By Sacha Ismail
At the 11 March compositing meeting for this year’s NUS conference, the session to decide motions for the Students Rights and Welfare debate featured a very strange discussion about anti-semitism.
Part of this discussion focused on whether NUS should support the European Union Monitoring Centre’s definition of anti-semitism. But in addition, the SWP were pushing motions claiming that anti-semitism doesn’t just affect Jews, but Muslims too. Yes, you read that right.
The student unions of Manchester University and SOAS, both of them run by Respect Students, with SWP presidents, had submitted motions quoting Edward Said: “Semites were not only the Jews but the Muslims (Arabs) as well”.
Furthermore, claimed SOAS, “Muslims suffer from anti-semitism when Islam or Muslims are held to be collectively responsible for terrorist acts”.
It’s difficult to know where to begin. Of course Muslims must be defended against racism and bigotry. But so bizarre is this point about anti-semitism that it is hard to see how it could be motivated by anything than a desire to play down racism against Jewish people.
Leaving aside the fact that, no, not all nor in fact most Muslims are Arabs, it would be interesting to know what those who wrote the motions in question think their ridiculous play on the word “semite” means. Anti-semitism has nothing to do with hatred of those who speak semitic languages! It is a term to describe anti-Jewish racism.
In the compositing meeting, an embarrassed Rob Owen, general secretary of Manchester University student union, had to admit that this text was out of order, and it was quietly dropped. And yet it had been passed through the two unions, apparently with SWP approval!
Knowing that they would crucify themselves if they insisted on taking this text to the conference floor, Respect and their Islamist allies instead concentrated on opposing the EUMC definition of anti-semitism. Now, this definition is not the one the AWL would have written. But asked repeatedly which section “label legitimate criticism of Israel anti-semitic”, none of the proposers were able to reply.
• EUMC definition of anti-semitism: http://tinyurl.com/2hfxd9