Institutional Antisemitism

by A. Jay Adler on July 12, 2011
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For Americans unfamiliar with it, Britain’s University College Union (UCU) might be thought of as a higher ed American Federation of Teachers (AFT) or National Education Association (NEA) combined with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). It is a union and a professional association. It has a membership of 130,000. After years of obsessive political attention to that crucial British educational issue, Israel, and ever growing resignations by its Jewish members, who cite a hostile and persecutory environment, one Jewish UCU member is now calling a spade a spade. From Engage:

Ronnie Fraser, a Jewish UCU member who has been bullied, scorned, ridiculed and treated as though he was a supporter of racism and apartheid for ten years,  is going to sue the UCU His letter to Sally Hunt, written by Anthony Julius, says that UCU has breached ss. 26 and 57 (3) of the Equality Act 2010:

That is to say, the UCU has “harassed” him by “engaging in unwanted conduct” relating to his Jewish identity (a “relevant protected characteristic”), the “purpose and/or effect” of which has been, and continues to be, to “violate his dignity” and/or create “an intimidating, hostile, degrading humiliating” and/or “offensive environment” for him.

The letter alleges a course of action by the union which amounts to institutional antisemitism and it gives examples: annual boycott resolutions against only Israelthe conduct of these debatesthe moderating of the activist list and the penalising of anti-boycott activiststhe failure to engage with people who raised concerns; the failure to address resignationsthe refusal to meet the OSCE’s special represenative on antisemitismthe hosting of Bongani Masukuthe repudiation of the EUMC working definition of antisemitism.

The Equality Act 2010 codifies our society’s rejection of racism even in its subtle and unconscious forms; it is one of the most important victories of the trade union movement and of antiracist struggle.  The Equality Act is our Act, passed by a Labour government, a weapon designed to help antiracist trade unionists to defend workers who are subjected to racism.

More from the letter by Julius, one of the foremost experts on the history of and current British Antisemitism:

You will see that I complain, among other things, about the UCU’s year-on-year anti-Israel boycott resolutions (and the conduct of the debates on those resolutions), the moderating of the on-line forum for UCU members, the penalising of anti-boycott activists, the failure to engage with Jewish and non-Jewish members’ concerns regarding these matters, the failure to address the resignation from the union of many of those members, and the rebuffing of the OSCE’s special representative on anti-Semitism.

Conditions for the generality of Jewish members have only deteriorated since then. Further boycott resolutions have been passed; further incontinently anti-Semitic comments on the “Activists’ list” have been posted; there have been further resignations from the union by Jewish members. And if I add to this sorry list the union’s welcoming in 2009 of Bongani Masuku (and its 2010 endorsement of that welcome) it is only because the UCU’s hospitality to a confirmed anti-Semite makes for such a pointed contrast with its inhospitality to its own Jewish members.

The scandal is thus a long-standing one. It is continuous with the history of the union (indeed, it reaches back into the histories of the predecessor unions, the AUT and NATFHE). From its inception, the UCU has been inhospitable to Jews. It persists in its inhospitable conduct – indeed, intensifying it year by year, piling fresh insults upon accumulated insults to its Jewish members.

The recent resolution repudiating an internationally-accepted working definition of anti-Semitism (Resolution 70 / 2011) is among the most recent of such insults. It was a telling development, however.

Unable to defend itself against the charge of institutional anti-Semitism, the UCU sought instead to legislate anti-Semitism itself out of existence.

This indecent, discreditable resolution was passed in active disregard of the feelings of Jewish members – a disregard amounting to a kind of inflamed contempt for all Jews other than that minority among them ready to abet a degraded and obsessive “anti-Zionist” activism.

My client has had enough. He believes that the UCU’s conduct, over so many years now, has limited his options to either resigning or suing. He has chosen to sue. Unless I hear from you confirming that the UCU will meet his proper demands, as set out below, he will make an Equality Act claim to the Employment Tribunal. He expects to win, and in winning, to perform a service not just to his fellow Jewish UCU members and ex-members, but to the cause of decent, principled trades unionism.

One can find at Engage, a site dedicated to the coverage of British Antisemitism, longstanding and continuing coverage of the UCU disgrace.

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2 comments

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Montana July 12, 2011 at 9:47 am

You know what this current crowd of GOP liars want is to turn the United Sates into China, where only a few giant corporations run things, they own the factories, the apartments, the grocery stores, the gas stations, the newspaper and magazine publications, the radio stations, the television stations and you pay them and they get all the benefits, and if you do not like it go jump off cliff. Well some Chinese workers seeing that as individuals that they cannot progress have done just that by committing suicide.

The current crowd of GOP liars want to steal Medicare from the elderly, they want to abolish a woman’s right to choose and have control over her own body, they want to abolish collective bargaining rights for our Unions, and on top of it all they want to blame the poor, the middle class and the public sector workers for a recession that the GOP created (Thanks to the Dullard “W”), while their beloved “Fat cats” continue to pay themselves exorbitant salaries, bonuses, fringe benefits.

The GOP is like the “Chicken Littles” always saying that the “Sky is Falling”, like the same ones that were the “Chicken Hawks” (“W” Wars), big talk no courage.

The United States, favors creativity wherever it can be found. We’re apostles of prosperity and defenders of the free exchange of ideas and when more people in more countries are free to rise, to invent, to communicate, to dissent, it’s not the doom of United States leadership, its the triumph of the American way.

Generations have worked hard and sacrificed much for the country to reach this point (individuals and our Unions!), and with further hard work and sacrifice (along with our relentless self-doubt) the United States will rise again, we do not tire and we are coming back, no matter what Faux News and their GOP “Chicken Littles” lackies keep saying about our nation. Never Bet Against the United States, watch out GOP, we are coming for you! The win in New York was the beginning but the next will be Indiana, Kansas, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and later the other states of our nation.

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A. Jay Adler July 12, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Montana – what you said. Wherever.

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