May 30, 2011

UK academics' union rejects EUMC bogus definition of antisemitism

The congress of the Universities and Colleges Union has just voted to support motion 70, copied here from the Engage website together with David Hirsh's report of the actual proceedings:

70 EUMC working definition of anti-semitism - National Executive Committee

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:
  1. that UCU will make no use of the EUMC definition (e.g. in educating members or dealing with internal complaints)
  2. that UCU will dissociate itself from the EUMC definition in any public discussion on the matter in which UCU is involved
  3. 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
1443. proposal to change the rules to allow Conference Business Committee to co-opt members between Congresses
1445.  Business of the equality committee.  Chair of the committee to move.
1448. Marion Hersh argues for Motion 66, which says that the union should be in favour of institutions carrying out equality impact assessments.  This means that things such as cuts imposed by universities shouldn’t impact on one ‘equality’ group more than another.
But there is no call that the union itself should undergo a quality impact assessment about how its policies on Israel impacts on minorities within the union.
1458.  Motion 67.  From Black members standing commitee.  Another motion about impact assessment.  remitted.
1500.  Motion 68.  Every branch should have a properly resourced Equalities Officer.
1503.  Motion 69. “defend multiculturalism”.  conratulate UAF for its opposition to the EDl.  Work with UAF and Hope Not Hate against fascism.  Defend the values of multiculturalism.
1504.  The atmosphere in conference is calm, quiet relaxed.  Nobody is cheering or booing.  Just doing business in a normal kind of way.    See if the atmosphere changes for motion 70 on the EUMC defiinition?
1505.  Ammendment: give United Against Fascism (UAF) £1000.
1509.  another speech about how the EDL’s “flash mob” tactics make it necessary for the union to give £1000 to UAF.
1511.  vote on the motion.  Surprisingly, Sally Hunt is on the platform.
1512.  Sue Blackwell to propose the motion against the EUMC.  definition adopted by NUS, parliamentary inquiry, US State Department.  In Jan 2010 Denis Mcshane tried to have Azzam Tammimi banned from speaking.  [Tammimi is Hamas's guy in London - DH]  Blackwell goes on,McShane argued that an external speaker should be rejected if they have a history of antisemitic language in line with the EUMC…”   EUMC comes from the American Jewish Committee, European Jewish Congress, self confessed lobby groups for Israel.  Ken Stern, author of EUMC is deeply concerned about “politically based antisemitism” otherwise known as antizionism which treats Israel as the classic Jew….  antisemites seek to qualify israel from membership of the community of nations.”  In other words, if you are for a boycott, you are an antisemite.  These influences are evidenced by American spellings in the document.  Definition is not fit for finding Real antisemitism but is ideal for those who want to blur boundaries between antisemitism and antizionism.
1515.  Mike Cushman, LSE.  Opponents of this motion have been filling the internet with insults against this union.  Lets see how EUMC definition is used.
One example:  a member wrote “no compromise with Zionists or university closures”.  Claimed to be antisemitic.  Linking the international with the local is part of our politics.  Not racist.  By making Israel a special case the proponents of EUMC are being antisemitic.
Cushman goes on: David Hirsh that “expert” on antisemitism says “Israel murders children is antisemitic”   Not its not, its pro children.  Antisemitism must never never  be normalized.  Puts jews at risk  Crying wolf puts the sheep and the shepherd at hazard.
Support this motion because the EUMC definition is dangerous to Jews.
1517.   Ronnie Fraser (I had this text already):
I, a Jewish member of this union, am telling you, that I feel an antisemitic mood in this union and even in this room.
I would feel your refusal to engage with the EUMC definition of antisemitism, if you pass this motion, as a racist act.
Many Jews have resigned from this union citing their experience of antisemitsim.   Only yesterday a delegate here said ‘they are an expansionist people”. It is difficult to think that the people in question are anything other than the Jews.
You may disagree with me.
You may disagree with all the other Jewish members who have said similar things.
You may think we are mistaken but you have a duty to listen seriously.
Instead of being listened to, I am routinely told that anyone who raises the issue of antisemitism is doing so in bad faith.
Congress, Imagine how it feels when you say that you are experiencing racism, and your union responds: stop lying, stop trying to play the antisemitism card.
You, a group of mainly white, non-Jewish trade unionists, do not the right to tell me, a Jew, what feels like antisemitism and what does not.
Macpherson tells us that when somebody says they have been a victim of racism, then institutions should begin by believing them. This motion mandates the union to do the opposite.
Until this union takes complaints of antisemitsim seriously the UCU will continue to be labelled as an institutionally antisemitic organisation.
It’s true that anti-Zionist Jews may perceive things differently.  But the overwhelming majority of Jews feel that there is something wrong in this union. They understand that it is legitimate to criticise Israel in a way that is, quoting from the definition, “similar to that levelled to any other country’ but they make a distinction between criticism and the kind of demonisation that is considered acceptable in this union
Ronnie met with stoney silence.
1519.  Speech against.  Pete Radcliffe, (AWL).  No definition of any form of racism can prevent misuse.  each time an accusation of racism is made it should be assessed by the specifics.
The fact that defs may have been misused is no argument that they are wrong.
What does it say?
Look at what is written.
The most controversial is where it says those who claim that the existence of the israeli state are antisemitic.  Consider the peaceniks and the Israeli peace movement.  The def says that to call such people racist – because they are Israelis – is antisemitic.  They are Israelis who aren’t racist.
Congress we should be endorsing this definition, not condemning it.
We are going to have a general secretary election.  We need to take care.  OUr union is never more in the public eye.  do we want to make this a bit issue?
Des Freedman, Goldsmiths.  “As a Jewish member of this union I urge you to support.”
By conflating justificed criticism of Israel with antisemitism it restricts our ability to make justified criticism.
One example:  the NEC of NUS recently passed a motion calling for freedom for Palestine.  The reaction by the outgoing president was to promise to campaign against it and referred to it as a form of hate speech.  The point of something like that which was much debated, reflecting on the events for example in gAza, over a thousand people who were killed – adopting the EUMC definition unnecessarily curtails our ability to intervene, to call for justice, to call for freedom for Palestinians.
We shouled be firm in opposition to a-s.  EUMC prevents us from doing that.  I urge support.
1526.  Another speech.  This union should not be challenging antisemitism by rejecting a definition.  We should propose our own definition if we want to speak on this.
EUMC does not use the definition.
1527.  Sean Wallis.  Definitions include things and exclude things.  Read the definition and you’ll see how we need to be clear.  My branch defines antisemitism as a form of racism and so we oppose it.  The only way of doing this concretely is in concrete circumstances.  This elaborate extensive definition is unhelpful.    I was libelled 2 years ago.  There are people in this room who participated in this libel.  As a jew I find it offensive that the term antisemitism should be used in this way.  Throw it out .  It is not a definition. It is not working.
Ronnie Fraser point of information.
The EUMC definition itself.  It is used by law enforcement authorities throughout the world for guidance to recognise antisemitic statements and acts.  It is recommended to be used in academic and the unions by the Parliamentary Conference of 2009.
Sue Blackwell:  I think Ronnie just made a speech in favour of the m0tion – that’s why we should be worried about it.
EUMC has been replaced.  successor organisation have no plans for any further development of it.  the latest publication doesn’t mention the definition.  They’ve dumped it because it is not fit for purpose.
Whether we need an alternative definition.  I recommend Brian Klug’s “hostility towards Jews as Jews”.
Quoting richard Kuper: the strong fight back by israel and its supporters has been sometimes crude… the EUMC has been effective.  inadequate, yet it is increasingly presented as THE definition of antisemitism, it cannot bear this weight.
The vote was overwhelmingly carried.  4 people, I think, voted against.
After the vote, Ronnie was very upset.  “I feel physically sick and so upset because of their racism,” he told me.  He was close to tears.
This a good result and I'm glad that Sue Blackwell and Mike Cushman managed to cover some of the main issues, especially the genealogy of the working definition which came originally from the American Jewish Committee, an Israel lobby group.

At the moment there are 8 comments on the Engage site of which Tony Greenstein's is the latest.  Here it is:

Tony Greenstein Says:

This is the best news for a long time. Congratulations are in order. Now instead of accusing everyone who supports the Palestiniains of ‘anti-Semitism’ and thereby giving a boost to the real anti-Semites like Gilad Atzmon and co. we will be able to sort out the wheat from the Zionist chaff.
Ironically the EUMC Definition, coming as it did from the AJC, was itself anti-Semitic, in suggestion that to deny ‘the Jewish people their right to self-determination’ was anti-semitic. Only Zionists and anti-Semites pretend that Jews from India to Argentina to France comprise one people i.e. race.
And why is drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis anti-semitic? Israeli leaders and Zionists do it with monotonous regularity or is it only allowed for racists to make the comparison? Didn’t eg Matan Vilnai, deputy Defence Minister promise a ‘little Shoah’ not long before the slaughter of 1,400 people in Gaza?
I agree that ‘holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.’ But this has never been applied to Zionists and the Board of Deputies who continually proclaim that the Jewish community in Britain is behind Israeli war crimes.
well done to Sue Blackwell, Tom Hickey et al.
Yup, well done those people!


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