Monday, May 30, 2011

Reactions to UCU Congress motion on antisemitism

From the Jewish Chronicle:
By Martin Bright, May 30, 2011

The Universities and Colleges Union has voted to distance itself from the European Union's working definition of antisemitism at its annual congress in Harrogate. Delegates overwhelmingly supported the move on the part of the union's leadership, which believes the definition from the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia prevents open discussion of Israel. The union has a history of anti-Israel activism and on Sunday voted through a boycott motion. The definition includes any attacks on the Jewish people's right to self-determination.

Last week, the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust wrote to the union and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission urging a rethink on the issue. The Jewish organisations urged the union to adopt the definition of racism contained in the Macpherson report on the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence. This defines a racist incident as one which is viewed as such by the victim or a third party. EHRC chair Trevor Phillips wrote back saying he was surprised the lecturers' union had not consulted him before taking action on the issue. Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council said: "After today's events I believe the UCU is institutionally racist."
Sarah AB at Harry's Place:
Although the result was fully expected, it was still extremely depressing to read David Hirsh’s report of the debate which has just taken place at Congress. 
Fair Play Campaign Group:
Today, UCU voted to reject the EUMC working definition of antisemitism, leaving nothing in its place.
David Schraub at the Debate Link:
The UCU, perhaps embarrassed over continuing allegations that it harbors a culture of institutional anti-Semitism, has finally agreed to investigate complaints from Jewish members and a torrent of resignations by Jewish academics.

Just kidding! Actually, they just decided to redefine the meaning of anti-Semitism itself, rejecting the commonly held EUMC definition (which affirms the possibility -- though, of course, not the inevitability -- that criticism of Israel could constitute anti-Semitism) in favor of, well, it appears in favor of no definition at all. So I guess it's not a "redefinition" of anti-Semitism so much as an erasure of it entirely -- which, when you think about it, is at least more in line with the UCU's general practice.
From the World Union of Jewish Studies (WUJS):
The World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) condemns the British University and College Union (UCU) in the wake of its passing a motion rejecting the European Union Monitoring Committee’s (EUMC) definition of anti-Semitism. This definition of anti-Semitism is used on a day-to-day basis by the National Union of Students to combat anti-Semitism, as well as by every major British Jewish communal body.

WUJS Chairman Oliver Worth said; “The UCU has consistently shown a total disregard for the welfare of Jewish students over an extended period of time. WUJS completely rejects the assertion that Jews cannot be trusted to define the ways in which they feel discriminated against, and that the Jewish community is incapable of defining anti-Semitism. The University and College Union stinks of institutional anti-Semitism, and as an organization that exists to protect Jewish students all over the World, we are deeply, deeply concerned.”

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