Hunt’s new letter is here (pdf)

One way of undertanding the charge of institutional antisemitism is by looking at the letters of resignation and other things which have been written by UCU members over the last few years.

In 2009 UCU Congress was asked to mandate the union to investigate these resignations.  But Congress said no, it didn’t want an investigation into why people were resigning from the union citing antisemitism as a reason.

Jon Pike, Open University, Resignation from NEC

Ariel Hessayon,  Goldsmiths

Michael Yudkin, David Smith and Dennis Noble, Oxford

Shalom Lappin, King’s College, London   

Raphaël Lévy, Liverpool University

Jonathan G. Campbell, Bristol University  

Colin Meade, London Metropolitan University 

Eric Heinze,  QMUL

Tim Crane, Univesity College London

Eve Garrad, Keele University

Dov Stekel, University of Birmingham

Raphaël Lévy, University of Liverpool

Sarah Brown, Anglia Ruskin University

Mira Vogel, Goldsmiths

Robert Fine’s account of Congress, Warwick U

Norman Geras, Manchester University

Eva Fromjovic, Leeds University

Robert Simon, LSE

Lesley Klaff, Sheffield Hallam

Deborah Steinberg, Warwick

David Hirsh, Goldsmiths

Stephen Soskin, Buckinghamshire New University

Ronnie Fraser, Barnet College

Ben Gidley, Oxford

76 UCU members signed a public protest about UCU’s failure to take seriously the criticism made against it by the Parliamentary Inquiry. Read their protest, published in the Times Higher.

39 UCU members signed a public protest at the UCU’s refusal to meet with Ger Weisskirchen at his request. Weisskirchen is the OSCE’s Chairman-in-Office Representative on antisemitism. The protest, which went unheeded and ignored by the UCU.

After looking at this material, is Sally Hunt still going to pretend that she can’t tell the difference between taking  ‘institutional antisemitism’ seriously and mouthing pious words about ‘abhorrence of antisemitism’?