UCU’s NEC: Antisemitism, We Don’t Want A Policy
Looking back, from my earliest days I was a trade unionist, active in many unions in lay positions and committed to trade unionism. Equally, I have always had a high regard for academics and scholars, as a book lover, but I am dismayed at the posturing and intellectual stupidity coming out of the University and College Union’s (UCU) National Executive Committee.
UCU’s NEC have submitted a motion to Congress which essentially says: “Antisemitism, we don’t want a policy and won’t listen to anyone who wants to discuss it”.
This motion only reinforces the view that UCU are institutionally antisemitic, that is, they are unable and unwilling to counter anti-Jewish racism within their own organisation.
However, the Met Police did not, if I remember correctly, respond by saying:
“The Race Relations Act is stifling debate on immigrants, blacks and other foreigners. We, the Met Police, reject its usage and it should not be used in educating people against racial prejudice or internal disputes within the Police Service.”
NO, the Met Police didn’t say that, but in this motion that’s essentially what UCU are arguing concerning anti-Jewish racism.
The Met Police acknowledged they had a problem with racism, which is considerably better than UCU have done.
So we have the anomaly of a Union for academics, staff and others in the educational sector unable to face up to anti-Jewish racism, whereas even the awful, often violent and thugish Met Police have done something against institutional racism, but not UCU:
“70 EUMC working definition of anti-semitism – National Executive Committee
Congress notes with concern that the so-called ‘EUMC working definition of antisemitism’, while not adopted by the EU or the UK government and having no official status, is being used by bodies such as the NUS and local student unions in relation to activities on campus.
Congress believes that the EUMC definition confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine antisemitism, and is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus.
1. that UCU will make no use of the EUMC definition (e.g. in educating members or dealing with internal complaints)
2. that UCU will dissociate itself from the EUMC definition in any public discussion on the matter in which UCU is involved
3. that UCU will campaign for open debate on campus concerning Israel’s past history and current policy, while continuing to combat all forms of racial or religious discrimination.”
It is hard to think of greater intellectual turpitude, an inability to deal with anti-Jewish racism, and why those in the educational sector should consciously choose to go down this path is beyond me, but let us refesh our memories as to what institutional racism is:
“The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.”
The Macpherson report
“Institutional racism is that which, covertly or overtly, resides in the policies, procedures, operations and culture of public or private institutions – reinforcing individual prejudices and being reinforced by them in turn.”
A. Sivanandan, Director, Institute of Race Relations
“If racist consequences accrue to institutional laws, customs or practices, that institution is racist whether or not the individuals maintaning those practices have racial intentions.”
The Commission for Racial Equality “
Perhaps instead of playing political games UCU’s NEC would be better off admitting the obvious, the institutional racism within UCU and dealing with it, or at the very least making an effort, as the Met Police did a decade ago.
Update 1: Engage has more, David Hirsh is very good on these issues:
“The EUMC definition says it may, in some contexts, be antisemitic to accuse Jews of being more loyal to Israel than to their union; to say Israel is a racist endeavour; to apply double standards; to boycott Israelis but not others for the same violations; to say that Israeli policy is like Nazi policy; to hold Jews collectively responsible for the actions of Israel. All of these things have been going on a lot inside the academic unions for the last eight years. Instead of addressing the antisemitic culture, the leadership of the union now proposes to alter the definition of antisemitism. The union wants to carry on treating ‘Zionists’ as disloyal; singling out Israel and only Israel for boycott; holding Israeli universities responsible for their government; allowing ‘Zionist’ union members to be denounced as Nazis or supporters of apartheid.
The precise form that bullying typically takes within UCU is that people who complain about antisemitism are accused of doing so in bad faith in a dishonest attempt to outlaw criticism of Israel. The antisemitism isn’t seen, isn’t acknowledged, the accuser is accused; and Israel is blamed for the unseen and unacknowledged antisemitism.”