Ronnie Fraser –31 May 2011
The University and College Union (UCU), which represents more than 120,000 University staff, used its annual gathering in Harrogate over the Bank Holiday weekend to disassociate itself from EUMC working definition of antisemitism which is used by law enforcement agencies all over the world.
The UCU, the leading trade union partner of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, made this move in an attempt to deligitimise and redefine anti Semitism. They didn’t just reject parts of the definition or propose changes to it, instead they decided never to use it again whether educating members or dealing with internal complaints of antisemitism.
I was the only Jewish delegate at Congress who was willing to speak against the motion. The motion was carried overwhelmingly as only four people including myself voted against it. I spoke in complete silence with no reaction at all from the audience, this is what I said:
I, a Jewish member of this union, am telling you, that I feel an antisemitic mood in this union and even in this room.
I would feel your refusal to engage with the EUMC definition of antisemitism, if you pass this motion, as a racist act.
Many Jews have resigned from this union citing their experience of antisemitsim.
Only yesterday a delegate here said: “they are an expansionist people”. It is difficult to think that the people in question are anything other than the Jews.
You may disagree with me. You may disagree with all the other Jewish members who have said similar things.
You may think we are mistaken. But you have a duty to listen seriously.
Instead of being listened to, I am routinely told that anyone who raises the issue of antisemitism is doing so in bad faith.
Congress, Imagine how it feels when you say that you are experiencing racism, and your union responds: “Stop lying, stop trying to play the antisemitism card.”
You, a group of mainly white, non-Jewish trade unionists, do not have the right to tell me, a Jew, what feels like antisemitism and what does not.
Macpherson tells us that when somebody says they have been a victim of racism, then institutions should begin by believing them. This motion mandates the union to do the opposite.
Until this union takes complaints of antisemitsim seriously the UCU will continue to be labelled as an institutionally antisemitic organisation.
It’s true that anti-Zionist Jews may perceive things differently. But the overwhelming majority of Jews feel that there is something wrong in this union. They understand that it is legitimate to criticise Israel in a way that is, quoting from the definition, “similar to that levelled to any other country” but they make a distinction between criticism and the kind of demonisation that is considered acceptable in this union.
The union also adopted a resolution which ignored the legal advice that the UCU received in 2007 which made it clear that distributing and promoting a call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel is in breach of discrimination and equality legislation and also outside the aims and objects of the union.
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