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).]

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Somebody Noticed!

Miracle of miracles.

Today, at Prime Minister's Questions, Louise Ellman MP asked the PM what steps the government would be taking in view of the recent release of the Community Security Trust's Antisemitic Incidents Report 2007. The PM's response highlighted the problem of antisemitism on campus, describing this as one area where the worsening of such incidents has been most noted. He stressed that this was completely unacceptable. What a relief, I thought - some one's been noticing what our campuses have become. (If the given PMQ link doesn't work, there are others here, depending on your software - scroll to 25:35 for the question on CST).

I hadn't realized until now that the report covered campus life in such depth, to the point that Gordon Brown should highlight just this in his response. Perhaps UCU will now start taking seriously its claim to be leading in the struggle against racism? Somehow, I doubt it, given the "evasive, disingenuous and complacent" response UCU has given thus far to these problems (e.g.), not to mention the fact that UCU played host, so long & so graciously, to that racist campaign which is the academic boycott (a fact which is, of course, more like the elephant in the room!).

Here are some extracts from the report which pertain to incidents relating to our campuses:

In 59 incidents the victims were Jewish students, academics or other student bodies. This is a 228 per cent rise from 2006, probably because of increased reporting by students to CST. Out of 59 incidents, 31 took place on campus and 28 off campus. Six incidents occurred in the direct context of student political campaigning.

The 59 incidents recorded by CST in 2007 in which the victims were students, student bodies or academics represent a considerable rise from the 18 incidents recorded of that type in 2006, 11 in 2005 and 21 in 2004.

The large rise may also be partly due to political tensions on campuses. The ongoing campaign to boycott Israeli academics continued during 2007, although few incidents made direct reference to the boycott campaign and any indirect impact it may have had on antisemitic incident levels is difficult to quantify. Rather than indicating a significant change in the environment in which Jewish students live and study, the increase is more likely to mean that a true picture is beginning to emerge of the challenges faced by Jewish students on and off campus.

Of the 31 incidents that took place on campus, 12 involved direct contact between incident perpetrator and victim – for instance, by verbal abuse or physical assault – while the remainder mostly involved antisemitic graffiti or hate-mail. A larger proportion of the incidents off campus, 23 out of 28 incidents, involved direct contact between perpetrator and victim. Academics were the victims in two incidents, student unions in six and students, either individually or collectively (for instance in cases of antisemitic graffiti in student buildings) in the other 51 incidents recorded.

Six on-campus incidents took place in the direct context of political campaigning.

Examples of antisemitic incidents that took place on campus in 2007 include:

  • Swastikas and other antisemitic graffiti were scratched into the door of a Jewish student’s room in a hall of residence
  • A Jewish student was taking part in a demonstration at Manchester University when a Muslim student grabbed her poster from her and said that Jews will be banned from campus.
....and it goes on listing more despicable events which have occurred on or surrounding our campuses (detailed on p 17 and 18 of the given link).

The Engage posting on the CST report tries to give a positive gloss in closing:

Above all, we must maintain perspective. Jewish life in Britain is overwhelmingly positive, and it is this that should define us, rather than antisemitism.

Undoubtedly. But who has such choices? I wouldn't know about Jewish life in Britain being overwhelmingly positive since my perspective has been so seriously clouded by campus life. And campus life is (sorry...) a real bitch! These shocking events catalogued by the CST's report are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of understanding the incidents by which antisemitism is sustained on campus.

Most (some?) of us don't speak out in the sense required to give an account of what lies beneath. I don't report at all (this blog excepted?) - not the antisemitic experiences I have had to endure as a result of having to spend a lot of time on campus here in Boycotting Britannia; nor those I've experienced by dint of the responsibilities which flow from being in this job, in this place, at this time. Frankly, I don't know where to begin isolating individual incidents which could be catalogued in such a report out of what feels like an undifferentiated whole phenomenon which exists pervasively and is constituted systemically.

Some of us struggle even to find the words. Even anonymously in a blog. Clearly: the draft-post tally currently stands at 101 and counting...

None of this is overwhelmingly positive. Not my own experience of becoming BBA; not that of the students at my university, some of whom have cried in front of me when discussing what their life is like on campus and whose accounts even brought tears to my eyes (tears suppressed so as to maintain a calm & composed front for the sake of the students, since I imagined it would make it worse for them to know otherwise!).

Or am I loosing perspective? (BBA asks rhetorically)


Anonymous said...

Glad to see you back blogging. Remember you're not alone.

Danny Smircky

Boycotted British Academic said...

Thanks Danny - good to see you here again! And thanks for the support & solidarity...

Be well,

The Contentious Centrist said...

"Or am I loosing perspective? "

I noticed a somewhat LOOSE, but certainly not LOST perspective!

BBA said...

Thanks for spotting that typo, Noga! As ever, you find a way with words...

I'm assuming that having a loose perspective is a good thing, especially in the messy parameters within which such perspectives are formed these days - ie - not restrained, fastened or constrained; unfettered and free from confinement... (Much as all of this is difficult to imagine in reference to BBA on this campus, in this job!).

Is that what you meant?

I've been enjoying your blog and commentaries. Keep up the good work!

Be well,

The Contentious Centrist said...

I believe that's what I meant, BBA. A perspective free and independent of any dogma or pre-fixed formulaic thinking patterns which seek to impose their own rigid and prejudiced interpretation on events and words.