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Thursday, June 02, 2011

A thorough explanation of UCU's latest attempt to legitimize Israel bashing

The British University and College Union (UCU) last week voted to reject the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia definition of anti-semitism.

The EUMC working definition includes specific ways that criticism of Israel is in fact anti-semitic.

Working definition: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity....

Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.
The virulently anti-Zionist UCU rejects this definition:

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.

Congress resolves:
  • that UCU will make no use of the EUMC definition (e.g. in educating members or dealing with internal complaints)
  • that UCU will dissociate itself from the EUMC definition in any public discussion on the matter in which UCU is involved
  • 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.
Even though the EUCM was careful to distinguish between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-semitic criticism of Israel, the UCU rejects that distinction - it claims that all criticism of Israel is in fact legitimate, no matter the context.

Ben Gidley at Dissent Magazine goes into great depth on why unions needs to define concepts like racism and anti-semitism - and why the UCU is completely wrong (and disingenuous) in its attempt to pretend that it is  impossible for criticism of Israel to be anti-semitic.

The entire article is worth reading. Its conclusion:
For the union to disassociate itself from the working definition in any public discussion of anti-Semitism is beyond ridiculous. It means insisting that all of the organizations that do take the working definition seriously—the Community Security Trust (CST), which monitors anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom; the NUS; the Union of Jewish Students; the Fundamental Rights Agency; the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe—are dismissed in advance. It undermines their work on anti-Semitism, and it undermines their vital work on anti-Roma racism, Islamophobia, and other racisms.

In the workplace, as the CST’s director writes, this “will serve to (even) further alienate Jews from the union; and it will make it (even) harder for anti-Semitism to be raised there as a matter of concern....[I]t carries the implication that people who complain about anti-Semitism in any Israel-related context are likely to be a bunch of liars, dancing to a pre-ordained tune.”

As an academic who studies racism, I find it bizarre that my union cannot accept that there is even the faintest possibility that institutional racism might exist in our own ranks, even after a series of clearly documented incidents and a shocking number of resignations by Jewish members who perceive it as such. This motion, if passed, [it was passed - EoZ] will in fact legitimate racism in the union and stop any allegation of anti-Semitism—in debates or in the workplace—from being taken seriously. That the motion will be tabled in a session entitled “Campaigning for equality” is ironic, but the irony tastes bitter indeed.
(h/t Adam and Zach N. via Facebook)