The University College Union, one of the biggest academic trade unions in the world, representing more than 120,000 lecturers, researchers and staff who work in universities and further education colleges, passed a resolution at its annual conference in Harrogate in Yorkshire last month dissociating itself from the EU working definition of anti-Semitism, claiming that it stifled debate and is used to deflect criticism of Israel.
The UCU also voted to support an academic and cultural boycott against Israel.
Ronnie Fraser, director of the Academic Friends of Israel, a freelance maths lecturer whose parents fled the Holocaust, spoke against the motion at the conference and initiated legal action against his own trade union, accusing them of adopting policies that “violate his dignity”, “create a degrading, humiliating and offensive environment” and that harass its Jewish members.
The union has crossed a red line, and “only anti-Semites” would disassociate themselves from the EU Working Definition and vote in favor of the resolution,” Fraser said.
We applaud Ronnie Fraser for his moral courage and strength of character.
The notion that the EU’s working definition silences debate on Israel is an absurd and audacious claim in light of the obsessive and disproportionate criticism the Jewish state receives, by any measurable standard, especially in the UK.
Here are specific examples of antisemitism per the EU working definition – which, it should be noted, were adopted by the Management Board of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) comprising 27 appointees of the 27 EU governments (plus the Council of Europe and Commission appointees):
1. Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
2. Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
3. Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
4. Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
5. Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
6. Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
Specifically with respect to Israel, taking into account the overall context, the EUMC gave the following examples:
7. Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
8. Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
9. Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
10. Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
11. Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
While it’s chilling to imagine that there are professionals in UK academia who feel “stifled” by guidelines which proscribe historically anti-Semitic bigotry as codified in numbers one through six, numbers seven through eleven, pertaining to Israel, also seem consistent with general prohibitions against racism as it’s generally understood, such as: holding any group to higher standards than others, demonizing that group, or holding one member of the group responsible for the actions of the collective.
To be clear, it seems likely that the first caveat in number seven, “denying Jewish people their right to self-determination“, is where Israel’s critics feel most “stifled”.
Danny Rich, the Executive Director of Liberal Judaism in the UK, and Zionist Federation Patron, also wishes to disassociate himself from the EUMC Definition of Antisemitism: that is, he thinks it is not, ipso facto, anti-Semitic to call for the end of the Jewish State.
Rich said, in the context of defending his decision to host a program at the Montagu Centre, Liberal Judaism’s central London HQ, which included Jeff Halper – a fierce proponent of BDS and advocate of a one-state solution:
“Jonathan Hoffman accuses Liberal Judaism of hosting an antisemitic speaker on the basis that any person who calls for a one-state solution is by definition antisemitic. That is clearly nonsense.”
Of course, opposition to the codification of such views as racist stems from the wish to be able to call for the end of Jewish sovereignty in their historic homeland and be given impunity from any corresponding public opprobrium or official censure.
Those who seek such political ends somehow fail to understand how fundamentally discriminatory it is to deny the Jewish people, and only the Jewish people – out of all those in the world whose fundamental national legitimacy is (for some reason) never questioned – the right to self-determination and, furthermore, are blind to the clear dangers of forcing Jews to be stateless in a region awash with extreme anti-Semitism, where such anti-Jewish sentiment is uncontroversial, universal, and represents the normative opinion.
Sixty-three years after the rebirth of the modern Jewish state Israelis should no longer have to make such utilitarian arguments against those arguing for a return to Jewish powerlessness; we shouldn’t have to remind the world what statelessness cost us throughout the centuries – the tragic history of discrimination, humiliation, and mass slaughter which occurred as the result of allowing our fate to be decided by the whims and wishes of non-Jewish rulers.
For, to do so would be to cravenly succumb to the rules imposed on us by our tormentors and accusers.
Ruth Wisse, in her book, “Jews and Power”, argues that, historically, Jews, in displaying the resilience necessary to survive in exile, and not burdened by the weight of a military, believed they could pursue their mission as a “light unto the nations” on a purely moral plane. She demonstrates how, in fact, perpetual political weakness increased Jews’ vulnerability to scapegoating and violence, as it unwittingly goaded power-seeking nations to cast them as perpetual targets.
Moreover, as Abba Eban said, in 1981, six years after the shameful UN Resolution was passed – by a movement of Arab and Soviet bloc states which sought to extinguish Israel’s existence, diplomatically, in a way they were unable to achieve by force of arms – characterizing the entire Zionist movement as fundamentally racist.
“Israel’s right to exist, like that of the United States, Saudi Arabia and 152 other states, is axiomatic and unreserved. Israel’s legitimacy is not suspended in midair awaiting acknowledgement.”
“Would it enter the mind of any Briton or Frenchman, Belgian or Dutchman, Hungarian or Bulgarian, Russian or American, to request for its people recognition of its right to exist?” “We need nobody’s recognition in asserting this inalienable right.”
Yes, denying Jews their fundamental right of statehood is inherently anti-Semitic – that is, discriminatory – in both intent and effect.
This is equally true whether you’re a British academic, a representative of the Arab League, or the President of Iran.
- On the anniversary of Mein Kampf: Anti-Semitism, “the hate that dares not speak its name.” (cifwatch.com)
- Rich Talk for Israel Critics (The JC)
- On CiF Watch and the fight against contemporary anti-Semitism (cifwatch.com)
- Canadian Muslim Activist, Tarek Fatah, unveils “the myths that fuel Islamic anti-Semitism” (cifwatch.com)
- What the Guardian won’t report: Latest Pew Study demonstrates anti-Semitism in many Arab countries is universal (cifwatch.com)
- CiF, Henning Mankell, and the audacity of evil (cifwatch.com)
- CiF Watch’s new Newsletter has hit the stands! (cifwatch.com)
- U.S. “slavish subservience to Israel” Update (cifwatch.com)