David Hirsh will be talking about his book…

(not all of these events will be open to the public – more details to come)

August. 29-31 Athens.  European Sociological Association Conference.
September
 3  London.  Jewish Labour Movement Conference in London.
 5  Ottawa.  Showing the film Whitewashed and talking about the  book.  Evening.
 6  Duluth, MN.  Temple Israel Learner’s Luncheon and public talk in the evening.
 7  New York.
 8  New York.  West End Temple, Queens. Evening.
 10-11  Yale University.  Conference: Racism, Antisemitism and the radical right. Yale Programme for the Study of antisemitism.
 14  University of California, Berkeley. Israel Studies seminar, lunchtime.
 14  San Francisco State University. Public lecture. Afternoon.
 15
 16
 17
 18  East Lansing.  Michigan State University, lunchtime.
November 5, Haifa University lunchtime
 5 November, Jerusalem panel.
 7 November 14.00 Bar Ilan University
 7 November 17.00 Tel Aviv University (Museum of the Diaspora)
 TBA Hebrew University, Jerusalem
14 Berlin
15 Koln
December 25. Limmud.  One event around “Whitewashed”.  A separate event around the book.
January 9.  Edgware United Synagogue.
February 18.  Vienna. Conference on antisemitism and antizionism.

“Conspiracy”  by Marlon Solomon showing in Manchester, July 23rd to July 28th.

Many of you will know Marlon as a blogger who often writes about antisemitism

“Marlon’s a Jew. This didn’t bother him until he realised that some people he knew didn’t believe the Holocaust happened. A darkly comic tale of one man’s journey through the conspiracy underworld. Marlon examines why conspiracy theories are more popular than ever and how fake news gives rise to ancient slander. A comic tale which is no laughing matter.”
You can purchase tickets for his show in Manchester here. 

Bongani Masuku and COSATU found guilty of antisemitic hate speech in the SA Equality Court

On 29 June Judgment was handed down in Johannesburg’s Equality Court, unequivocally upholding a South African Human Rights Commission ruling that Cosatu international relations spokesman Bongani Masuku had been guilty of anti-Semitic hate speech.

In 2009, he threatened at Wits University to mobilise Cosatu members on campus to make life there “hell” for people he called “Zionists”. He threatened violence, “with immediate effect” against families in SA whose children had moved to Israel and served in its army.

He threatened concrete harm against people who lived in Orange Grove, known as a Jewish neighbourhood, who did not agree with him about Israeli politics. On a website, Masuku wrote about the overwhelming majority of living Jews, those who in one way or another identify with Israel, as though they were supporters of racism and fascism.

To drive his point home about those Jews, including those who live in SA, he wrote Hitler was their friend.

Masuku said those Jews he defines as “Zionists” should be forced out of SA.

He threatened to make the people in SA, whom he defined in this way, drink “bitter medicine”.

Follow this link for a piece by David Hirsh in the SA press, which outlines the importance of the case.

Masuku and COSATU persistently mis-represent what they did as “criticism of Israel” and as “solidarity with the Palestinians”: “This was not just a trial against COSATU and its International Secretary, Bongani Masuku,” said COSATU, “but effectively a trial against workers rights to offer solidarity, freedom of expression and the struggle for justice and dignity for all.”

Follow this link for the response from COSATU

In its response COSATU divides Jews into good Jews and bad Jews, Jews who are with the struggle and Jews who are against the struggle.  The representative institutions of the Jewish community are defined as being pro-aprtheid, pro-imperialist, dishonest, Zionist and racist.  On the other hand, COSATU says that “The proud record of heroic Jews in our ranks, who selflessly fought against apartheid, such as Joe Slovo, the former Chief of Staff of the ANC military wing, Umkhonto Wesizwe (MK), Dennis Goldberg Rivonia trialist with former President Nelson Mandela, and many other great stalwarts of our revolution, will forever inspire our struggle for full equality, freedom and justice for all.”

This dishonest characterization of South African Jews portrays most ordinary Jews who identify, in one way or another, with Israel as being racist and pro-apartheid while it portrays antizionist Jews as the only good antiracist Jews.

In the trial before the Equality Court, COSATU relied upon the expert testimony of an antizionist Jew, Steven Friedman.  The judge was clear in his judgment that “as a Jew” does not constitute expertise.  He wrote that Friedman’s evidence was “trite” and “partisan”.  He wrote: “Although the evidence shows that Friedman has immense interest in these matters, these have not been the focus of his academic career”.

Follow this link for the full judgment.

Follow this link for the expert witness testimony of David Hirsh, which explains the issues in the case and which goes through the complex relationships between hostility to Israel, antisemitism and Jewish identity.

We in Britain first knew of Bongani Masuku in 2009 when the University and College Union (UCU) invited COSATU to send a delegate to a behind-closed-doors conference on boycotting Israel.

A year later, UCU had time to think carefully about what Mr Masuku had said, and to understand the significance of the Human Rights Commissions finding of antisemitism.  Michael Yudkin, a world renowned scientist, took a motion to UCU Congress from the Oxford branch. The motion said‘Congress dissociates itself from Masuku’s repugnant views.’  UCU Congress explicitly refused to dissociate itself in that way from Mr Masuku’s antisemitism.

Follow this link for the motion which was passed at UCU Congress, refusing to dissociate itself from Bongani Masuku’s “repugnant” views.

Follow this link for David Hirsh’s piece in the Jewish Chronicle about Masuku and the UCU.

Follow this link for the analysis written by Jeff Samuels QC of the Masuku judgment. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Masuku should say sorry to South Africa – David Hirsh

This piece, by David Hirsh, appeared in the Jewish Chronicle, 7 July 2017.

We in Britain first knew of Bongani Masuku in 2009 when the University and College Union (UCU) invited Cosatu, the Confederation of South African Trade Unions, to send a delegate to a behind-closed-doors conference on boycotting Israel.

We learned that Mr Masuku, Cosatu’s delegate, had been conducting a campaign of antisemitic intimidation in South Africa.

That year, at Wits University in Johannesburg, he had threatened to mobilize Cosatu members on campus to make life ‘hell’ for people there who he designated as ‘Zionists’. He threatened violence, ‘with immediate effect,’ against families in South Africa whose children had moved to Israel and served in its army.  He threatened harm against people who lived in Orange Grove, known as a Jewish neighbourhood, who disagreed with him about Israeli politics.

On a blog, Mr Masuku wrote that Zionists were supporters of racism and fascism; and to drive his point home he wrote that Hitler was their friend. He said that Zionists should be forced to leave South Africa.  He threatened to make Zionists drink ‘bitter medicine’.

We reported these concerns to UCU officials in Britain but we were told that they did not respond to gossip on websites.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies took Mr Masuku to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), arguing that he was guilty of antisemitic hate speech.  The SAHRC is a constitutional body of the new antiracist South African state. It looked at the evidence and found Mr Masuku guilty; it ordered him to apologize to the Jewish community.

Mr Masuku ignored the finding and refused to apologize.  The Palestine Solidarity Movement, the Boycott Divestment Sanctions campaign and Cosatu stood by him.  They said that these allegations of antisemitism were a dishonest and disgraceful ruse by the South African Jews to silence criticism of Israel.

Even after the Human Rights Commission had found Mr Masuku guilty of antisemitism, the UCU in Britain still hosted him and paid for his trip.

A year later, UCU had time to think carefully about what Mr Masuku had said, and to understand the significance of the HRC’s finding of antisemitism.  Michael Yudkin, a world renowned scientist, took a motion to UCU Congress from the Oxford branch. The motion said‘Congress dissociates itself from Masuku’s repugnant views.’  UCU Congress explicitly refused to dissociate itself in that way from Mr Masuku’s antisemitism.

With Bongani Masuku still scornful of the HRC’s finding, the HRC, together with the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, took the Masuku case to the Equality Court in Johannesburg, asking for the finding to be legally enforced. The case was heard in February this year.  I was asked to appear as an Expert Witness for the HRC and to explain to the court why what Masuku had said and written was antisemitic.

Cosatu put up a formidable defence. Bongani Masuku had been making criticisms of Israel, it said, and he had been campaigning in solidarity with the Palestinians.  Cosatu produced a Jewish antizionist as an expert witness, who claimed that nothing Masuku had said could be interpreted as being antisemitic, since it only targeted Zionists, not Jews.  I explained to the court something of the complexities of Jewish identity and history. I told the court that it is wrong to ask what Zionism really is; the relevant question is what Bongani Masuku means by ‘Zionism’ as he strives to force the identity upon his enemies, and by which he designates them as racists, fascists and friends of Hitler.

It seems inexplicable that the Palestine Solidarity movement, the boycotters and the University and College Union stood by Bongani Masuku to the bitter end, in the face of such evidence.  But to admit that hostility to Israel is sometimes antisemitic would fatally disrupt their strategy of complete denial and counter-accusation of Zionist conspiracy to smear and to silence.

The constitution of the rainbow nation aims to maintain respectful co-existence between different communities in South Africa.  In this spirit, Mr Masuku is ordered to apologize to the Jewish community. I think it would have been more powerful if the court had ordered him to apologize not to the Jews, but to the constitution and to the state itself.  Antisemitism is not only a harm to Jews, it is a harm to the whole community.

This piece, by David Hirsh, appeared in the Jewish Chronicle, 7 July 2017.

Follow this link for the full judgment.

Follow this link for David Hirsh’s expert witness statement.

Follow this link for Jeff Samuels’ commentary. 

How racism and conspiracy theory creeps into legitimate discourse – Anti-Nazis United

Blogger ‘Anti-Nazis United’ has followed some connections online and shows us why people need to be extremely careful about what sources they rely on and with whom they end up in conversation.  Follow this link to ‘The Atlantic, the Left and the infection of conspiracy thinking, even close-by Labour MPs.’

A powerful judgement in the battle for truth about anti-Semitism – Jeff Samuels

Jeff Samuels

This piece, by Jeff Samuels, is from the Jewish News website. 

How often when you encounter thinly veiled or indeed naked anti-Semitism are you met with the riposte: “It is not anti-Semitic to be anti-Zionist; it is legitimate criticism of Israel; you are only raising the false charge to stifle debate/criticism of Israel or to smear the left”, and so ad nauseam? 

Well, a significant development occurred this week which may have a considerable bearing on the debate around these issues but has been met by near total obliviousness by friend and foe alike. The reason for the near silence in the press and on social media alike is unclear but maybe because it all occurred thousands of miles away from Israel, the UK and the US. 

On 29th June Mr. Justice Moshidi, a high court judge, sitting in the South African Equality Court delivered his judgement in what has been referred to as the Bongani Masuku case. Perhaps because it runs to 56 pages of largely legalistic discourse around the relevant legislation it has not made the impact it might otherwise have done.

As someone with a lifetime in the law behind him coupled with a comparably durable study of anti-Semitism i have been asked to assess the significance of the judgement in an (hopefully) accessible fashion.

THE BACKGROUND

Bongani Masuku is the International Relations Secretary of COSATU ( the SA equivalent of the TUC). In early 2009 at a number of meetings organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign he made a number of statements to which the South African Board of Deputies took exception on behalf of the Jewish community.

  1. “As we struggle to liberate Palestine from the racists, fascists and Zionists who belong to the era of their friend Hitler, we must not apologise. Every Zionist must be made to drink the bitter medicine they are feeding our brethren and sisters in Palestine. We must target them, expose them and do all that is needed to subject them to perpetual suffering until they withdraw from the land of others and stop their savage attacks on human dignity. Every Palestinian who suffers is a direct attack on all of us. Cosatu is a tripartite alliance the ruling ANC party. A vote for the ANC is a vote for Bongani” (10.2.2009)
  2. “Cosatu has got members here even on this campus. We can make sure that for that side it will be hell”
  3.  “The following things are going to apply : any South African family, i want to repeat it so it is clear for anyone, any South African family who sends his son or daughter to be part of the IDF must not blame us when something happens to them with immediate effect” (5.3.2009 PSC rally at Wits University)
  4. “Cosatu is with you, we will do everything to make sure whether it is at Wits, whether it is at Orange Grove, anyone who does not support equality and dignity, who does not support the rights of other people must face the consequences even if it means that we will do something that may necessarily cause what is regarded as harm”

Unlike the UK, South Africa has a unique and dedicated system for dealing with issues of this kind. Following the collapse of apartheid a new constitution was enacted of which section 9 established a Human Rights Commission. It was to this body that complaint was made, the essence of which was that Masuku’s utterances contravened section 10 (1) of what is commonly known as the Equality Act 2000. 

That section was introduced to protect individuals and communities in the new South Africa from what is described as (and defined) “hate speech”. It also provides for remedies in the event that such is proven. In due course the HRC did indeed uphold the complaint and requested that Masuku apologise. He categorically refused. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who had organised the rally at which some of the ‘impugned statements’ had been made denounced the decision of the HRC as a “pack of lies” and went on to accuse the Jewish community of “constant, frivolous and false accusations of anti-Semitism” (sound familiar?!).

Regrettably the HRC has no powers of enforcement of its decisions. For that the issue has to go before the Equality Court, effectively a dedicated subdivision of the High Court of South Africa, again established post apartheid. The Human Rights Commission and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies brought the case to court. The trial hearing itself took place earlier this year with inter alia David Hirsh being called as an expert witness.

On a side note (but one not without significance) some years ago, and in full knowledge of the statements made by Masuku, the University and College Union together with BRICUP (an organisation comprising a number of prominent left wingers) invited Masuku to the UK to deliver a number of lectures. Efforts to have the invitation cancelled were rejected and dismissed as racist. The annual conference of UCU stood by Masuku and declined to condemn his statements. 

THE DEFENCE

Masuku contended his remarks were not hate speech. He was referring to Zionists not Jews, he said; a distinction which in this context the judge was later to describe as having “no merit at all”. His comments were intended only as criticism of Zionism and Israel and were either true or fair comment and thus protected free speech. (The right to free speech is protected under South African legislation but is limited by section 10 as outlined above).

I feel sure that Masuku’s defence is one that the reader will have encountered with a frequency bordering on tedium. 

THE JUDGEMENT

The judgement surveys the legislation involved and the relevant case law which may be impenetrable to many. For the purpose of this article I summarise the main points which I consider to be of significance:

  1. The judge ruled that the ‘impugned statements’ were “offensive and targeted at the Jewish community”. Note that this judgement was arrived at despite Masuku hardly even Jews.
  2. References by Masuku to “Wits” (a campus with a significant Jewish population) and “Orange Grove” (a predominantly Jewish area) also constituted hate speech again despite the word Jews not being mentioned.
  3. The defence that the comments were true and/or fair comment had “no merit at all” and that Masuku’s stated intentions behind the remarks were “wholly irrelevant” and that these comments were “unequivocally a reference to Jews”.
  4. The judge went on to conclude that what was done by Masuku was “to instill detestation, enmity, ill will and malevolence towards Jews in South Africa. It is distinct advocacy of hatred – nothing else”. Powerful stuff!
  5. And finally for good measure… “the bottom line… objectively assessed… must readily be understood to be concerning Jews” and that the argument advanced on behalf of Masuku “that the statements have nothing to do with Jewish people… is without credence”.

(For the sake of completeness i add that the judge has ordered within 30 days Masuku to issue a full and unequivocal apology for the remarks made that the judge clearly found to constitute hate speech. A failure to comply with the order is treated in the same way that any breach of a court order might be with the ultimate sanction for disobedience being imprisonment). 

ASSESSMENT OF THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE JUDGEMENT: WHY IS THE DECISION SO IMPORTANT?

a.                The Source – To my mind, in the near constant struggle and debate around anti-Semitism, this decision is of considerable significance. Why? The battleground is substantially on the left of the political spectrum. Too often it is (falsely) said that allegations of anti-Semitism are made in order to smear the left and that the makers of the allegations are Tories, Blairites, right wing media etc. This source cannot be so readily dismissed in that fashion. This is not a white, male, public school, Oxbridge educated, High Court Judge whose credibility and motives would doubtless be attacked and undermined if the case had been heard in the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand. On the contrary, this was the Equality Court enshrined in the constitution of the new post apartheid South Africa as a source of remedy available to those to those affected by racist or sexist discrimination. Who on the left in the UK (or elsewhere) could sensibly seek to undermine the bona fides and impeccable credentials of this court, this judge and this legislation?

b.                Anti-Semitic in effect regardless of intention: this judgement clearly establishes that in the judgement of a court it is not necessary to refer specifically to Jews to be guilty of anti-Semitic hate speech. References to ‘Zionists’ or Jewish areas may suffice. It is the context together with an objective assessment of the words used that matters. It follows axiomatically that the stated intention of the maker of the statement is wholly irrelevant. Whether it is anti-Semitic is an objective assessment based on the words used, the context in which they are used and their cumulative effect.

c.                ‘Zionist shill’, ‘hasbara agent’: often the reader will have encountered such denunciations. An interesting side issue in the judgement concerned the question of expert evidence. The judge received evidence from David Hirsh called by the SAJBoD and a Dr. Friedman called by the respondent Masuku. It is pertinent to observe that the judge accepted Hirsh as an expert and that the court was assisted by his evidence and how it was given. In marked contradistinction his anti-Zionist/anti Israel ‘opponent’ was referred to in less complimentary terms with the judge questioning his credentials and observing that he “showed that he is partisan which on its own offends the approach and principles to expert testimony”. In other words, the anti-Zionist ‘expert’ was deemed not an expert at all and endeavoured solely to say to say what the side calling him wanted him to say. This is very much worth bearing in mind when this allegation surfaces as inevitably it will.

OVERVIEW

This is a significant and powerful judgement from an impeccable source. It nails the lie that as long as you say Zionist and not Jew it is and cannot be anti-Semitic.

A man supported by and invited by UK left wing organisations has been unequivocally judged to be guilty of racist hate speech.

It demolishes the stock defence that there was no anti-Semitic intent. The test is an objective one. What the maker of the statement says of his intention is irrelevant to the assessment.

In the battle for the truth about anti-Semitism this powerful judgement should be welcomed, applauded loudly and disseminated widely.

This piece, by Jeff Samuels, is from the Jewish News website. 

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