SWP forget about antisemitism. Again. Whoops.

Unite Against Fascism Islamophobia and Antisemitism. From ModernityBlog.

But this isn’t the first time the SWP have forgotten about antisemitism.   Remember this, when they forgot the Jews had been victims of the Holocaust?

What is going on?


Israel boycott again on agenda in UK

Dr. David Hirsh of Engage, a group of academics and trade unionists who campaign against the boycott call, came out strongly against the UCU’s move.

“Annually, the boycotters propose to exclude Israelis from the global academic, economic, artistic and sporting community as though Israel was unique on the planet and as though it was normal to punish ordinary working people for the actions of their government,” said Hirsh. “The UCU leadership does nothing about the boycott or about the Palestinians, but continues to allow anti-Semitic ways of thinking to pollute the union and to degrade our solidarity.”

Read the whole article by Jonny Paul here.

Boycott motions for forthcoming UCU Congress

SFC14 Practical support for Palestinian academic trade unionists, National executive committee

Congress condemns the failure of the international community to confront the Israeli government over the humanitarian disaster it is continuing to perpetrate in Gaza and the continued development of illegal settlements in the West Bank.


· Welcomes the decisions of the 2009 TUC Congress relating to Palestine and Israel, and instructs the NEC to work with the TUC, STUC, and other affiliates, Amnesty International and PSC, to put the recommendations into effect.

· Welcomes the Education International-Canadian Association of University Teachers report on academic freedom in Palestine and Israel, and the new impetus it provides for work on this area in EI.

· Calls on the NEC to work with Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, as well as EI, CAUT and other supportive EI affiliates, to build PFUUPE’s organisational and negotiating capacity within Palestine, according to the needs PFUUPE identifies, and to support its membership of EI and enable it to participate fully in EI’s work.

SFC15 Palestine solidarity, BDS, and Histadrut, University of Brighton Grand Parade

Congress notes the successful international BDS conference hosted by the UCU in line with Congress policy;

The statement that emerged from that conference and the call from the Palestinian Boycott National Committee for an isolation of Israel while it continues to act in breach of international law.

Congress resolves:

· To reaffirm its support for BDS, and to seek its implementation within the constraints of the existing law;

· To seek in conjunction with other trade unions, nationally and internationally, to establish an annual international conference on BDS, a trade union sponsored BDS website and a research centre on commercial, cultural and academic complicity with Israeli breaches of international law, with appropriate cost sharing;

· To sever all relations with Histadrut, and to urge other trade unions and bodies to do likewise;

· To campaign actively against the EU-Israel Association Agreement, and to coordinate that campaign with other trade unions and solidarity movements.

SFC16 Ariel and West Bank Colonisation, University of Brighton Falmer

Congress notes

The continuing colonisation of the West Bank – construction of illegal settlements, Israeli-only roads, diversion of Palestinian water, disaggregation of the territory, disruption of Palestinian life, destruction of olive groves and separation of Palestinian cultivators from their land, denial of educational and scholarly opportunities to Palestinians, and the continuing construction of the wall;

The contribution of Israel’s academy in this process – scientific and social and historical research, sitting of annexes on illegally confiscated land, and support for military occupation;

The particular contribution of Ariel College in this process – recruiting Israelis as settlers for their education – and the recent decision of Israel to recognise Ariel as a ‘university centre’, on the way to its establishment as a university on occupied territory.

Congress resolves to commence the investigatory process associated with the imposition of a boycott of Ariel College.

How easily anti-Zionism slid into antisemitism

This short piece by David Osler is interesting – I wish it was longer and I’d urge commenters not to demand too much of a piece this brief.

These days he aligns his support of secular democracy with being “on balance an anti-Zionist”, though he doesn’t believe that Zionism is necessarily racist. But in the ’80s, while he was in the IMG, he helped kicked the Jewish Society out of his university. This is how easily anti-Zionism slid into antisemitism:

“My attitude had very much been shaped by the war in Lebanon three years earlier, especially the Sabra and Shatila massacre. So I saw things in black and white.

Zionism, I then believed, was a form of racism. Self-evidently, no student union should permit a racist student group to function under its auspices. Ipso facto, City Poly JSoc had to go.”

He now regrets his part in this as a “gross mistake” while noting that higher up the food chain of his movement there may have been a coordinated hostility to Jewish Societies.

No less problematic an ideology than Zionism is held to be, almost everything about contemporary anti-Zionism needs examining along with the Zionism anti-Zionists confront us with. We should insist.

For anybody in the Manchester area.

Opponents of the boycott may like to know that Bricup will be holding the following meeting in Manchester.

Monday 7th December, 7pm
Lecture Theatre A, University Place,
University of Manchester, Oxford Road.


Ronnie Kasrils
former minister in Nelson Mandela’s ANC government and
anti-Apartheid activist

Bongani Masuku (International Secretary) / George Mahlangu
 (Campaigns Coordinator) Cosatu – the South African trade union federation

Omar Barghouti
Palestinian Campaign for Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions

Chair: Tom Hickey
National Executive Committee of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) and BRICUP

Jon Pike, elected opponent of the boycott on UCU Executive, resigns

Jon Pike to Sally Hunt, General Secretary of UCU

Open Letter from Jon Pike to Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the UCU

Dear Sally,

UCU Congress last week adopted resolutions in support of an academic boycott against Israel.  As you know very well, the adoption of that resolution is in defiance of the considered majority view of the membership of the union. Whether or not such resolutions can be implemented, or have been declared void, their adoption is a violation of the democratic principle that the union ought to represent its membership.

It will be said that the UCU, on behalf of its membership, and on behalf of the academic community in Britain, would wish to push for an academic boycott of Israel, but is prevented from doing so by legal means.

This claim is entirely false. The members have not supported such a proposal, and they have not been asked their views.

Both Congress in 2008 and 2009, and a senior committee of the union have rejected calls for a ballot of the membership.  An amendment from my branch, to this year’s conference, calling for a ballot of the membership on this proposal was ruled out as a ‘wrecking amendment.’  It seems there is something incendiary about asking the members directly to express their views.  The call for a ballot has been rejected in the knowledge that, and because, such a ballot would lead to the overwhelming defeat of the boycott proposals.

When proposals for boycott of Israeli universities have been considered by branches of the union and its predecessors, they have been overwhelmingly rejected. Members at Reading, Open, Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, Bath, Warwick, UCL, Strathclyde, Lancaster, Kingston, LSE, KCL, Birmingham, Bristol, UEA, Sussex, Cardiff, LSHTM, The Institute of Education, QMWL, Aberystwyth, Swansea, Southampton, and others, have voted, at branch meetings, to reject such proposals. Previous similar proposals have been repudiated by individual branches, and overwhelmingly rejected by branch ballots of their membership.

The resolutions in question have been rushed through, in a way that has actively prevented the membership from scrutinising them.  Papers concerning the resolution have been distributed extremely late, with no explanation.  Legal advice, paid for by the members concerning the resolution has been withheld from elected representatives, branch presidents, and the membership.

The leadership of the union, and its Congress, which are both controlled by the Socialist Workers’ Party, has exhibited contempt for the views of its members on this matter, and on others, such as the crazy decision to ballot for industrial action, and the dishonest cover up by the SWP that has followed the aborting of this ballot.

In National Executive elections, less than ten percent of the membership now vote.  The NEC cannot be said properly to represent either the membership of the union, or the academic community in Britain.

If the union was a democratic space, in which the majority of the membership was able to determine policy, then there would be a case for remaining active in the union, and working for a change of policy. In its predecessor union, democratic mechanisms were available which allowed the overturning of a similar policy on April 26th 2005.

But the UCU does not provide such a democratic space, and the procedures available in the AUT were removed at the time of merger.

The UCU cannot be considered a democratic union, representative of its members.

This has the following consequences:

We have a union that is able to send its President on trips to the Caribbean, at the members’ expense, to “celebrate the Cuban revolution” but that is unable to organise a legal ballot on industrial action in defence of jobs.

We have a union that has produced misleading and dishonest statements to the membership, on matters of fact, about both the ballot for industrial action, and about its policy on Israel and Palestine, and in which opponents of such a policy are subject to threats of legal action, smears, personal attack, and exclusions.

We have a union that has consciously abandoned its role of representing academics professionally.

We have a union that has brought academics in Britain into disrepute, by its willingness to countenance and support violations of the Principle of Universality of Science and Learning, and by condoning and supporting attacks on academic freedom, such as the outrageous and discriminatory actions of Professor Mona Baker in dismissing two Israeli members of her editorial board.

We have a union that, since merger, has allowed the systematic distortion and violation of democratic norms.  This works through a complex system of reserved seats, fractional branches and unaccountable, unrepresentative ‘regional committees’ each of which helps to entrench an anti-democratic system of double counting into its decision-making.  All of this has been done in violation of the agreements made at merger.   The merger has been a disaster for academic trade unionism in Britain.

We have a union that has allowed the distribution of antisemitic material on its internal lists, and the peddling of antisemitic conspiracy theories by some of its members, whilst banning anti-racist and Jewish members who have objected to such material.

We have a union from which hundreds of members – many of them Jewish – have resigned in protest at the unwarranted exceptionalism of its attitude to Israel.  I believe that many more will do so.

We have a union that entirely refuses to investigate concern about institutional antisemitism when raised through the proper channels, by members. The UCU is now the most complacent public institution in Britain with respect to the current rise in antisemitism.

Members of the UCU will ignore the decisions of its Congress, and continue to engage in academic collaboration and research with Israeli and Palestinian colleagues, and Israeli and Palestinian Universities, and they will be right to do so.

Academics in Britain, will, of course, ignore the UCU’s policy on this matter, and they will, of course, be right to do so.

It would be good if academics had a democratic, effective, professional and serious union to represent them in negotiating with the employers and in protecting their terms and conditions of employment.

That is, sadly, no longer the case.

I therefore resign my seat on the NEC.

Dr Jon Pike

Senior Lecturer in Philosophy

The Open University

Formerly Nationally elected member NEC (Pre-92)
The Jewish Chronicle report of Jon’s resignation is here.

UCL UCU branch secretary Sean Wallis lines up with antisemitic Lehman Brothers conspiracy theorists

Sean Wallis, UCL UCU Branch Secretary

Sean Wallis, UCL UCU Branch Secretary

The campaign to exclude people who work at Israeli universities – and only them –  from the global academic community is being pushed hard this week, for the 7th year running, by a small coterie of antizionists in the University and College Union.

One thing we have learnt in that five years is that whenever this campaign is pushed, antisemitic rhetoric, tropes, images and jokes are not far behind.

The following comes from Arieh Kovler of the Fair Play Campaign from UCU Congress in Bournemouth:

BRICUP, the British organisation behind the boycott of Israeli academics, held a fringe meeting at UCU Congress yesterday in Bournemouth.

The official speakers took up most of the time, but there was time for a few questions from the audience. Of course, these ‘questions’ were really statements from the various pro-boycott attendees.

One of these was Sean Wallis, UCL UCU branch secretary. He wanted to speak about how UCU should debate a boycott whether it’s legal or not. One of the threats he mentioned was from lawyers backed by those with “bank balances from Lehman Brothers that can’t be tracked down.

The remark elicited a few sniggers, though not the outright laughter of an earlier joke by Haim Bresheeth about Israeli friendly fire casualties.

Now, a popular conspiracy theory circulating online claims that Jews transferred $400 billion out of Lehman Brothers to untraceable bank accounts in Israel, a couple of days before Lehman filed for bankruptcy. This lie first appeared on a website run by the Barnes Review, an American ‘revisionist’ organisation with a particular interest in Holocaust denial, and spread on various right-wing anti-Zionist websites.

It is not entirely obvious what Mr Wallis is referring to by claiming that legal threats against UCU are funded by “bank balances from Lehmann Brothers that can’t be tracked down.” Perhaps he could clarify his remarks.

Update – see Harry’s Place for Sean Wallis’ non-refuting denial.

Update 2 – more from Harry’s Place, further to correspondence with Sean Wallis. Sean Wallis “doesn’t seem to appreciate that antisemitic theories are antisemitic because they spread poisonous lies about Jews, not because they’re authored by “a racist right winger”.”

There was not due to be any debate on any other international issue at this Congress – only debate about the exclusion of Israelis and a one-sided and ahistorical discussion of Palestine.  The NEC slipped in a last minute emergency motion relating to Colombia so that the union could not be accused of singling out Israel.

There is nothing on Sri Lanka.

There is nothing on Darfur.

There is nothing on Iraq.

There is nothing on Afghanistan.

There is nothing on Zimbabwe.

There is nothing on Russia.

There is nothing on China.

The only boycott campaigned for is a boycott of Israelis.

SWP backs down, and then indulges in disgusting anti-democratic display

Jon Pike, Chair of Engage and elected UCU National Executive Member blogs from UCU Congress at Bournmouth

The UCU Congress starts today at Bournemouth. The boycott debate takes place this afternoon.  As usual, a lot of the shenanigans go on behind the scenes, and this year is no exception. On the plus side, the SWP/UCULeft have staged a partial climb down from their pro-boycott resolution.  They’ve watered down the motion so that instead of endorsing the ‘Palestinian call for a boycott’, the boycott should simply be discussed in the branches. Again.  There’s a recognition that an academic boycott is illegal.

This is of course the familiar annual strategic climb down by the SWP.

But at the same time, the SWP can’t resist its anti-democratic instincts.  Through UCULeft, they have a majority on the Conference Business Committee – the committee that determines what gets on to the order paper.  And at yesterday’s meeting CBC ruled out an amendment from the Open University.  It is, apparently, a ‘wrecking amendment’.

What did this dodgy amendment say?  How was it improper? Was it late, or discriminatory, or illegal, or in conflict with the UCU’s constitution?  No, motions like that sail through on to the agenda.

No.  It called for a ballot of the members before any boycott is introduced.

Direct democracy is anathema to the SWP.  Even discussing a ballot is so dangerous, that it needs to be ruled out by bureaucratic means.

Individual UCULeft supporters should be ashamed of themselves.  Some are.  What price now their claims to favour a ‘democratic, member-led’ union?

There is a chance that conference will overturn the report of CBC this morning.  It will certainly be challenged by the president of the Open University branch.  But it’s unlikely, since the SWP more or less control Congress.

This leaves them free to indulge in – let’s be blunt – a disgusting display of their contempt for the views of the membership of the union.

The SWP/UCULeft is a profoundly anti-democratic force in the labour movement. Large numbers of UCU members have contempt for them.  Which is, somehow, kind of appropriate.

Jon Pike, elected member UCU NEC

The Militant: boycott and divestment a cover for antisemitism

The Militant is a socialist periodical connected to the US SWP and based in New York. This week you can read a piece by Paul Pederson reflecting on the boycott campaigning around Israel Apartheid Week, and the sacking of Starbucks in London. Dreaming of Israel subsumed into a “democratic, secular Palestine in which both Palestinians and Jews can live without state-supported religious restrictions”, he rejects boycott and divestment outright because they empower Palestinian groups whose values are antithetical to those of socialism, and because they are welcomed by workers’ class enemies as a diversion:

“Starbucks, whose owner is Jewish, has become a target of this campaign internationally. On January 10 some 200 protesters looted a Starbucks coffee shop near the Israeli embassy in London and attacked a number of businesses in the area. One proud participant posted a video of the looting on YouTube under the header “How to really boycott Israeli products.”

Jew-hatred and anti-Semitism, a centuries old form of racism, has been used by ruling classes throughout history when their system faced a crisis. Modern anti-Semitism often comes draped in an anticapitalist and even socialist cloak. The real exploiters—the billionaire ruling families, whose great majority is non-Jewish—are replaced by a racist conspiracy that paints the Jews as the source of society’s problems.”


“Support for the anti-Israel boycott effort among radicals – like the members of the Workers World Party and the ISO – often goes along with increasingly open support for Hamas. As ISO leader D’Amelio said of Khaled Meshal, the Hamas political bureau leader in Damascus, “There is little in what he says that I disagree with.”

The Hamas covenant, written in 1988, outlines the aims of that organization.

Speaking of the Jewish people, the document states, “With their money, they took control of the world media… . [T]hey stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution… . With their money they formed secret societies… . They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources.”

Fatah likewise has renounced its former revolutionary democratic demand for a democratic, secular Palestine. Its leadership reflects the wealthy layer of Palestinians increasingly seeking an accommodation with imperialism and with Tel Aviv.

In the absence of any revolutionary perspective, campaigns such as the anti-Israel boycott can appear to be a radical substitute. But, as the crisis of capitalism deepens, the “anti-Israel” character of these campaigns is simply a modern form of Jew-hatred. All who genuinely support the battle for Palestinian national rights must oppose it.”

Pederson sets out solidly socialist reasons not to boycott Israel.

But for ISO leader Lichi D’Amelio, the piece is an affront. She responds in the Socialist Worker, casting aspersion on Pederson’s socialist credentials and asking “whose side is he on”. She refers to her movement in revealingly self-centred terms as “perhaps the most exciting and positive development pro-Palestine activists have seen in a long time”. She also correctly refers to support for the boycott as a “no-brainer”, justifying it only with reference to other boycott examples, spurious authority figures and their decades-old writing. She is tolerant of Hamas’ antisemitic Charter, as charged by Pederson. There is no political vision in her self-defence – or rather it is a vision for, as an end in itself, bonding the workers of the world with Israel as the pretext:

“a movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel can play such an important role. It can help to build international working class solidarity–which we caught a glimpse of, thanks to the brave dockworkers in Durban.

How’s that for “charting a revolutionary course forward”?”

In other words, uniting against a scapegoat. Pederson was right.

For most others, it’s clear that that BDS is part of a movement to force the dismantlement of the state of Israel through total isolation and exclusion and that (unless you favour simply swapping an occupation for an all-out conflict) this is a moribund strategy. It’s significant that the pro-SWP organ has given Pederson a voice – it suggests that the antisemitism of the Palestine solidarity campaign has reached levels impossible for the SWP to ignore, and that it continues to finds antisemitism unhelpful to its movement.

Why we must reclaim antiracism from the far left – David T

David T

David T

This piece, by David T, is on Comment is Free.

Unite Against Fascism is the UK’s leading campaign against the far right, yet its record on opposing antisemitism is dismal

On January 27, Rowan Laxton, a senior British diplomat who is the deputy head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s South Asia group, was watching the news from Gaza, while exercising in his gym. In
the words of the Daily Mail, the diplomat is reported to have “launched a foul-mouthed antisemitic tirade” during the course of which he cursed the “fucking Jews”. Laxton is reported to have refused to quieten down when approached by fellow gym users. He was ultimately arrested by the police for a public order offence.

The day that Rowan Laxton was arrested was Holocaust Memorial Day. This country’s largest anti-racist organisation, Unite Against Fascism commemorated that event by encouraging people to light candles. It had nothing to say, in the following weeks, about the “fucking Jews” allegation against Laxton. Neither was the story reported in the Guardian, on the BBC website, or the Independent; although the centre-right Telegraph and Times had it.

I have to admit, I was initially slightly surprised to see how little concern on the antiracist left the spectacle of a senior British diplomat, arrested for a “fucking Jews” rant, had engendered. While it is important to note that Laxton denies making any antisemitic remark, it isn’t as if antiracist organisations normally shy away from responding to complaints about public servants. For example, on the day following the publication of the story, Unite Against Fascism managed to organise a rally against a teacher who was a British National party member. But then, I shouldn’t have been surprised. The last couple of months has seen the worst year on record for antisemitic incidents in the United Kingdom. Yet Unite Against Fascism has had nothing to say about that, either.

The problem, I think, is this. Although opposition to racism is now an article of faith for all mainstream political parties, the left has been the driving force in those organisations that set the antiracist agenda. There is a part of the left that is very comfortable condemning historical racism against Jews, at the hands of Nazis, back in the 1940s. It is, however, ambivalent when it comes to contemporary antisemitism: particularly when it can be “contextualised” within the Israel/Palestine conflict.

Frankly, the part of the left that runs Unite Against Fascism is not up to fighting contemporary antisemitism. Its joint secretaryship is shared by a member of the central committee of the Socialist Workers party, and by a member of the National Assembly Against Racism (NAAR), which is strongly supported by Socialist Action. Both these political groups have a history of overlooking antisemitism.

For years, the Socialist Workers party promoted and toured the self-described “ex-JewGilad Atzmon. When SWP supporter and Childrens’ Laureate Michael Rosen criticised the party for giving a platform to a performer who, he argued, voiced racist and antisemitic ideas, he was slapped down by central committee member Lindsey German and others. Socialist Action activists led the charge, with Ken Livingstone, to defend the Muslim Brotherhood Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, after the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell had outed him as an inciter of terrorism, antisemitism and homophobia.

In January 2009, Qaradawi gave a sermon televised by Al-Jazeera in which, as the Times reported, he expressed the hope that the “believers” would one day inflict upon the Jews a “divine punishment“, akin to Hitler’s Holocaust. According to the Muslim Council of Britain, Qaradawi is a “renowned Islamic scholar” who “enjoys unparalleled respect and influence throughout the Muslim world”. Although the chairman of a House of Commons select committee has protested about Qaradawi’s remarks, I am not aware of any UK antiracist organisation having condemned them. Indeed, I have found no occasion on which Unite Against Fascism has spoken out against the genocidal antisemitism that is prevalent in Islamist political rhetoric. Apparently, they just don’t see it as a problem.

The bottom line is this. Neither Socialist Action nor the Socialist Workers party will oppose racism against Jews, and other forms of bigotry, if they find it politically inconvenient to do so. Indeed, in 2006 and 2008, the Unite Against Fascism national conference featured Dr Daud Abdullah, the assistant secretary general Muslim Council of Britain. Yet Abdullah was the prime mover behind the MCB’s disgraceful boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day. You might remember that the MCB’s original justification for the boycott was that Holocaust Memorial Day “includes the controversial question of alleged Armenian genocide as well as the so-called gay genocide”. This year, the MCB was back to boycotting Holocaust Memorial Day. Nevertheless, this did not disqualify its secretary general, Muhammad Abdul Bari, from being invited as a guest of honour to Unite Against Fascism’s national conference in 2009.

Unite Against Fascism’s weakness on antisemitism is both shocking and shameful. This is not, unfortunately, a story about goings-on in two marginal far left cults. Unite Against Fascism is the leading campaign against racism in the United Kingdom. It is supported by parliamentarians from all the major political parties, and by every significant trade union. It is Unite Against Fascism that sets the tone of the debate when it comes to opposing racism. They call the demonstrations and organise the conferences. It is to Unite Against Fascism that the national press turns, when racism rears its head.

Yet, the best that Unite Against Fascism can do, in these dark times, is to mumble about how awful the Holocaust was. What this means is that there is no broad-based campaign in this country to defend Jews from contemporary antisemitism.

This state of affairs is, quite frankly, terrifying. As others are warning here, there is every reason to believe that the defining themes of the present economic downturn will be xenophobic, anti-immigrant and racist politics. As conspiracy theories depicting Jews as controllers of the financial markets proliferate, antisemitism will undoubtedly also be part of that mix. Support for fascist parties tends to grow during crises, and we need a strong defence against that politics, with solidarity between and support from all parts of British society. However, with its sectarianism, silence on antisemitism and blindness to Islamist Jew-hatred, Unite Against Fascism just isn’t up to the job.

We badly need a new campaign against racism and fascism, run properly by those at the political centre. The first step towards remedying this situation, is for the political mainstream to reclaim antiracist politics from the extreme left.

But does anyone have stomach for the fight?

This piece, by David T, is on Comment is Free.