Posts Tagged ‘Engage’
It is slow blogging from me for a while, but I would recommend that readers take a long hard look in at Engage.
Recently they have been superb, positively on steroids with a fine bevy of posts.
I would suggest that members of the University and College Union read and think about James Mendelsohn’s resignation letter to Sally Hunt, which I produce in full:
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 ” [My emphasis.]
Engage covers another staged debate on the boycotting of Israelis, to be held at the LSE, on Thursday 13th January 2011.
Looking at the participants, one of them seemed familiar to me, John Chalcraft.
I haven’t heard Dr. Chalcraft speak, but I vaguely remember an argument he posed before on boycotting Israelis.
Norm covered it, 4 years ago:
“Like the AUT boycott decision that came before it (see the links at the end of this post), the vote yesterday at the Bournemouth conference of UCU disgraces a union representing British academics, and it will stain its reputation and moral standing so long as the decision is allowed to stand. Arguing for the boycott position yesterday, John Chalcraft wrote:
The movement for boycott is in no way anti-semitic. It includes Jews and non-Jews…
Well, whether the policy of boycotting Israeli academics is anti-Semitic or not, the fact that the movement in favour of it includes some Jews is neither here nor there. This can’t establish its ‘clean’ credentials, as will be quickly seen from the following simple thought experiment.
Imagine a policy that you’re certain would be anti-Semitic: say, just for example, a law requiring all Jewish academics to wear insignia of identity when at their place of work. Now, suppose some Jews who support this law, for whatever reason. End of thought experiment.**
The anti-Semitic or non-anti-Semitic character of any policy depends on its overall shape and effects and not on whether or not it has some Jewish supporters – even though, in the nature of things, most Jews will pass up the opportunity of supporting anti-Semitic policies. But most is just most; it isn’t all”
**In my view Norm’s argument here is a bit too subtle.
So it is with Dr. Chalcraft’s arguments and he’s been going on about boycotting Israelis (and no one else) for years and years.
Still, I suppose it provides an outlet for him and others, a bit like that bloke down the Pub who rants when certain topics come up. Its something a kin to the equivalent of Middle Class football hooliganism, something to let frustrations out on, a useful whipping boy for Western angst and alienation.
Now I am a great believer in argumentation, but it seems unlikely that ANY argument would sway or deflect these anti-Israeli obsessives, as we’ve seen before with the institutionalised racism in UCU.
I wonder if these words will be used by pro-boycotters at the LSE debate “Of course, some of my best friends are…..”?
Update 1: The LSE’s cartography has been lacking recently, as the JPost relates:
“LONDON – A prestigious British university apologized on Thursday for using a map of the Middle East without Israel in an article in one of its publications.
The alumni magazine of the London School of Economics, LSE Connect, published a story about the school’s new Middle East research center with a map of the Middle East that had Beirut and the Gaza Strip but no Israel.
In the article, it said that the creation of the center was made possible because of the support of two organizations from the United Arab Emirates. The Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy and the Aman Trust contributed £9.2 million. “
A recent letter of resignation (or 2) from the University and College Union highlights how the proposed boycott of Israelis has weakened the Trade Union movement in Britain.
Despite numerous letters and resignations UCU still doesn’t take seriously the question of its institutionalised racism, from Shalom Lappin’s resignation and those that followed, on and on and on.
As Shalom Lappin wrote:
“In my view, matters have reached the point where the UCU is no longer an effective agent of industrial democracy or a credible representative of its members in the struggle for improved working conditions in the University sector. It has allowed itself to be infected by the raw prejudice of a small group of political extremists, who are using it to pursue an appalling agenda. In these circumstances I see no alternative but to withdraw from the union. I will work against the discrimination that the boycott campaign is attempting to promote in a more efficient way than by allowing myself to be placed in the defendant’s dock by agents of bigotry in an endlessly recurring, stacked “debate” within the UCU. If the UCU ever frees itself from the malevolent grip of the boycott obsession which it has permitted to flourish in its midst and returns to its intended role as a genuine labour union, I will be delighted to return.”
It is a terrible state of affairs when a modern trade union can’t address the issue of institutionalised racism within it and forces members who resigned in protest.
David Hirsh has documented, with customary clarity, the sorry tale of institutionalised racism in UCU.
I suspect for the sake of brevity that Dr. Hirsh had to leave out a fair amount of material
I can’t think of any other circumstance, or any other trade union, that would not start questioning itself if Jewish members left in droves as has happened at UCU.
Yet the question of “why ?” doesn’t seem to occur to UCU or its leaders, which is rather depressing.
David Hirsh is sharp as ever:
“The truth is it doesn’t require much courage at all to stand up and oppose Israeli human rights abuses. People do it all the time. Israelis do it all the time. It is the illusion of the moment, pushed by films such as Defamation, pushed by the self-promotion of the anti-Zionists that there are fearsome prices to be paid for supporting Palestinian liberation. Personally, I find it much more frightening to stand up for a democratic and genuinely liberational kind of criticism against the current British orthodoxy of casting Israel, and the Jews who support it, as uniquely and especially threatening.”
Older readers will remember how the used to preoccupy many in the West, either for it or against it.
Thirty to forty years ago most intelligent people had some opinion on the Soviet Union and it was the subject of much scrutiny from BBC correspondents and others exercising Kremlinology to Leftwing periodicals discussing Soviet “socialist” economics. Most aspects of Soviet society were analysed in one way shape or form, some of it in minute detail, not forgetting that the Russian Revolution itself was almost a Mastermind specialist topic for many politicos.
Yet in all of that one subject often went without discussion, or if it was mentioned there only in passing, the issue of Soviet anti-Zionism was almost a non-topic.
In the latter years of the Soviet Union there was discussion in the West about the persecution of Jews, but all rather limited and Soviet attitudes towards Jews was hardly ever comprehensively analysed.
So it was good to see that Colin Shindler has attempted to pull together the various intellectual and ideological strands as they relate to Jews, and how they played out with Soviet Realpolitik from the 1920s onwards.
The Jewish Chronicle has an article of his, How the Left turned on Israel.
I don’t think the provocative title does the article justice, but there’s plenty of history and facts in there and it is worth a read.
Something for Walt & Co during the holidays, over at Engage, the line about any left overs sums up the dish, but what is surprising is how many people cook like that nowadays, for real.
“Of course, Israel is at the root of current antisemitism, but not in the way it is currently being framed here. As often noted, it is antisemites that cause and are responsible for antisemitism, just as anti-Black racists are responsible for anti-Black racism and homophobes for anti-gay attitudes and acts. Antisemites, racists and homophobes will always project their own hatred onto the object of their hatred. That is what they do.
Antisemitism is the distortion and reduction of complex political and social relations to that of a simplistic Jew v non-Jew (in the past this has taken the form of Jews v Christians, Jews, v working class, Jews v nationals, Jews v Muslims; and now Jews v Palestinians and, concurrently, Jews v right-minded people).
What is unusual at present is that the appearance appears to match the myth since Israel is a, or rather, the Jewish state. As a consequence, the mythologies of Jewish wrongs and Jewish characteristics (whether from time immemorial or from 1945 (which many see as 1948) are not only given a new lease of life, but appear as if correct. And it is this what turns rational criticism of a state’s policies into a verdict on the Jews (see Sandra’s comments).
The point is, of course, that whenever Jews act in the world as Jews (or, rather, are believed to act “as Jews”) it would appear that it immediately falls victim to the conceptual schema that is part and parcel of antisemitism that stands, and has always stood, against the norms of rational political understanding. Instead, such understanding and criticism takes on the world view and language of Jew-hatred.
A few examples will illustrate this point,
1. A cartoon of Sharon eating babies (produced on Holocaust memorial day)
2. The analogy between nazism and the Shoah and Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians.
3. A belief in an omnipotent Lobby that is said to control the foreign policy of the most powerful state on earth (along with almost all its elected representatives).
4. The idea that Israel is the gravest danger to the stability of the world and that it is going to lead the globe to Armegedon.
5 Collective guilt and responsibility (illustrated most clearly by Sandra’s sinister use of “you” akin to the term “you people”, and owlinminerva’s point about “you won backyard).
6. That Jews are liars, that when they raise the question of antisemitism they are being duplicitous, that they are not to be trusted (owlinminerva’s point about “not pretending” to “really” be about Israel about a genuine and legitimate concern about antisemitism.)
7. That they have such immense power (as well as immorality) that the utterance of a single word – antisemitism – can stop all and any discussion, legitimate or otherwise.
The list could be extended.
The point is, of course, that these antisemitic myths are not only believed but are believed to express the truth of the situation in Israel and Palestine; that an understanding of the complexities of the Israel-Palestine conflict (its connections with, say, the divisions in the Arab world both within and between states to state only the most obvious) can be captured and adequately explained by the tempting simplicities of racism.
Well worth a re-read and ponder.