Sheffield Hallam University has an antisemitism problem – David Hirsh

File:Sheffield Hallam University logo.svg - Wikimedia Commons

There is a grad student, also employed to teach students, who wrote that “Zionist lobbies… buy presidents” and who praised terrorists who murder civilians as “heroes”.

In the past she linked to a video, ‘The truth about Zionist Jews’, which claimed that the Talmud licenses Jewish crimes against non-Jews.

She wrote that she wouldn’t use the world “Holocaust” to describe the way Israel relates to the Palestinians because the word is used to justify “the racist state of Israel”; and because use of the word “distracts attention from the Zionist practices of settler-colonialism and ethnic cleansing…”

In my view this discourse is antisemitic. You might disagree. Fine. We can have that debate.

But no, it’s not fine. Because this same student and teacher denounces people who believe that this discourse is antisemitic as “Israeli apartheid and propagandists”.

This is not about disagreeing. This is about people who speak up against antisemitism not being engaged in debate but being denounced as racist liars.

There have been two UCU motions passed in recent months on the topic. One of them said that anybody who thought it was antisemitic for David Miller to other his own Jewish students as “assets of Israel” was smearing the legitimate research of a good professor.

Both motions characterised the allegation that this kind of discourse is antisemitic as “malicious”. Not simply a disagreement, but a claim made for bad motives and in bad faith.

Both motions described this kind of discourse as being called antisemitic only because they are critical of “Israeli policy”.

This week’s motion said that “the attack is motivated by her defence of Palestinian rights and threatens academic freedom”. How does the UCU branch know what motivates criticism of this kind of discourse as antisemitic?

The student’s Director of Studies declared at the union meeting that those who say that this kind of discourse is antisemitic are part of a continuum with those, who for many centuries have been responsible for forcing “black and brown people…to justify what they have said”. It is extraordinary for an academic to refer to victims of racism as “black and brown people”; race is not colour, race is a social construction of power. And it is extraordinary to imply that if a person who might themselves be treated in a racist way says something antisemitic, then they should not have to “justify what they have said”.

It is extraordinary to treat good faith worries about antisemitism raised by Jews and their allies as though they were nothing but racist slurs.

The student said that the “Zionist Press” targeted her with allegations of antisemitism because she was “critical of Israel”.

A UCU comrade at the meeting said “if there are subterranean goings on…we need to know about it” – talking about unseen Zionist power behind allegations of antisemitism and influencing universities.

The student and teacher said a number of things that many Jews believe to be antisemitic. The Union branch, which represents Jews and non Jews, denounced the very idea as a malicious Zionist conspiracy.

The Union did not defend Shahd Abusalama on academic freedom grounds, it did not say that she’d said some silly and offensive things but they were not quite antisemitic, it treated her as a hero; a hero advocate of the oppressed, and a hero academic lecturer and researcher.

And the University itself said that the student’s discourse “fall[s] entirely within the boundaries of acceptable political commentary” and it did nothing. It cleared Shahd Abusalama; it did not use its own academic freedom to use this as a teachable moment; it was not critical of any of this “acceptable commentary”.

The student and teacher made a hero of the people who murdered Israelis, Christian pilgrims and a Canadian, at Lod airport in 1971; gunned them down as they walked through an airport.

At Sheffield Hallam, the student/teacher is now a hero, the union branch embraces her as a hero, and the university itself says that there is nothing wrong here and she is entirely fit to teach students: everything is “acceptable political commentary”.

And the Jews at Sheffield Hallam University are defeated, denounced as racists, made to feel pariahs in their union branch, and are left defenceless by their institution and undefended by their union.

What did they do wrong? They said that it’s false and offensive to denounce Israelis as being like Nazis, they said it’s wrong to murder Israelis at random, they said it’s wrong to accuse them of malicious motives, they said David Miller and Shahd Abusalama are not victims of a Zionist plot.

One Response to “Sheffield Hallam University has an antisemitism problem – David Hirsh”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    Just shows that it’s one thing to adpt IHRA, quite another to actually respect it.

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