David Hirsh, the English sociologist, has just circulated a “preliminary response” to the UK Employment Tribunal’s controversial decision in the academic anti-Semitism case, Fraser vs. UCU. Hirsh’s piece was initially posted to the Engage website, an important English online journal which opposes the BDS movement. Hirsh, who occupies a politically interesting position as both a left-wing critic of Israeli policy and also as a defender of Israel against anti-Semitic boycott efforts, thought that our readers might also be interested in his latest thoughts. We agree, and we are x-posting his blog here. We have also recently run excellent essays on the same case by Lesley Klaff (“Employment Tribunal Sanctions Antisemitism”) and Harold Brackman (“Which is the Englishman Here, and Which the Jew? Or Is It the Zionist?”) Hirsh’s response follows right after the jump.
Having just blogged on Charles Small’s impressive offerings through his Institute for Global Antisemitism and Policy, it should be noted that Small’s former university has not been idle. Maurice Samuels, the scholar of French and Jewish culture and literature, heads Yale’s new anti-Semitism center, which is known as the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism (YPSA). Samuels’ Center has also been conducting interesting conferences. This week, for example, YPSA will present a panel on ”Antisemitism in the Ancient Mediterranean? Early Christianity and Anti-Judaism,” featuring several academics with impressive credentials within their respective fields. Details after the jump.
LDB Academic Advisor Charles A. Small (ISGAP) reports the following interesting events this week at his Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (after the jump). Impressively, this week’s events feature Israeli Justice Elyakim Rubinstein and Dr. Amichai Magen, as well as Dr. Small himself. Dr. Small, as our readers will recall, was the founder and director of Yale University’s former anti-Semitism research center (YIISA), which was controversially disbanded. We are pleased to see the range and quality of ISGAP’s current offerings at a number of universities, including Harvard, Stanford, McGill and Fordham.
Judges on a UK Employment Tribunal have dismissed as “not well-founded” Ronnie Fraser’s case against the University & College Union (UCU) for “institutional anti-Semitism.” The UCU’s shameful track record: passing an assembly line of inflammatory anti-Israel resolutions that, in effect, created a hostile environment in which union members like Fraser sympathetic to Zionism were demonized as “racists.” Here’s these three judicial wise men’s reasoning that such hateful treatment was kosher: “a belief in the Zionist project or an attachment to Israel cannot amount to a protected characteristic.” (Much more can and will be said about this ruling. See, for example, Leslie Klaff’s excellent post on this blog about it.)
In other words, anti-Zionist vitriol, however loathsome, is not anti-Semitism, whatever may think the overwhelming majority of world Jewry, including of British Jews. Statistics in the end may not matter, but historic heart-felt convictions do.
In the UK, as Cole Porter might have played on the piano, “Anything Goes” when it comes to defamation of Judaism and Jews—the judges left up in the air what exactly they would consider “anti-Semitism”—while any pointed criticism of Islam or Muslims may get you on the criminal docket. (If Salman Rushdie came out today with The Satanic Verses—assuming he could find a publisher in the UK—would he be in hiding or rather in custody?)
Fraser was defended by famed solicitor Anthony Julius. Julius is also a distinguished historian of English anti-Semitism—which his book, Trials of the Diaspora, argues is particularly “literary” in inspiration, from before Shylock, to Dickens’ Fagin, and beyond. Indeed today, Julius may feel as if he has just performed in a courtroom sequel to Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
Employment Tribunal Sanctions Anti-Semitism
Having just finished reading the lengthy judgment in the case of Ronnie Fraser v The University and College Union, I want to comment briefly on the Employment Tribunal’s response to the allegation of anti-Semitism in the UCU; and to the claim that Israel is a non-contingent aspect of Jewish identity.
Anti-Semitism was the crux of Fraser’s case. His complaint against the UCU was that the union had created a hostile environment for him as a Jewish member (‘Jewish’ being a “protected characteristic” under s. 26 Equality Act 2010) by engaging in unwanted anti-Semitic conduct. He complained that the unwanted anti-Semitic conduct, which included not only speech but also acts and omissions, was due to a prevailing culture and attitude in the union that was informed by contemporary anti-Semitism. His written complaint, drafted by Anthony Julius who is renowned for his scholarly knowledge and innate understanding of anti-Semitism, went to great lengths to explain how and why forms of hostility to Israel and Zionism amount to contemporary anti-Semitism. The written complaint also explained that there have always been anti-Semitic Jews, as well as Jews who are ready to make common cause with anti-Semites, so that Jewish support for irrational hostility to Israel does not make it any the less anti-Semitic.
President Harry S. Truman, a history buff, said: “The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.” As a professional historian, I confess to an occupational affliction, which might be called “the obsession with origins,” that is a more sophisticated version of Truman’s aphorism. This causes me, like many of my professional confreres, to believe instinctively that past is key to present, and the essence of a thing resides in its origins. Sometimes, this instinct is right—sometimes not.
Allow me to speculate first about the remote origins of the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) Movement, critiqued in my Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) Against Israel: An Anti-Semitic, Anti-Peace Poison Pill (link: www.wiesenthal.com/atf/cf/%7B54d385e6-f1b9-4e9f-8e94-890c3e6dd277%7D/REPORT_313.PDF).
BDS was officially launched only on July 9, 2005, with “the Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS” in which over 100 named Palestinian organizations declared that “fifty-seven years after the state of Israel was built mainly on land ethnically cleansed of its Palestinian owners,” they were launching a movement “inspired by the struggles of South Africans against Apartheid.”
Obviously, as we shall see, the movement gestated before 2005. Yet it can be argued that its roots go back, not only to the early twenty-first century, but to before the modern era.
With the expansion of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, we have begun a new litigation initiative that focuses on the resurgence of anti-Semitism on universities across the nation. Specifically, we will work with faculty and students to investigate incidents, work with administration on procedures and protocols, and file legal complaints when necessary. Our goal is change the culture on campuses so that anti-Semitism is taken as seriously as other forms of hate and discrimination while also maintaining academic freedom and freedom of speech.
WHY THE DEBATE OVER THE BOYCOTT/DIVESTMENT/SANCTIONS (BDS) MOVEMENT MATTERS
Voltaire said: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” A difficult standard not always lived up to by Voltaire—who often used invective (including anti-Semitic invective) to try to silence his own critics.
In researching and writing the Wiesenthal Center’s new critique of the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) Movement—Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) Against Israel: An Anti-Semitic, Anti-Peace Poison Pill (link: http://www.wiesenthal.com/atf/cf/%7B54d385e6-f1b9-4e9f-8e94-890c3e6dd277%7D/REPORT_313.PDF)—I was struck, again as I have been in the past, by an unfortunate paradox. In the United States—with the freest of free speech charters—political debate is poorer and more constrained than it is, for example, in the UK without a First Amendment. I won’t defend my argument here other than to point to the contrast in quality between televised coverage of the debates on the floor of the U.S. Congress with those in the House of Commons.
An Employment Tribunal has found in favour of UCU on all ten complaints of harassment brought by a UCU member who opposed the union’s policy on Palestine.
The claimant had been supported in his claim by leading lawyer Anthony Julius. In giving their reasoning the Tribunal stated that ‘the proceedings are dismissed in their totality’ and ‘we greatly regret that the case was ever brought. At heart it represents an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means.’
The End of the Holocaust will soon be available to readers in Israel. LDB Academic Advisor Alvin Rosenfeld (Indiana University), a leading scholar of Holocaust literature, will shortly publish his landmark volume in Hebrew, by the Magnes Press of Jerusalem and Yad Vashem. The End of the Holocaust is also scheduled to appear next year in German,…