June 01, 2008

Engage does itself no favours: Jewish Chronicle

Oh dearie me, the champions of academic freedom at Engage have disgraced themselves again, it appears. Don't just take my word, it's right there in the Jewish Chronicle's report on a meeting of BRICUP the night before the UCU Congress. Here's the JC:
UCU academics called for a boycott of Israel’s universities at an unofficial fringe meeting on Tuesday despite the union’s official rejection of an outright boycott.

The meeting, held by pro-boycott group BRICUP on the eve of the UCU congress, saw Israeli-born academic Professor Haim Bresheeth and Birmingham University’s Kamel Hawwash state the case for cutting ties with Israeli universities whose academics are “complicit in the occupation of Palestinians”.

A strong distinction was made between calling for a boycott and the official motion asking union members to “consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions”.

LSE research fellow Mike Cushman, who chaired the event, attempted to deflect criticism that BRICUP supporters were trying to get a boycott adopted by the back door.

In the run-up to the congress, the UCU has been warned by Jewish community leaders of legal opposition to Israeli institutions being singled out in any form.

Challenging the meeting’s speakers, two members of the anti-boycott group Engage contended that antisemitic academics were among those behind the boycott call.

“There are antisemites in our union,” said Jon Pike from the Open University. He further argued that it was “dangerous” to hold academics responsible for the actions of their government simply because they had not spoken against occupation.
"There are antisemites in our union," said Jon Pike? Really, who? Let's see the rest of the article:
Mr Pike heckled Professor Bresheeth as he attempted to respond — a tactic that won little favour for Engage’s case.
Surely he didn't mean Professor Bresheet. He certainly seems to have been trying to "no platform" him, going from the JC report, that is.
“Engage should be called ‘Disengage’ and disengage from Palestine,” Professor Bresheeth declared. “All this rubbish about antisemitism is just really annoying and I disagree that a boycott adds to antisemitism.”
The false allegations might add to it though. Honestly, a principled campaigner against boycott, heckling a speaker and just as an ethnic aside, a non-Jewish heckler heckling a Jew.

Ok, here's the last bit of the article but I want to get back to this Jon Pike heckling business.
Mr Hawwash denied that he was singling out Israel.

“If Palestine was occupied by the Japanese, we would be calling for a boycott of Japanese institutions. This is about the occupier regardless of who they are.”
That last bit was just for completeness.

It's nice to see the zionist movement in the cleft stick of arguing for academic freedom while heckling and using the law not to simply prevent a policy being adopted but to prevent a policy even being discussed.

It's a funny old thing but some time back, Jon Pike gave me the impression that he thought Engage a little over the top. Alf Green, who turned out to be Dr David Hirsh, was having none of that. He usefully pointed out that Jon Pike thought that it was other people who "think that ENGAGE is a bit over the top"

Well now here's Jon Pike going "over the top" heckling speakers in the name of academic freedom, accusing unnamed people in the UCU of antisemitism and generally doing Engage no favours. Tut tut, I nearly forgot. Jon Pike has a write up of the Congress vote but not a word on the night before Congress.


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