UCU member Joseph Mintz writes to Sally Hunt about antisemitism

Dear Sally Hunt,

I note the official UCU rejection of the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) working definition of anti-Semitism at the recent UCU Congress[1].

One part of that working definition rejected by the union stands out: it is anti-Semitic to ‘deny the right of the Jewish people to self-determination’, within some borders, unspecified as what they might be. It is hard for me to comprehend how anyone could consider this relatively anodyne claim as unacceptable, let alone reject it as a current form of anti-Semitism, which it most certainly is.

I also note that in rejecting this definition, they have singled out anti-Semitism from other forms of prejudice as something only they, and not the victims, have the right to identify. So a group of mainly non-Jewish trade unionists feels no compunction in telling its Jewish minority what anti-Semitism feels like. Read the transcript of the speech by Ronnie Fraser (http://www.academics-for-israel.org/index.php?page=v10n4), the lone (brave) Jew to speak out against the motion at Congress, and reflect on the fact that his words were met with stoney silence according to contemporaneous reports.

Given that no external body has or is likely to require UCU to take a position on this definition, the decision by UCU to single out anti-Semitism in this way is hard to understand

Yet when one considers the acceptance of actual and indirect expressions of anti-Semitism within UCU, perhaps the position becomes easier to understand. For example, in 2009, UCU invited Bonganu Masuku, a South African trade unionist who had just been found by the South African Human Rights Commission to have made anti-Semitic remarks, to the UK to speak about boycotting Israel. When challenged about Mr Masuku’s comments, UCU defended him by saying the claims against him were “not credible”. Additionally, there have been a number of oral and written comments by UCU members (see https://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/mike-cushmans-protocols-moment/, for example) that can be regarded as anti-Semitic in character, but no action has been taken in respect of these by UCU.

At a time when working conditions and pay are under extreme pressure, it is incredible to me, and no doubt to most academics and external observers, that UCU chooses to waste its time on these ridiculous motions, which bear no relationship to its fundamental purpose as a union to protect the pay and working conditions of its members.

As a Jew, I wonder very seriously whether I should, following many resignations by Jewish members over the last six years, leave this tainted organization. Yet the academic community needs union representation in respect of its legitimate defence of pay and working conditions in the context of the spending review as never before. It is only my hope that the vast majority of UCU members do not ascribe to these views, and that they are confined to a misguided activist minority, that makes me hesitate, although voices of protest against the motion from rank and file members have been not been raised with any noticeable vigour.

Yours sincerely,

Joseph Mintz

Principal Lecturer in Education
Department of Education
London South Bank University

[1] http://www.fra.europa.eu/fraWebsite/material/pub/AS/AS-WorkingDefinition-draft.pdf

3 Responses to “UCU member Joseph Mintz writes to Sally Hunt about antisemitism”

  1. Brian Robinson Says:

    I know I’m sticking my neck out here and stand to be accused of naivety, but what really is Jewish self-determination (as in Joseph Mintz’s second paragraph, above)? Most Jews don’t live in Israel and show no sign of moving there. I pay my taxes and vote in the UK. I genuinely don’t understand the term, although I can see that to many its meaning is self-evident. Perhaps someone here could refer me (I’m being serious) to articles (or books) dealing with the phrase, the concept, its meaning. Thanks in advance.

    • animalizard Says:

      Firstly, there is no ‘United Kingdom’ identity as the former is a hangover from specifically English colonialism in Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Northern Ireland. So anyone holding ‘UK citizenship’ would not think of themselves as part of a ‘Forced Diaspora’ (please study this concept) unless Scottish, Irish, or in some cases Welsh.

      Now, there is demographically a bigger Irish Diaspora produced by English colonialism, in the UK, Americas, Europe, and since the SWW, Russia and China. The Irish-American migrant community intellectually, ideologically, culturally, militarily, and financially participated in the decolonisation of Ireland, even pulling on Zionist literature to make their literary case for self-determination. Did they return to Ireland? Of course not. Their Irish identity is embedded in an ideology, collective memory and support for Irish self-determination, but they are American and pay their taxes in America, consider themselves to be fully citizens of America, and perhaps have plans to save their earnings and visit their ‘historical homeland’, or perhaps move there, or perhaps never give it a certain thought. But they had a very conflicted relationship in the early 20th century with the American pact of silence on English colonialism in Ireland and at times they ‘became’ more Irish than American, recognising that the state which had extended citizenship to them was active in the denial of self-determination to a people they considered themselves an extension of identity-wise. If self-determination is bound with their identity, if it lends them dignity, it is because they live in a migrant community which is an extension of that denial of self-determination. Yet no one accused them of being the ‘enemy within’ in America, or of having ‘dual loyalties’, as British Jews are often accused of having by British antisemites, even if these Irish-Americans were at times militantly anti-English.

      I wonder if those who endorse the English postimperial mentality can ever understand these dynamics, and whether there is literally an unwillingness to identify with the postcolonial specifics of self-determination, or recognise that denial of self-determination and calls for ‘disempowered dispersion’ (product of conspiracy theorist imaginations & entirely manufactured fears of victim empowerment & vengeance) always accompanies synchronic racist attacks on a Diaspora, thereby forcing their survival into eventual reliance on the self-determination of their homeland.

      But you should be aware that comments like ‘most Jews don’t live in Israel and show no sign of moving there’ are neither true nor appropriate, given that there is now an Israeli Diaspora which has been produced by this militant and violent interventionist denial of their right to self-determination, globally, which Britain has participated in by allowing British citizens to fund terrorism.

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