The leaders of the Jewish community have recorded their outrage at the University and College Union, which has voted to distance itself from the European Union's working definition of antisemitism, at its annual congress in Harrogate.
Straight away there's an issue here in that these people are not the leaders of the Jewish community, they are leaders of Jewish organisations. That is not the same thing. Still, at least he got the UCU's beef with the working definition right. It is designed to prevent "full and open discussion of Israel and Palestine on campus" and elsewhere. But read on:
Delegates overwhelmingly supported the move on the part of the union's executive, which believes the 2005 European definition prevents the full and open discussion of Israel and Palestine on campus.
Ok, he was surprised. But what the article doesn't say is that EHRC chair, Trevor Phillips, also said, in his letter,
But Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: "After this weekend's events, I believe the UCU is institutionally racist."Representatives of the JLC, the Board of Deputies and the Community Security Trust have now appealed to government ministers David Willetts and Eric Pickles to support a formal Equality and Human Rights Commission investigation into the decision.Their calls were echoed by John Mann MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism."These claims have been made and should be investigated independently, ideally by the EHRC," he said.'''...
....Trevor Phillips, chair of the EHRC, said he was "surprised" at the failure of the UCU to introduce its motion on the definition of antisemitism "without consulting the EHRC" at all
Not quite the sacrosanct document these "leaders of the Jewish community" are making it out to be.
But check out the Board of Deputies on this:
Now this is a serious bit of brinkmanhip and Whine is sticking his neck out here. For a fairly thorough look at the EUMC working definition of antisemitism check out Richard Kuper's article on Open Democracy or Ben White on Liberal Conspiracy where you will see that these Jewish leaders are having a hissy fit over a bogus definition of antisemitism that asserts that, "subject to overall context", it "could be" antisemitic to "deny Jews their right of self-determination by claiming that Israel is a racist endeavour, to compare Israel to the nazis and to criticise Israel over issues that you have not criticised other "democratic nations" over. It's bonkers that anyone with any self-respect could support such a thing let alone intelligent people with high profiles in public. But the Board of Deputies could be heading for a showdown with the EHRC if Trevor Phillips fails to support them or even dismisses them as a bunch of disingenuous supporters of the last of the colonial settler states.The Board's president, Vivian Wineman, also wrote to university vice chancellors asking them to consider whether maintaining a normal relationship with UCU could still be compatible with their requirement to "eliminate discrimination and foster good relations" with minorities."Business as usual should not be an option with an institutionally racist organisation," he said.He added that vice chancellors should put in place procedures to ensure that UCU's institutional racism and perverse definitions were not allowed to "pollute your own processes for handling reports of antisemitism on campus".Mr Wineman said that if the UCU refused to address the issue, "we would ask that you reconsider whether formal union recognition of UCU is appropriate at all".
Phillips might note that it is not antisemitic to say that Israel simply has no right to exist, nor to say that Israel is racist nor to say that Jews are not an appropriate case for self-determination. He might go further and ask for clarification of the assertion that Israel amounts to a "democratic nation". He might even dismiss the term as ludicrous since democratic is a description of an institution, not a nation or people unless one is essentialising a people as containing within them a political persuasion. And there is the main rub with this bogus definition, it essentialises Jews not as an identity in the usual sense of the term but as a political persuasion, and in the case of zionism, a racist political persuasion. What if, horror or horrors, Phillips points out that the definition is itself antisemitic? I doubt if he will do that but the working definition is so glaringly mischievous I don't see how its critics can lose. If it is accepted by an august body like the EHRC then it comes under scrutiny and is revealed for what it is, negative hasbara. If it is thrown out by the EHRC then its proponents are discredited even sooner.
I think the UCU has performed a wonderful service no matter what happens in the short term.