UCU and anti-semitism

Submitted by Matthew on 9 June, 2011 - 12:55

The Congress this year of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU), on 28-30 May, carried a motion put forward by its 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.”

For sure, the right wing in Israel and their supporters outside will levy the charge of anti-semitism to silence criticism of the crimes of the Israeli state and military against the Palestinian Arabs.

Such tactics are also aimed against supporters of Israeli anti-occupation movements, such as Gush Shalom, depicting “self-haters” and “traitors” to justify Israeli expansionism. But what is the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) working definition?

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Examples are given of what is anti-semitic:

“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.”


There is quite crucially an exception recognised by the EUMC, stated as follows:

“However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

The carried UCU motion sets in process:

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 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.

The conclusion? Left-wing anti-semitism — an anti-imperialism of fools — is rife in the union. But let’s be clear what we mean by this. Left-wing anti-semitism does not mean all criticism of the Israeli state and military, and of its expansionist policy and practice. We should fiercely oppose the ongoing brutal suppression of the Palestinian Arabs, and demand the liberation of the post-1967 Occupied Territories on autonomous and continuous territory for an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Criticism of Israel is not anti-semitism. Anti-semitism comes in only with the absolute denial of Israel’s right to exist as a nation-state (because somehow it is worse than any other nation-state in the world) and its crimes are worse than the crimes of any other nation-state in the world.

This very often involves the conflation of the Israeli working class with the Israeli ruling class, and the outright denial to the Israeli people of their own right to national self-determination.

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