FFIPP-UK, Newsletter 10th April 2007

This newsletter contains information about:

1. The All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism in the UK
2. FFIPP-UK Seminar, “Responding to Censorship: Freedom, Speech and Action”, 14th May 2007
3. The Norman Finkelstein affair
4. Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions news
5. Advance notice:
a) FFIPP 2007 Summer Student Internship for Peace and Justice in Palestine/Israel b) Next delegation to Israel-Palestine, 6-17 July
b) FFIPP-International conference in Paris, September

1. All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism in the UK

In November 2005 an Inquiry was set up by the Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism, John Mann, and chaired by Denis MacShane MP, to consider evidence on the nature of contemporary antisemitism, evaluate current efforts to confront it and to consider making further recommendations. There were four sessions of oral evidence and much written evidence was submitted to the Inquiry. It reported in September 2006.
a) The report is available for download
b) A summary of the government response, published late March is available and the full response downloadable.

There are many concerns about the report, including its uncritical adoption of a European Union Monitoring Committee working definition of antisemitism, which has been read to presume that criticism of Israel is far too often antisemitic in inspiration.
a) Rosemary Bechler, in an extensive commentary, lays bare some of these concerns.
b) The University and College Union sent a critical commentary on those sections of the report concerned with higher education.
A group of 76 academics, organised by Engage, sent a letter to the union dissociating themselves from the union response.
c) The provisional nature of the EUMC working definition, noted by the government in its response, did not prevent the National Union of Students adopting it uncritically at its annual conference in March 2007. This was heralded in the Jewish Chronicle of 29th March as “Jewish Students won a major victory at this week’s National Union of Students’ annual conference in Blackpool”. Jewish Students for Justice for Palestinians dissented from that view and distributed a leaflet before the debate explaining its objections.
d) Art Neslen’s Comment is Free contribution to the Guardian on 5th April 2007 was devoted to this theme: “When an anti-semite is not an anti-semite: A new ‘working definition’ promoted by Israel lobbyists seeks to confuse anti-semitism with anti-Zionism.” It was followed, as ever, by an extensive ill-tempered correspondence, with the occasional point of interest hidden in its depths…
e) FFIPP-UK are organising a seminar to reflect on some of these issues – see next item.

2. FFIPP-UK Seminar, “Responding to Censorship: Freedom, Speech and Action”, 14th May 2007

A workshop organized by FFIPP-UK (Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, UK) and Sponsored by the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities

Date: May 14th, 2007
Time: 6:30pm to 9pm
Venue: Birkbeck College, Room 541, Malet Street, London WC1

Recent considerations of the definition of anti-semitism at the European and UK governmental levels have identified a relationship between anti-semitism and criticism of Israel. Reflecting developments in the U.S.A, the re-definition of anti-semitism to potentially include certain forms of criticism of Israel has brought issues of hate speech and racism on the one hand, and the freedom to engage in legitimate political critique, criticism and action on the other, into direct conflict. How best to respond to this recent move, which has the potential to effectively stifle individual and collective political action and critique in relation to Israel’s actions in Palestine?

The rise in anti-semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of racism frame the discussion about political debate and censorship. The reality of racism prompts us to move past the usual (liberal) discourses of freedom of speech and academic freedom. The question becomes how best to create the climate that enables robust and respectful political debate and meaningful critique. What material conditions are required to create such freedom? Is the notion of ‘academic freedom’ useful in this respect? How do we resist the censorship of political critique in the current chilly climate while moving beyond simple notions of ‘free speech’?

The aim of this workshop is to explore these questions from a variety of practical, strategic and theoretical perspectives. Short presentations will be made by a small number of speakers but the emphasis will be on exchanging ideas. To that end workshop participants are asked to read the following:

Report by the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism, 2006

Government Response: summary with link to downloadable full document

Judith Butler Israel/Palestine: the paradoxes of academic freedom

Rosemary Bechler A Commentary on the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism

Places are limited and you are advised to reserve – please contact Brenna Bhandar or Daniel Monk

3. The Norman Finkelstein affair

Norman Finkelstein, author of among others Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Verso, 1995;The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, Verso, 2003; and Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, University of California Press, 2005 is having what on the face of it should be an utterly routine application for tenure at DePaul University, Detroit, called into question by the intervention of Alan Dershowitz (whose book The Case for Israel is subjected to detailed critique in Beyond Chutzpah).
As of now Finkelstein’s Department of Political Science has endorsed his application; it has also scrutinised Dershowitz’s case and found it to be without merit. However, the Dean of Finkelstein’s college is refusing to support him on grounds which seem extraneous to any tenure application. As the letter of support from various colleagues of Finkelstein puts it: ““We have seen a memo, dated March 22, 2007, from Chuck Suchar, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, to the University Board on Tenure and promotion, recommending against tenure for Dr. Finkelstein, despite favorable votes at two levels of faculty review. Dean Suchar justifies his recommendation on the ground that Dr. Finkelstein’s scholarly work, though sound in its content, is often uncivil, disrespectful, mean-spirited, inflammatory, and so on, in its tone.”
It’s important to note that at this stage the tenure application has not been refused. You can follow up the details of the case and decide whether to add your name to the letter of support that appears there. There is also, and independently, a petition of support for ‘a fair tenure process for Dr. Finkelstein’.

4. Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions news

a) PACBI (the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) carries a call on its website from nineteen Palestinian Medical and Health institutions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory for a boycott of the Israeli Medical Association on various ground including its failure to denounce or seriously confront the Israeli government on its shameless use of torture; its ‘blatant disregard for the ethical issue of medical neutrality, with the IMA unconditionally defending the violations of medical neutrality by the Israeli army in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)’ and so forth. See

b) Naomi Wimborne-Idrissa takes up the issue of Israel’s sporting links in a Guardian Comment is Free “An overdue yellow card: Boycotting Israel’s goods and sporting events may not bring peace and justice, but it will send an important message to the country’s leaders”.

c) Ruth Tenne writes about Jews for Boycotting Israel: A New Initiative in The Palestine Chronicle.

d) In Whose boycott is it, anyway Israeli filmmaker and academic Haim Bresheeth ‘makes the case for a cultural boycott of his home country’ – in Al Ahram 8-14 March 2007 at

e) Menachem Kellner, Resisting Falsehood and Protecting Integrity, April 2007
Menachem Kellner is Professor of Jewish Thought at the University of Haifa
‘Omar Barghouti’s call for an academic and cultural boycott, “Resisting Israeli Apartheid: Why the Academic and Cultural Boycott?” is a sustained attempt to demonize Israel, intended to bring about its destruction. I shall reply to Mr. Barghouti’s essay calling for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel.’

f) Michael Yudkin Is an academic boycott of Israel justified? April 2007
‘Two kinds of argument speak in favour of maintaining the principle of the Universality of Science and Learning: 1) that undesirable consequences would flow from violating it, and 2) that to harm people who are innocent of wrongdoing is morally unacceptable. Those who wish to boycott Israeli academics attempt to defeat the second type of argument by claiming that these academics are complicit in discrimination against the Arab minority in Israel or the occupation of the West Bank, and/or that Israeli universities suppress dissenting voices. Analysis of these claims shows that they are without serious substance.’
Full article at

5. Advance notice

a) FFIPP 2007 Summer Student Internship for Peace and Justice in Palestine/Israel
Session I: May 27 – June 25, 2007 Session II: July 1 – July 30, 2007
The program includes: Volunteer work in NGO’s and grassroots organizations in Palestine/Israel. Training sessions, lectures about the history and culture of Palestine/Israel, lessons in the Arabic and Hebrew language, meetings with Palestinian and Israeli student activists for peace and justice. For more information or to get an application for the internship program, go to http://www.ffipp.org

b) Next delegation to Israel-Palestine, 6-17 July
The next FFIPP International delegation of faculty and students to Palestine/Israel is planned for July 6 -17, 2007. For more information or to get an application to join the delegation.

c) FFIPP-International conference in Paris, September
FFIPPI is planning a three-day conference in Paris on September 28 and 29, titled Israel/Palestine and New Agendas In The Middle East. The Conference is being planned with the objectives of 1) establishing an international network of organizations trying to achieve justice and an end the occupation in Palestine; and 2) creating a research unit that will include experts who can provide high-quality, timely analyses of the current situation. The majority of the groups expected to attend the conference are academic and research related.


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