“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Counterpoise the Two?

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Mark Steel has a favourable review of Mike Marqusee’s If I Am Not For Myself, but he slipped in some rather strange comments, such as “To be against Israel is to be against Jews, so opponents of Israel’s etiquette are derided as ‘anti-semitic’.”

I have replied to Mark Steel on this issue via email (my comments didn’t seem to get posted, maybe finger trouble or something) and I hope he’ll eventually post them and see how the discussion develops.

I have a lot of time for Mike Marqusee, he’s a principled individual, but shortly after I was reading this over at Engage and it answered the point with greater persuasiveness than I could have hoped for:

“I have been a member for UCU/AUT for just over three years. In all my life living in the UK, I can say that this is the only organization with which I have been involved in which I have been made to feel uncomfortable as a Jew – and specifically as a Jew all of whose family is Israeli. Repeated calls for boycott of Israeli institutions, the circulation of vitriolic, offensive and untrue allegations, the fact that Jewish members have either been excluded or bullied out of the activists list, have led to a culture in UCU that I have to describe as institutionally anti-semitic. I choose these words carefully because I am sure that the individuals involved do not themselves mean to be anti-semitic; but the net effect of these actions is to create a culture in the trade union in which Jews and Israelis feel alienated or excluded. I know Israeli colleagues who will not join UCU because they perceive it as being prejudiced against them. I know non-Jewish, non-Israeli colleagues who will not join or who have left UCU because they perceive it as being prejudiced against Jews and Israelis, and not focussed on the important matters of pay and conditions which you wrote about in your email.

I regularly consider my position as a member of UCU, and, if congress again votes in favour of anti-Israel motions, will consider my position again. I will probably stay, if only out of dogged refusal to give way to a bigotted position. I would love to be able to contribute to the strike fund; but before I could make such contributions, that could help people who are in a different financial situation from me, I need to be able to feel that I belong to a trade union who accepts me for who I am: a Jew with an Israeli family.”

So Mark, I just wonder do you feel at ease with some trade unions when they become places where Jews and non-Jews feel uncomfortable on these issues?

Equally, would you feel content with trade unions if ethnic minorities or women felt so uncomfortable that they wouldn’t join or had to leave?

Written by modernityblog

25/05/2008 at 01:41

Posted in Uncategorized

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