What's this blog about?

As a result of a combination of factors, culminating in the shameful UCU boycott-in-waiting of Israel, I've grown alienated & silenced, working here in one of the UK's finest universities all the while feeling like a Boycotted British Academic, alone in facing some dilemmas of the moment. In this generally chilling environment, it's hard to speak out and be heard, and hear others...and I find myself writing this blog.

What's it about? At present, it seems to me like a rather tortured articulation of the state of being silenced & mute, beyond words; struggling for the right even to use them, for a voice which can still be heard. When it started, all those successive boycott motions ago, I'd hoped it would function as a blog forum of support & solidarity amongst academics similarly-situated to BBA, to help us break through the boycott movement's silencing strategies. That hope remains notwithstanding this silence... Perhaps it lives in trying to articulate beyond the filter of these coping mechanisms of old (denial, avoidance, withdrawal); by way of this labour of finding the words, this voice...
[A forum of sorts has also arisen in the blog's comments, in which others have adopted the BBA moniker in case of need (e.g.
and here exposing the racist hate speech which masquerades as UCU solidarity activism).]

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Round 2: Boycotters v. Lord Lester!

Round 2, who am I kidding? More like Round 200!

Over at the excellent & wonderful Engage, it's becoming clear that the boycotters are up to their usual tricks. Presently, their focus is to attack the opinion from counsel obtained by UCU (see previous post) which confirmed what we all knew, namely that this is racism. And they are really embarrassing themselves in the process! That the law should be required is shameful enough - you'd have thought a union today would be one place where we ought to be able to rely on anti-racist instincts being sufficient, without need for recourse to legal opinion! I no longer know why I once thought this.

The boycotters are now busy attacking the lawyer who authored the opinion, speciously attempting to malign the most heroic and valiant Anthony Julius in the process! Over at Harry's Place, I see David T has put this well in describing how the boycotters

accuse UCU of consulting with "Princess Diana's divorce lawyer" (trans: the literary critic, anti-fascist activist, and the legal nemesis of the Holocaust Denier, David Irving: Anthony Julius).

As if this weren't bad enough, it turns out they've even managed to get the wrong guy! At least, that's according to one of UCU's Trustees, who published a letter in the Guardian, saying he's:

familiar with the advice that the union received from Anthony Lester QC, as well as the independent advice the trustees commissioned from Anthony White QC.
[h/t: Engage]
So it transpires that the person who wrote the UCU opinion is none other than Lord Lester! Yes, the same man without whom these human rights and anti-racism protections wouldn't exist at all - here's an extract from his bio:

Between 1974 and 1976, he was Special Adviser to Roy Jenkins, when he had special responsibility for developing policy on race relations, sex discrimination and human rights [the period in which the governing frameworks which have served us since to guard against race and sex discrimination were legislated through Parliament]. He campaigned for thirty years to make the European Human Rights Convention directly enforceable in British courts and introduced two Private Members’ Bills on the subject which became models for the Human Rights Act 1998.

So the boycotters' target, we learn, is in fact the main man behind all these human rights & equality laws, long and hard fought for - yes, those very same laws without which our unions would remain free to exclude Jews (oops, what a slip, I mean, Israelis - not surprising, given a disgraceful history of union exclusion of Jews). And not just this protected group but all such groups - only most, I would venture, are presently pretty safe given how excluders and boycotters seem too busy picking on you-know-who to have time for much else, including, one should add, positive action to further the ends of our union. Happily, the law ensures that they can't get away with this anymore, as Lester's unassailably authoritative opinion confirms.

Over at the impressive civic engagement site TheyWorkForYou,* we're reminded that Lord Lester's recent parliamentary interventions have included voting very strongly against introducing ID cards and against Labour's anti-terrorism laws; and very strongly in favour of equal gay rights. We're informed that his most recent appearance in Parliament involved him quizzing the government on the Al Yamamah deal. I don't need to add that he and his party opposed the war in Iraq. [update: see here for more on why they are really barking up the wrong tree on this one]

I could wish that any of this would finally make the boycotters cease their racist posturing. But I'm no fool - I know it won't. They are so far gone that they just dig deeper, reproducing their racialist stereotypes, in recent days repeating the slander that anti-racism protections are being perverted to silence & stem their movement by "all-powerful rich Jews" and their nasty Lobby. [the link is to that post's update, and there's more of the same in the Harry's Place thread, with a brave poster going by the name of UCU Whistleblower reproducing** some of the filth on the activist list which passes, through the sick filter of our time, for solidarity work]

Whatever initial relief I felt in my last post has promptly vanished since, given that nothing seems to have changed substantively: our activist list is still full of the boycotters' bigotry, and they are as energetic as ever, if not more so; and it's just as chilling & alienating. In consequence, I feel no respite from the boycotting shadow all this casts. Our union is still being paralyzed by a force making it so toxic that some will continue to stay away for reasons which persist in being compelling to me. Now that my vote is no longer required for a ballot on this, I return to my perennial questions (asked in a previous post). All this deleteriously impacts on our working environment and British academia as a whole. I continue to ask myself how long I can remain in the UCU given the discursive community it has spawned and which it continues to platform prominently by way of its activist list. And I even ask how long I can remain embedded in this academic community in my boycotted state. How long will I have to dread going in to work for fear of bumping into one of the boycotters on campus (sadly there seem to be a few of them around)? How long will I have to psych myself up just to open my daily digest from the UCU activist list, let alone summon up the energy and courage to post on there?

All this persists...ineluctably.


* Through TWFY, I wrote to my MP who signed the anti-boycott EDM. Very helpful, thanks!

** Update: some of these are reproduced by an anonymous poster in comments to this thread who, along with UCU Whistleblower over on the HP thread, is performing the important task of showing non-UCU members (or less active ones) just what is going on here and just why David T's take on the UCU activist list - that it's a veritable 'bigot's playground' - is apt indeed. As Jon Pike has succintly put it, the 'debate' which boycotters are now falsely claiming to have been gagged (by these anti-racism laws) is not about helping Palestinians but all about demonizing Israel. This is what I get in my inbox on a daily basis; and some activists on there, those valiant few who can actually stomach this better than I, get them in real time, fading into their screens: "You've got mail!" No spoiler; no warning of what is to come, when it should read "You've got hate mail!" All this, just for being in the union!


Anonymous said...

Here's an e-mail from the UCU activist list:

My name is XXXXXXX and I have just returned from Palestine. I stayed for one month and talked to an endless aount of different people - including Israeli academics. I have just joined this discussion facility and am anxious to give an account of what I encountered whilst seeing all these people.

The whole Israeli education system - from nursery to university - is embedded in the Israeli obsession with war as some sort of 'defence' against who knows what ... The minute I tried to probe the fears of the Israelis I met the conversation moved into something that I can only decribe as a dreadful mix of possibly real and totally unreal anxieties about Europe in the past, Biblical history, contemporary Judaism, work, land and the American dream ... These conversations were a gush of insecure and often irrational stuff that I tried to understand. But I could not.

On the other hand everwhere I went on the West Bank I saw real suffering because of the occupation. The IDF were everywhere - always there in some way or another ... There was not one detail of Palestinian life that was not in pain because of the occupation. There is no conflict out there that matters alongside of the occupation. The occupation involves the constant destruction of schools, the closing off of roads, checkpoints barriers and endless other obstacles. The Palestinians do not hate anyone. They want to get on with their education and it is impossible under the conditions of the occupation. Yet it has to be said, there are only a handful of Israeli academics who speak up for Palestinian institutions when they are being hammered - really physically hammered.

So as much as we academics argue about the wording of the boycott, the language of the resolution and so forth, real suffering continues and it has to be stopped. That occupation has to be stopped - no one can disagree with that surely! The boycott of Israeli institutions has to work like a glass of cold water being thrown on the face of Israeli academics - it needs to wake them up and I am afraid to say this but nothing other than a shock like this will bring them around to speaking out about the occupation. They have to be made aware of their responsibilities as academics ! People do listen to us - hence all this publicity about the boycott. We have a voice - here, in Israel and the academics in Palestine. And we havce a common responsibility to end this madness. If Israeli academics stand with the Israeli war machine (which is just about out of control on the ground) then they must be made to stand separately to academics everywhere else. They cannot expect to take part in shared research programmes, journals, conferences and so forth. Hopefully a boycott would wake them up !!! I think it would wake them up and this is why I am sooooo pro-Boycott. But half measures will simply make a bad situation worse.

The violence that I witnessed being inflicted on the Palestinians in their trying to simply function was very hard to take. It has to be made public, to be discussed and be discontinued. This is what I see the Boycott as all about ....

Anonymous said...

Here's another:

All boycotts are unfair and are collective punishment, it's true, but the implications aren't often thought through. A strike is collective punishment and unfair - not all of the people affected adversely by the strike will deserve to be. A boycott of a University, even when called for by that University's Union, is unfair and collective punishment (it's unlikely that the Union members wanting the boycott form a majority of the ACADEMIC satff, let along the university as a whole.)

So can we justify collective punishment or unfair treatment? We already do. Unless the people on this list oppose strikes, etc.?

Why do we oppose collective punishment in the Occupied Territories but not in a strike or the proposed boycott? Well, it's a question of degree and motivation. The denial of cooperation to Academics who work for Israeli universities is, I submit, in a different order of magnitude to closing the border of Gaza and imprisoning over a million people in an area smaller than Rutland. Then there's the motivation. The Israeli collective punishment is being done to crush an occupied people and grind them down. We, on the other hand are trying to prevent that.

This is what I meant when I said that boycotts were collective punishment and unfair but sometimes justified. The same logic applies to strikes and any industrial action that will necessarily harm people who don't deserve to be (and are therefore unfair) and usually affect a whole group of people of whom only some are guilty (and so are collective punishment.)

Most people seem to be happy with the idea of other types of industrial action affecting innocents - its regrettable, sure, and we should try to minimise it, but it's sometimes necessary and sometimes justifiable. Everyone who has ever gone on strike should agree with this - how else do we justify harming our students' education? But when it comes to the boycott, people shy away and start mumbling about Academic Freedom and suchlike. I suspect that this is partly because its aimed at other Academics and so we feel bad about affecting people like us. But that just makes us hypocrites.

Mira, there's some use of hyperbole in Haim's message, but it's not excessive. It's not uncommon to refer to people starving when they're not literally starving. Don't be so touchy. The rest of your message is, quite frankly, lies. Perhaps not everyone who supports the boycott has said under what circumstances we think it should end, but I have, Haim has, Keith has, Sue has and a number of others have also. And as for your comment that "we also know that there are several pro-boycotters in favour of ending the existence of Israel as an independent state", that's an outright lie and typical of the deceitful ways that you and others in the anti-boycott camp seek to characterise this debate. Show me one comment by a pro-boycotter saying that. (And don't try saying that pro-boycotters who support UN resolutions - like I do - are indirectly seeking the destruction of Israel with their support of UN 194. You might genuinely believe this but it doesn't make anything you said less of a lie.)

What security is Israel entitled to? To non-hypocrites, the answer is obvious. The same security it gives Palestine, no more, no less. On its current record, then, Israel has no right to exist and it's people must be conquered, partially expelled and brutalised by Occupation

Anonymous said...

Here's the first person again:

Hello colleagues,

Most will see my name and realise that I have only just joined this discussion group. It is an important group, and for me it engages discussion that carries responsibilities. The responsibilities for me are heavy because each year I visit Palestine. I thus experience the horror of the man-made situation in Palestine which can never really be described on the page without something essential being bleached out for our sanities sake ... There is only so much that can be conveyed with words. I think the situation which has gone on for forty years is now so dark it defies description - the wall, the checkpoints, the deprivation and health conditions in the camps ... All this amount to a situation that is intolerable. In Nablus death is so regular after incursions that the dead Palestinians just have to be got into the ground as quickly as possible and rarely do those killed by the IDF get a martyrs burriel ...

So the first point I want to make is that the occupation is unbearable; and it has to end. This seems to me to be the first thing we have to agree upon - and keep agreeing - keep affirming - never mind details about terminology. If we do not keep doing this we let something go and something go and the discussion slides waway. So something has to be done to stop this madness.

Israel's academics are totally at one with the occupation. (The reasons for this are not that they are monsters. But Israeli academics service the occupation in endless ways - all do service in the IDF in one way or another but their main contribution is much more perbicious. Israeli academics are still academics and so are going to be able to dodge and weave their way away around all this with ease - indeed they have to for the sake of their own peace of mind! We work with Israeli academics. We have an influence upon them as they have an influence upon us ... So possibilities exist for influencing one another that has to extend into the future - the way we go on. And of course we are all adults and we know that influence is not always a matter of sitting down with people in the corner of a library and saying "look here your treatment of the Palestinians is not acceptable". If this were the case then we would not be in the fortieth year of the occupation and having these discussions about the boycott action. Forty years have led up to the point we are at now ! So we have to communicate the unacceptability of the occupation in another way ... And it has to be said that the boycott has been a very powerful way of communicating ... It is because the message is going out loud and clear that we are having all these discussions about details - how do the conditions in the Aida camp square with the conditions of the Warsaw ghetto etc ...

We are academics and we are going to do all this stuff, but to go back to my original point, we have to keep affirming our basic position that I am sure almost all of us believe to be valid - this occupation is barbaric and it has to stop. Discussion about terms, descriptions, balanced approaches to 'punisment' and so forth is useful but I reckon the real task is winning a campaign amongst our fellow academics that expresses the Palestinian reality saying we must now make this boycott stick ... If the boycott is not 100% then it will communicate nothing to the Israelis except that they are doing nothing wrong ! And I reckon they will even worse things and we will in some way have played a part in things getting worse. Every one of us involved in this group knows there is something of huge signifance at issue in Israel's presence on the West Bank ... We either face up to that and set an example as peole who care about our humanity or we do not ... If we do not then lets come clean ! My feeling is that we all care very much ... But my worry is that vacilation - over whatevr details - will be fatal!

I hope all this does not not sound too Vanessa Redgrave but I reckon there are huge issues involved in our support for Palestine.

All best wishes to everyone,

Anonymous said...

Here's one of the senior anti-Zionist Jewish academics coming to the aid of the first guy:

Although XXXX can answer for himself I think it is important to point out that what he said was

"how do the conditions in the Aida camp square with the conditions of the Warsaw ghetto etc"

and not what you misquote him as saying. I.e. he was asking a question.

It is obvious that your answer is not all. Others, including me, answer that Gaza, day by day, lockade by blockade, has more and more resonances with the Ghettos of Poland before the full horror of the shoah. The situaation in Gaza now is worse than a year ago, we fear to contemplate what it will be in a year's time.

Anonymous said...

You are being disingenuous. XXXXX did not say "the conditions in the Aida camp square with the conditions of the Warsaw ghetto", he said "HOW DO the conditions in the Aida camp square with the conditions of the Warsaw ghetto" (my capitals). A question, not a statement, which completely changes the meaning away from the implication you were trying to give it. (What was the question referring to? Go back to the original post and read it properly. He was, in fact, bemoaning the fact that the list spends so much time debating, amongst other things, how the conditions in the Aida camp square with the conditions of the Warsaw ghetto.)

The rest of XXXXXX's post is reasonable and accurate enough also, despite the sinister spin you try to put on it. If you want to accuse Keith of comparing Israeli atrocities now with German atrocities in Warsaw in the 40s, say so, don't tiptoe around it. But you'll be lying, he neither said nor implied any such thing.

Ariel, you too resort to attempting to slander Keith rather than respond to his post (a common enough tactic amongst the anti-boycotters in general and yourself in particular.) In what way does Keith talking about how this debate amongst Germans has been hampered by historical guilt (an accurate enough statement, IMHO) remind you of anything Ahmadinejad has said? Quote the statement by Ahmadinejad that resembles what Keith said, we're all dying to hear it. More importantly, though, in linking Keith with a Holocaust denier you are attempting to tar him with the same brush, a malicious slander. Are you so insecure in your beliefs that you have to resort to methods like this?

Even if Ahmadinejad has said something about German war guilt (I don't read everything he says, unlike yourself it seems) this would not invalidate it. The "logic" you're using is the same as that used in the Reductio ad Hitlerium and just as faulty (look it up on Wikipedia if you haven't heard of it.)

Jimmy, Nick, others. I've often heard calls for a referendum on the boycott by the anti-boycott people, but I've yet to hear anyone here, pro or anti boycott, argue against it (the only person I've ever seen say that a referendum would be a bad idea was an anti-boycotter on the Engage forum, responding to Sally Hunt's election manifesto.) Sally Hunt has said there will be a referendum, the union rules demand a referendum, nobody here has argued against a referendum - can we accept it as common ground that there will be a referendum and never mention it again? It really does seem to be a non-issue.

Anonymous said...

This is the first person again:

I am sure that if I have not grasped the concept of debate then I could follow old Aristotle and emulate your good self and start throwning around the details of what happened in Jenin in 2002 - Oh but I forget ... that did not happen really did it!

Anonymous said...

This from the first one again, responding to an email by Hirsh:

David's concerns for equality are encouraging. But they are twisted - as so many of the contributions moving around his politics of denial ... He mentions previous generations of trade unionists seeking equality. These people were clear; they did not twist things in this horrible way that has now become the standard for David's statements. It is all about scoring points for Israel and not looking at the situation out there. It is racist right down to its core. Is the aim of those supporting Palestinian academics to expose this rotten Zionist. Why is that so difficult to understand? Everything put forward in good faith gets distorted by David and his team and it is obscene. It is not just about different plays on words ... it is a whole campaign of denial that started in 1948 with this "land without people, for a people without land". Ilan Pappe showed the truth of the situation but since then the whole apparatus of denial has moved on to even more horrible corruptions and evasions.

At some point I hope you pull back David and think. Really think about what you are doing. There are many brilliant and outstanding people of the Jewish faith who are upset by all this nonsense. These people really do stand up for justice. A debate should take place in the union but my feeling is that we will get more and more of these denials and evasions until the boycott actually happens and the system in Israel is confronted - not by violence but by academics who refuse to ignore what is going on. After reading David's piece however I think there is masses of work to be done. So clearly there must be more and more discussion.

Can I encourage those reading the postings to go to the Alternative Information Center (AIC) [www.alternativenews.org] and to look at the facts these people have collated on 'The Case for Academic Boycott against Israel'... it really is outstanding research and many of these people take huge risks in putting this information together. This document however should inform the debate ...

Anonymous said...

One of the senior Jewish anti-Zionists leaps in again to defend our "first person":

Slow down, first of all I am sure it was David H and not you that XXXXX was attacking, DH's comments are far less measured than yours.

Second and most important Keith's posting is ad hominam (possibly too much so) not ad judinam, if I have invented the phrase correctly.

Keith only widens the scope beyond David and 'his team', not a racist term, when talking positively about Jews who support the Palestinians
and doesn't mention, or imply, a category of 'bad jew'.

There is threat to open debate in the union that should concern us all. Let's return to this immediate threat. Then having co-operated on that
return in a less fractious spirit to our debating our deep differences on the boycott.

Anonymous said...

This from another prolific e-mailer:

I do not agree this is 'water under the bridge'. Surely we need to see the whole exchange and also the question posed to the legal team which supplied the advice? If according to international Law and the UN, the 40 years occupation by Israel is clearly not only illegal, but breaks most of the provisions of the Geneva Conventions daily, are we told that we, or anybody else, for that matter, cannot express an opinion or give support to the paties under this brutal occupation? Surely most people find this preposterous (apart from those supporting any and every Israeli policy -
names known to all) and would, as in the case of SA, wish to play their small part for the eradication of this injustice, or at least to voice ouropinions?

Is it not interesting that the same people supporting the continued oppression and rape of a whole nation, tell us they are really intersted in
equality and 'policies of exclusion'? Can any of you treat this seriously? Whatever the result within UCU, and I think this is far from over, it is interesting to see the parties being held over this 'victory' in the name of equality. They should be ashamed that this silencing of union members' voice is for them sucha great success. They will be defeated, like racists and
apartheid was in SA.

Have I committed a crime by saying this? Will I be arrested? The dear members of Engage are invited to report all of us who refuse to be silenced
and throttled, as they obviously (see David's recent mail) consider us of the same ilk of BNP. They make me gasp.

Think of all the Plaestinian academics who have not only no right for equality, but not even a right to life. If they waited for the sympathies of Engage, they might as well drop dead for all the good this will do them.

Anonymous said...

This one is from somebody else:

You did not win the argument and the campaign is not going to stop until in my view the right of Palestinians to self determination is achieved and or when Israeli academic institutions take a stand distancing themselves from the actions of the
Israeli state. Our support and solidarity with Palestinian and Jewish intellectuals who are opposed to what the Israeli state does will continue and so is the UCU's affiliation to the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.

Gagging UCU with questionable legal advice and denying all our members the right to listen to representations from Palestinian Trade Unions is against free speech.

Anonymous said...

This from our first guy again. Notice, not one of the hundreds of people on the list sees anything wrong with this email and says so. It is just greeted with silence by all the antiracists, anti-Zionists, socialists, etc. As though it was just fine:

Whilst I can understand some people feeling fed up of all these emails, I still think it would not be a good idea to form a separate list - a separate list for Palestine issues.

Palestine and the boycott are particular issues but they involve issues that go way beyond the particular. Look at the way the legal "advice" on a boycott has overflowed into much broader issues to do with trade union law and what unions can and cannot be about if they are to watch their backs with law ... And I think the entire membership should be given the full legal details of this advice on the boycott!

Issues of Palestine are now determining tenure issues in the States. Can we expect the Zionist lobby to go the same way here ... Bread and butter issues cannot be neatly compartmentalised so that we have separate arrangements for what is "safe" (and does not threaten Zionism) and "not safe" (in what actively opposes Zionism).

So whilst I appreciate that some people must think the bulk of all this stuff is a pest, I still think it would not be in the general interest of everyone to have a separate list.

Someone earlier in one of these postings said that what we discuss, in what context and in what kind of forum, determines the identity of the union; and I am sure this is right. So if we want to build a union that puts international issues at the front then we have to go for including everyone in those issues. We cannot separate off Palestinian debate.

I am against a separate list.

Anonymous said...

Here are more e-mails from the UCU activist list.

I) On equating Nazi treatment of Jews with Israeli treatment of Palestinians:

‘Ethnic Cleansing of Israeli territory in 1948-9 caused the Palestinian refugee problem’

‘... the definition adopted in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted by the UN in 1948. This lists several acts, falling short of total extermination (most of them apply very clearly to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians).’

‘The pro-boycott 'camp' is not totally immune to genocide involved in Holocaust ... We are also appalled to see the sort of treatment that Israelis meted out on Palestinians given the past experience of Jewish oppression.’

‘I personally see disturbing parallels between the plight of Palestinians in Gaza and for example, the Warsaw ghetto’

‘Of course Gaza isn't an exact replica of the Warsaw ghetto, but the analogy is valid; there are many parallels.’

‘I feel that the Warsaw Ghetto/Gaza discussion is interesting, as there are some striking similarities between the situations, but also, even more striking differences, of course. The most disturbing fact for me, is the involvement of the grandsons of survivors from the camps and ghettoes in what takes place in Gaza and elsewhere’

‘we should all take great care of not looking away when terrible things happen to the Palestinians, even if (and especially if...) the perpetrators are descendants or Holocaust survivors!’

‘I am not trying to say that Israeli action in Gaza is the same as Nazi action in Warsaw or Lodz pre 42; what I am pointing to is that the process of degradation, immiseration and dehumanisation, the denial of the normal dignities of human life, in Gaza bring to life the shades and shadows of the Ghettos that we thought we had left behind in 1945’

II) Questioning the legitimacy of the State of Israel

‘I have a big problem with this 'right to exist' business. The Israeli state and some of its supporters seem to have elevated this 'principle' to one of absolute status, but closer examination renders the idea preposterous’

‘On its current record, then, Israel has no right to exist and it's people must be conquered, partially expelled and brutalised by Occupation’

‘the idea of countries having rights, for example in the often used phrase of "Israel's right to exist", is something I disagree with ... Israel has no right to exist’

‘I do not support the state of Israel’s so-called right to exist – that is, I don’t believe it has one. I do not support a Jewish state’s so-called right to exist – I don’t believe it has one’

III) Zionism as racism / imperialism

‘I believe Zionism to be the fundamental cause of war and suffering in the Near East. Colonial settlement is not unfamiliar, most if not all Imperial colonial projects involve the subjugation of indigenous people’

‘Zionism most commonly used meaning refers to Israeli imperialism and a Jewish state between the Jordan and the Med’

‘I think that the association of zionism with imperialism is pretty common and well-established enough to be a perfectly valid usage of that word’

‘The problem for me is indeed the racist nature of the Zionist enterprise, which persists to this very day’

IV) Israel as a European colonial outpost

‘Israel is currently acting as the last of the European settler states’

‘a partnership between the two regimes [Israel, South Africa] exporting techniques to implement racist colonial policies’

‘proposals would target the world's only Jewish state; it would but not because it is Jewish but because it is colonialist’

‘many proponents of the boycott are motivated by the same sense of history that motivated anti-colonial struggles and that they see Israel as a colonial power in the Middle East’

‘My charge against Israeli academic institutions is that they have failed to live up to producing really useful knowledge and further aided the Israeli state to colonise and occupy Palestine’

V) On equating Israel with South Africa under apartheid

‘The parallels between apartheid South Africa and Israel's are now widely acknowledged, Israel is a state that practices apartheid’

‘It is appropriate to demonstrate, as Ronnie Kasrils has, that Israel's oppression of the Palestinians is even greater than that of Black South Africans under apartheid’

‘The close connection between Israel and the former South African regime is still memorable’

‘The Apartheid Wall’

‘I hope that there are elements in the Israeli TU movement that understand and wish to change fundamentally the arrangements that create an apartheid-like state in Palestine/Israel’

‘All this stuff about "singling out" Israel reminds me of the responses made by supporters of South Africa as to them being singled out and that there were worse regimes than them in Africa’

‘The argument that bad - or worse - conduct takes place elsewhere was one used by apologists for the South African system’

‘To live in [a] kind of racist South Africa’

VI) Israel as a militaristic, undemocratic country

‘The whole Israeli education system - from nursery to university - is embedded in the Israeli obsession with war as some sort of 'defence' against who knows what ...’

‘Israel is an ethno-theocracy, called by some 'Jewish Democracy' ... it is a democracy for Jews only.’

VII) The influence of a Zionist lobby

‘On what basis was a possible boycott of Israeli universities deemed illegal? ... My gut feeling is that the national leadership was looking for an exit strategy in the face of relentless external pressure’

‘It is all about scoring points for Israel and not looking at the situation out there. It is racist right down to its core. It is the aim of those supporting Palestinian academics to expose this rotten Zionist. Why is that so difficult to understand?’

‘Issues of Palestine are now determining tenure issues in the States. Can we expect the Zionist lobby to go the same way here ... Bread and butter issues cannot be neatly compartmentalised so that we have separate arrangements for what is "safe" (and does not threaten Zionism) and "not safe" (in what actively opposes Zionism).’

VIII) Accusations that charges of anti-Semitism (Jew hatred) and trivialization of the holocaust are being deliberately used by anti-boycotters to stifle debate

‘accusations of "anti-Semitism" might be from a) thinking Israel is right and therefore the only possible explanation for opposition is "anti-Semitism". Or they might be b) an attempt to silence criticism.’

‘A worldwide anti-Semitic conspiracy, if you like. And this is basically the foundation behind the endless accusations of anti-Semitism that you encounter’

‘Why should Israel’s legacy of horror and trauma be exploited to deprive the Palestinians – a people who are/where absolutely dissociable from what had been an entirely European complicity – their homeland or their right to return. Just how long can the history of anti-Semitism and the holocaust be used as a fence to exempt Israel from arguments and sanctions against it for its behaviour towards Palestinians?’

‘according to some of the postings [of anti-boycotters] that is what they seem to be saying: any criticism of Israel is inherently anti-semitic; ergo no criticism of Israel is possible’

‘it may not be said that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, but in practice this is what it amounts to’

‘If we keep coming back to anti-Semitism it avoids the issue of how Israel is oppressing Palestinians’

‘An attempted genocide in the 1930s and 40s does not in my view make the state that resulted from it immune to normal criticism’

‘Those in favour of debate are doing much to highlight the hypocrisy around the allegations of 'anti-semitism'’

‘I can only see it as an attempt to show that Palestinians are anti Jewish (as Semites themselves they can surely not be called anti Semitic) and to smear their supporters, by association, with the charge of anti Semitism’

‘The harking back to the memories of the Holocaust as a warm cover for everything is a mistake, I believe.’

‘[Canadian academics have started to move towards a boycott position] and so have a tiny group in Germany – the Germans have been held back with a historical guilt that has really crippled debate.’

‘the same old tactics are [being] employed. Israel claims to be a Jewish state THEREFORE anyone who criticises Israel is anti-Jewish’

‘Everything put forward in good faith gets distorted by XXXX and his team and it is obscene. It is not just about different plays on words, it is a whole campaign of denial that started in 1948’

IX) Claims that pro-boycotters are being smeared

‘it seems that I'm being associated with Nazi practices. I'm not surprised – but the allusion is odious’

‘another attempt by some anti-boycotters to tar their opponents with the brush of anti-Semitism.’

‘The logic ... appears to be ... that anyone who supports the Palestinian right to self determination, or opposes Israel's brutal and illegal occupation of their country, must be anti-Semitic.’

‘I’m placed in a gallery of rogues and racists. This is heavyweight abuse ... I suggest that there is definite intent: to dissuade colleagues from speaking their minds about the occupation and its impacts.’

‘Many of us on the left have been labelled 'antisemites' when we have criticised Israel ... I think such tactics just expose the crudity and violence which typify Israel's history in the last few decades’

‘The opponents of the boycott have managed to use this tone against most of us others, and to label us as 'racists' and anti-semites' amongst other terms’

‘The dear members of Engage are invited to report all of us who refuse to be silenced and throttled, as they obviously consider us of the same ilk of BNP. They make me gasp.’

Anonymous said...

Here's more e-mails from the UCU activist list:

I am not prepared to be shunted off into a side alley because of
a lawyers opinion, which I have not seen. Do not forget this a legal opinion not a judgement. I would be bitterly disappointed to fail to win support for a boycott call in the regions and branches of the union, I am incandescently angry to be told that the debate has been cancelled and some lawyer has confiscated our ball.

In the name of free speech and for our right to control our own union
the debate must continue and as publically as possible. I posted the union's objects on the list on Friday and they seem to be clear that a boycott would not be ultra vires - of course what is clear to me may not be clear to a lawyer which is why publication of the advice is of crucial concern to all of us.

Anonymous said...


This sounds like a marvelous idea: First you anllow no non-Jews as academic faculty, so it is a 'disproportionately Jewish' body, then you claim that you
cannot boycott this body, as it will be disproprtionately unfair...

You've got to laugh, but it is not funny.

Anonymous said...


The 'law' is one thing, and a 'legal opinion' of one QC is quite a different matter, and the more we hear the more it becaomes clear. It also becomes clear that the committee was promised a delayed tour, when the press release, if anything, said the
opposite. We are NOT told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth by our officers, who are hiding, editing, and posturing. I am not for
this kind of union myself, and I doubt that you are. If there is nothing to hide, why cannot we see it all, now? If it was so simple, why did it take five months? I am not a suspicious person by inclination, but I can smell a
rat when it is stuck right there under my nose...
It is not the law which any of us would or should question. It lies nearer home, with our own union officers.

Anonymous said...

Yet more:

An important issue seems to have slipped off the bulletin, so I will add it here for the edification of members, and you can also add it to the new

"Solidarity Action: UCU members are hereby notified that no action is allowable, legally acceptable or appropriate in support of colleagues in other countries, if they are in one of the following situations:

1. They are under brutal occupation without any right whatsoever. Such people are not important, and for equality reasons cannot be supported
2. They live under a brutal military regime, which shoots people in the streets and encarcerates them at home, arresting and excuting activists.
Such people also should not be supported
3. They live under a racist regime, with laws which disenfranchise them
legally, and limit their rights, movement, health, employment, or the right to study in London or Timbuktu. Yes, you guessed - such characters should under no circustances be supported.
4. They live in country which was destroyed by foreign powers under the guise of liberation. Yes, right again - such people should be shot in the streets, not supported by a right on union like UCU.

So, if you are still confused, here is what we advise you to support:

1. Apple Pie
2. Motherhood
3. Clean toilets in public parks
4. More rights for disabled pets

All the above should be supported with all the might of the union, you can rest assured,"

With comradely greetings,
Your Generalising Secretary

Anonymous said...

and more ...

I feel something worrying is now going on, only serving of those who wish to deflect the debate away from Palestine, its contiued occupation and the iniquities therein. Instead of discussing realities there, and how we can
best help our opressed colleagues, which was what Resolution 30 was all about, we are now discussing ONLY other issues, however related. The main topic of the list is currently 'one or two lists'. For those of us who come
from Israel/Palestine, it has the sour taste of one/two state discussion, and seems to be an odd farce, not one which is really touching the heart of
the matter. Who does this now serve?

Secondly, we must havea debate about the gagging by Head Office - obviously, and more than that - we must act so as to force our 'leaders' to depart with
information they hide from their members, us; we are the employers of those officers - let us (and them...) not forget this. I am used to be lied to by the ocassional employers. To be treated in this way by the officers of our union is quite anoiher matter. Why do they not spill the beans? Why are the
NEC members silent? I am ashamed of my union, all of a sudden.

Anonymous said...

More ...

Remember that those UCU members who are now CELEBRATING, the bullying legal ban on our right to discuss a boycott of Israeli
academic instutions with our Israeli & Palestinian academics, are a minority in the union.

There is a silent majority who are appalled by what has happened. This is proven by the very simple test of asking our colleagues at work. True, there is a great deal of confusion, & even fear, about the legal intervention.

Anonymous said...


Readers of websites such as Engage [Link: http://www.engageonline.org.uk/home/], Harry’s Place [Link: http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/] and normblog [Link: http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/] will be familiar with the University College Union activists’ list. For those who are not, it is technically known as the Developing activists network (DAN) [Link: http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=1870]. Membership is open to anyone who pays their subscription fees to UCU and at the time of writing there are more than 700 people who subscribe to this list. The issues discussed on this list include those one would expect of any trade union, namely pay and working conditions. However, since late May of this year when delegates at the fist UCU conference voted to ‘encourage members to consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions’ one issue has dominated the activists’ list: the legitimacy of boycotting academics who work in Israel. Those most affected by this motion are of course Jews and in an attempt to silence charges of racism delegates at the UCU congress came up with a formula – ‘Israel’s 40-year occupation’ means that ‘passivity or neutrality is unacceptable and criticism of Israel cannot be construed as anti-Semitic’. What happened on the list shows that this statement was at best misconceived and at worst disingenuous.

There were many times when criticism of Israel crossed red lines, when the tone and content of debate became unacceptable. For those sensitive to the ways in which Jew-hatred creeps into language this was a worrying, indeed ominous development. The State of Israel was demonized as a unique evil on the planet, its Jewish inhabitants characterized as brutal, militaristic racists, its supporters condemned as blood-thirsty Zionists who ruthlessly exploited every opportunity to smear the boycott camp with accusations of anti-Semitism. This tells us much about the boycotters’ self-image. Oblivious to the genuine fears of their opponents they presented themselves as bravely withstanding the power of the Zionist lobby, sole occupants of the moral high ground. A few even drew attention to their Jewish roots and tragic family history (relatives murdered during the holocaust) to give their words greater weight; as if one’s own identity can be used as an excuse to say things with impunity. And all the time the majority of the activists’ list sat on their hands in silence.

Historical parallels are often drawn. Among the most disturbing is the suggestion that Jews today face dangers comparable to those in the early 1930s. There are of course many differences between then and now. But there are also lessons to be learned from the past. One of them is that the Nazis never made clear their true intentions towards the Jews until it was too late. The architects of the ‘Final Solution’ – and it was a genocide that only a remnant of European Jewry survived – went to great lengths to hide their aims. Of course the boycotters have no such aspirations. Indeed, no one is suggesting that they do. But their words and actions have given cause for celebration to Jew haters everywhere. Moreover, many boycotters do seek the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. This is clear from what a couple have incautiously stated as well as from the significant silences during the debate. Despite repeated and polite requests to explain the aims of the boycott and the conditions under which it would end, only one person provided a substantial response – and that was cryptic; ‘Supporters of the boycott have many varied imaginings of what the final settlement will look like – if we are mature we will realise that that the nature of the final outcome will surprise us all’.

Promoting analogies between the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews and the policies of various Israeli governments towards the Palestinians, paying lip-service when asked to condemn examples of Jew hatred in the Arab world and beyond, several advocates of boycott succeeded only in showing themselves in their true colours. That is as racists, if not by intent then certainly in effect. This, it must be said, was the most disturbing aspect of the debate. Individuals who pride themselves on membership of a Union that considers itself at the forefront in the fight against racism, sexism and homophobia, are prepared to make one exception when it comes to defending human rights: Israeli Jews.

The volume of correspondence generated by the proposed boycott was enormous. More than 190,000 words were written (about a 500 page document). Some of the contributors fell into two camps: ‘pro-boycotters’ and ‘anti-boycotters’. In between were a large number of people who tended not express an opinion. Among them were members of several groups; the 'apathetic', who didn't care about this issue; the 'silent', who were against the boycott but were afraid to speak out; and the ‘middle group’ who entered the fray periodically, usually out of frustration because they believed the boycott question was diverting attention from ‘bread and butter’ union issues.

What follows are extracts from this debate. Not being a member of the Union I was entrusted with the task of editing the material and introducing it to a wider public. Apparently the moderator of the activists’ list has declared that anyone who blows the whistle, who makes public some of the stupid, ignorant and inaccurate statements that have been made on this forum, will be excluded from further ‘debate’. I use the word loosely and with some irony. Academics are supposed to be calm, rational and intelligent, willing to listen to different points of view. This, however, conveys the opposite impression. Taken by themselves some of the quotations may appear innocuous. But imagine yourself in the place of one of the handful of activists who for four months stood up every day, sometimes hour by hour, to an unrelenting tide of menacing assumptions and in one case even the threat of legal action. What a deeply unpleasant if valuable experience it must have been for all those who had the courage to confront such threatening behaviour within the Union.

All the participants’ names have been removed out of respect for their confidentiality. This is not a smear campaign but an attempt to educate people about the dangers of anti-Semitism and how, if left unchecked, it can spread to dangerous proportions.

Stephen said...

Speaking as someone whose posts have been (selectively) quoted by an anonymous blogger, I thought I'd restore the missing bits:

‘On its current record, then, Israel has no right to exist and it's people must be conquered, partially expelled and brutalised by Occupation’

The whole thing, however, reads:

"What security is Israel entitled to? To non-hypocrites, the answer is obvious. The same security it gives Palestine, no more, no less. On its current record, then, Israel has no right to exist and it's people must be conquered, partially expelled and brutalised by Occupation"

And, as I later responded to another poster, you can concentrate on the "no more" part of that if you want, but try to give some thought to the "no less" bit

‘the idea of countries having rights, for example in the often used phrase of "Israel's right to exist", is something I disagree with ... Israel has no right to exist’

Ellipses can hide a lot. The full statement read:

"the idea of countries having rights, for example in the often used phrase of 'Israel's right to exist', is something I disagree with. Rights are possessed by people, not countries, although as countries are made up of people, this can sometimes be a fine difference. So Israel has no right to exist - no country does - but the people who live there do have a right to self determination. It's a fine difference, but an important one (and yes, all that applies to Palestine too.)"

And finally:

‘I do not support the state of Israel’s so-called right to exist – that is, I don’t believe it has one. I do not support a Jewish state’s so-called right to exist – I don’t believe it has one’

This can be tied, quite easily, to the above - countries don't have rights, only people. I wrote about this at some length in the original post and I don't blame "Anonymous" for not repeating all of it - but in selectively picking and choosing they are lying. Typical enough behaviour for those who oppose the boycott.

Boycotted British Academic said...

Thanks, Anonymous, you have performed an important task in posting these comments on the UCU activist list; and, in your last, you give expression to fears many of us daren't even express, even behind veils of anonymity... I feel this comment should be widely disseminated - why don't you publish it elsewhere too, a blog/website with more traffic perhaps?

I shall try to write a blog post about my feelings on this disgraceful hate-fest forum which the DAN activist has become in hosting this boycott campaign. I fear I will only be in a position to relay how awful it’s truly been once the hate has subsided. It's hard to talk about it when still suffering under it. I keep hoping that today will be the day when this happens, and the activist list will become just that, activists communicating about constructive measures they can take to further core union business.

I've been keeping a low profile as I wanted to keep your comments up for as long as possible. Given the UCU rules you mention, of which I was unaware, I figured I might get in trouble with the powers that be for keeping them up. Frankly, if I'm excluded for doing so, so be it. So much for the gagging which the boycotters now falsely claim! In fact, the gagging started when they imposed such hate-filled terms for this debate - it is they who created a chilling environment which silences those of us who (as is my case) feel we can’t even speak against such a barrage of belligerence & demonization. Your contributions to this thread make a start at breaking through these barriers - people can't change the debating fora on their own, especially when they are victim of its intimidation . Thank you!

Anyway, if I'm excluded, it would just go to confirm my boycotted state!

I feel bad I've not managed to break through this silencing to post on the list and take the stress off (or share it with) those admirable few who, as you say, managed to stay in the firing line of the boycotters, day in, day out, endlessly. When I just looked on in dread... I'm still trying to take courage to do so. As things stand, just opening the digest puts me into a nauseated state!

The anti-boycotters who posted on there deserve some kind of medal of bravery. Admirable people who've had so much of their energy sapped by this hate-fest which passes for debate & solidarity work in our ‘community.’ And you are right that it is a great shame that more people didn’t speak out, putting all the pressure on those already suffering under the discrimination which inheres in this boycott.

Anonymous said...


More to come...

Boycotted British Academic said...

Thanks, Anonymous - I'd not spotted that HP thread. Just when I think it's safe finally to take a break from this boycott, even a short break to try to salvage the mess which my life has been put into as a result of the damaging effects of this boycott movement, I end up missing out on interesting threads...

Anyway, PLEASE take on a pseudonym so that I can know it's you. There are a lot of anonymous posters on here so it can get confusing.

That being said, pseudonyms are no guarantee of identification & we can't assume exclusivity in using a certain pseudonym: I see someone's been posting in my name on that HP thread (without even linking to this blog in the comment-identifier banner, damn it, but to some fictitious email address instead!).

That being said, 'Boycotted British Academic' is an appropriate pseudonym, I imagine, for others too, so I can't claim a monopoly for the label which captures this state! This blog started because I sensed, mostly from Engage threads, that there were other academics here in the UK feeling boycotted. That there should be more than one BBA is, therefore, confirmation of that which motivated me to try to create this support forum in the first place - so that we can feel less isolated & powerless to fight against the indirect discrimination we've been experiencing throughout.

name said...

Good job!