Thank you for your message.
I was happy to sign the petition of no confidence in the government’s HE policies and, like you, I have very serious concerns about the White Paper.
Regrettably, though, I am no longer able to join in UCU’s fight against the government’s measures. This is because I am no longer a member of UCU. Following the passing of Motion 70 at the most recent annual Congress, I felt that I had no choice but to resign. Not only does Motion 70 reject the most widely-used definition of anti-Semitism in the world, it fails to provide any alternative definition. The motives of those who proposed the motion are clear: they rightly understood that, according to the EUMC Working Definition, their obsessive campaign to single out Israeli academics for boycott year on year might indeed be anti-Semitic. Whether intentionally or otherwise, this has made UCU an even more uncomfortable place for Jewish members than it was previously. I can no longer contribute money to such an organisation in good conscience.
Please do not send me the same generic response you have sent to others who have resigned on these grounds. Sadly, your repeated claim that UCU abhors anti-Semitism is not borne out by the evidence; rather, the evidence points overwhelmingly in the other direction. For example, a union which truly abhorred anti-Semitism would have no truck with Bongani Masuku, whose statements were correctly defined as anti-Semitic hate speech by the South African Human Rights Commission. UCU, by contrast, invited Masuku to promote the boycott campaign. Does that sound to you like the mark of a union which abhors anti-Semitism?
Speaking on a more personal level, I sent you three emails on related issues in 2008, which are attached. I think you would agree that a trade union which abhorred anti-Semitism would take such emails from an ordinary member seriously. Regrettably, I never received a reply to any of them.
I no longer wish to contribute my money to an organisation which has a problem with institutionalised anti-Semitism. I am sure I will not be the last Jewish member who feels forced to resign, even at a time when trade union protection and solidarity are more important than ever. Once again -please do not send me your generic reply. All I would ask you is: do you realise that the boycott campaign is now weakening the union’s numbers and credibility, at a time when a strong union is needed more than ever? And do you ever lie awake at night wondering why, in the 21st century, Jewish members have left UCU in droves?
Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Huddersfield
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.
UCU members who have resigned:
Michael Yudkin, David Smith and Dennis Noble, Oxford
Shalom Lappin, King’s College, London
Jonathan G. Campbell, Bristol University
Colin Meade, London Metropolitan University
Eric Heinze, Queen Mary University of London
Tim Crane, Univesity College London
Raphaël Lévy, University of Liverpool
Sarah Brown, Anglia Ruskin University
The Following UCU members have not resigned; their points of view too need to be taken seriously:
Norman Geras, Manchester University
Lesley Klaff, Sheffield Hallam
Stephen Soskin, Buckinghamshire New University
Jon Pike, Open University, Resignation from NEC
Dov Stekel, University of Birmingham
Robert Fine’s account of Congress, Warwick U
Eva Fromjovic, Leeds University
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.
July 14, 2011 at 6:12 pm
[…] and College Union read and think about James Mendelsohn’s resignation letter to Sally Hunt, which I produce in full: “Dear […]
July 16, 2011 at 10:22 pm
Bravo, James, a very fine resignation letter, elicited by an absolutely shameful state of affairs. Please let us know if you manage to get anything other than the generic response which you so convincingly dismiss.
July 16, 2011 at 11:33 pm
James, as I seem to be saying a lot these days, heartfelt commiserations.
July 17, 2011 at 6:03 am
I just want to echo Eve and Mira’s comments. The UCU’s indifference to these concerns is truly shocking.
July 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm
Thanks all. I’ll let you know if I get any sort of response.
July 21, 2011 at 10:31 am
You have Norm Geras under “not resigned.” While it is true that he did not resign, according to the post to which you link that’s because his membership (in the UCU predecessor union) lapsed upon his retirement and had he been a member at the time he would have indeed resigned.
“The issue of resignation from the union has not arisen personally for me, because when I retired in late 2003 I allowed my membership of the (then) AUT to lapse. However, in New York at the time of the first academic boycott (of Israel) resolution, I stated that, had I still been a member of the union, I would now be resigning from it… To be a Jew in UCU today is to be, in some sort, a supplicant, pleading with the would-be boycotters and those unmoved to oppose them and deliver them a decisive defeat, pleading for Israeli academics to be accepted as having the same status as other academics world-wide, pleading that Jewish supporters of the rights of academics in the Jewish state should not be made to feel isolated in their own union, like participants willy-nilly in an anti-Semitic campaign. Well, not to put too fine a point on it, shove that. Not today, not tomorrow, and not any time. To be a supplicant Jew is not a choice I would be willing to contemplate. I should come and entreat within the UCU for the same consideration for Jewish academics in Israel and Jewish academics in Britain as are extended to academics of every other nationality? Forget about it.” [my emphasis]