UK academic union rejects EU definition of anti-Semitism
By Jonny Paul, Jerusalem Post correspondent
The UCU is institutionally racist, Board of British Jews charges; UCU claims definition designed to deflect criticism of Israel.
LONDON – Britain’s largest trade union for academics has voted to disassociate itself from the EU working definition of anti-Semitism, leading to accusations it is institutionally racist.
The University College Union (UCU) passed the resolution at its annual conference in Harrogate in Yorkshire on Monday, claiming that the European Union Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia definition stifles debate and is used to deflect criticism of Israel.
The motion, raised by activists on the National Executive Committee of the union who in recent years have led on the call to boycott Israeli academia, maintains that the charge of anti- Semitism is used to confuse criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine anti-Semitism, and is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on university campuses.
The move has been condemned by an array of community officials and beyond, accusing it of being institutionally racist. The union has refused on comment on the issue or on the serious accusation leveled against it.
The UCU has been mistreating its Jewish members over the last five years, “assaulting their identity, ignoring their harassment in the Union and refusing to investigate their resignations,” said Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of British Jews. “Now UCU has gone further and simply redefined ‘anti-Semitism’ itself. UCU will actually campaign for other organizations to stop fully fighting anti-Semitism, and has changed its procedures so complaints from Jewish members will be treated with suspicion.
“The truth is apparent: whatever the motivations of its members, we believe UCU is an institutionally racist organization,” Benjamin said.
Ronnie Fraser, director of the Academic Friends of Israel spoke against the motion at the conference. The union has crossed a red line, and “only anti-Semites” would disassociate themselves from the EU Working Definition and vote in favor of the resolution,” Fraser said.
“By adopting this resolution today it confirms what I and my colleagues have said in the past, that until the UCU takes complaints of anti-Semitism seriously the UCU will continue to be labeled as an institutionally anti-Semitic organization which pretends to be committed to fighting anti-Semitism,” Fraser said. “What gives the UCU, a group of mainly white, non-Jewish trade unionists the right to tell Jews what is and what is not anti-Semitism? “Stating that the definition confuses criticism of Israeli government policy and actions with genuine anti- Semitism is itself is a trope – the Livingstone Formulation [named after former London mayor Ken Livingstone], which states that Jews deliberately and maliciously accuse critics of Israel of anti-Semitism in order to deflect and stifle legitimate criticism of Israel,” he said.
The World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) has also condemned the decision, saying that the definition of anti- Semitism is used on a day-today basis by the National Union of Students to combat anti-Semitism, as well as by every major British Jewish communal body.
“The UCU has consistently shown a total disregard for the welfare of Jewish students over an extended period of time,” WUJS chairman Oliver Worth said. “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 UCU stinks of institutional anti-Semitism, and as an organization that exists to protect Jewish students all over the world, we are deeply, deeply concerned,” Worth said.
The incoming campaigns director of the Union of Jewish Student, Dan Sheldon, pointed said that the UCU has never used the Working Definition, nor has it ever proposed to start doing so.
“If the UCU were merely guilty of ignorance, that could be understood and – through education and dialogue – resolved. If someone had proposed that the UCU adopt the Working Definition, and the UCU were to reject it, that would be the result of ignorance. Regrettable, but understandable.
“However, the UCU has never used it, and nobody proposed that it should start doing so. Instead, UCU has decided, apropos of nothing, to condemn the Working Definition whilst offering no serious alternative. In doing so, they have singled out anti- Semitism from other forms of prejudice as something only they, and not the victims, have the right to identify,” Sheldon said.
On Sunday, the UCU voted to support an academic and cultural boycott against Israel.
WORKING DEFINITION OF ANTISEMITISM
The purpose of this document is to provide a practical guide for identifying incidents, collecting data, and supporting the implementation and enforcement of legislation dealing with antisemitism.
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. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.
Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:
Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
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.
Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries).
Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.
Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.