April 03, 2013

UCU activist writes: It's about the Palestinians stupid

Mike Cushman 

To no one’s surprise a Zionist claque has swiftly assembled to denounce the findings of the Fraser vs UCU Employment Tribunal. It would appear that according to these voices the only business a the next meeting of UCU’s national executive will not be fighting the massive cuts in UK higher and further education but debating when and in what format to reissue The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Hysterical rubbish, of course but we have to explore why the reaction is so unbalanced. Fraser and his legal advisors chose the legal terrain and the scope of their action, not UCU. They chose their schedule of witnesses who declaimed and dissembled but failed to address the matters that Fraser wished the tribunal to consider.

Anthony White, counsel for UCU, demolished their testimony but was only able to do so with such effectiveness because they were such poor witnesses.  Ever since the tribunal, Fraser’s self-proclaimed friends have been picking over 50 pages of closely argued legal findings trying to claim they are simultaneously technically narrow and the most wide-ranging antisemitic text of recent years.

Hirsh and Susskind et al fail to grasp at least two very basic points. They solipsistically believe it is all about the Jews; they cannot understand or believe that it is about the Palestinians.

For the vast majority of those active in support of Palestinian rights it was the oppression of Palestinians that led them to activity.  They only started to consider Zionism as an ideology when they started to enquire why Israel was behaving so badly and so criminally.  At that point they encountered the Zionist justification for occupation and oppression and took a stance of either deploring the degradation of a potentially positive movement or took a more radical stance of identifying Zionist ideology, in itself, at the heart of the problem.

The absence of the Palestinians even as objects, let alone actors, in the Zionist exclusionary Jewish narrative tells us all we need to know about why being anti-Zionist is radically different from being an anti-Semite.  Anti-Zionism is a stance against a pernicious anti-Palestinian racism.  Zionism is an ideology that allows Israel to behave as it does while simultaneously believing that Israel conforms to the norms of liberal, law-based democracy.

Secondly, they continually ask, ‘why only boycott Israel?’  The Palestinian call for BDS is the only extant call for boycott by a significant national liberation movement.  Other movements and peoples call for different forms of support each of which must be considered on its merits. 

Israel’s crimes are not measured on a Richter scale of oppression against those of China or Burma or Zimbabwe and only be the subject of campaigns when they reach the hotly contested pinnacle at the top of the Premiership of abuse.  That the crimes are profound and continuing is a sufficient justification. 

Other regimes are the subject of regular denunciation and sanction by western governments, Israel is singled out not by our opposition but by the condoning of its actions by the USA; its massive military and civil aid; and its systematic cover at the Security Council.  Similarly the EU treats Israel, in defiance of geography, as a surrogate, if displaced, part of Europe and grants the privileges of association without requiring the fulfilment of Council of Europe human rights standards.

None of this is deny the possibility, and occasional reality, of support for Palestinian rights being motivated by malice towards Jews.  We have a duty to criticise and condemn such behaviour when we see it and the Palestinian rights movement is, in general, self-aware and self critical on this.  Fraser and his team were unable to discover any such motivation behind the actions of UCU officers and activists and are now reduced to asserting that its absence can only be the result of a wider collaboration to conceal it.  Such concealment is beyond the limited ability of UCU, PSC, BRICUP, the Employment Tribunal Service or other presumed conspirators.  Its absence is just that, an absence.

Mike Cushman is a member of BRICUP and is a UCU branch secretary and a regular speaker in favour of Palestinian rights at successive UCU congresses. His interventions were regularly referred to by Fraser and his witnesses.


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