Gert Weisskirchen wanted to discuss antisemitism in UCU

From the Jewish Chronicle:

Professor Gert Weisskirchen, the personal representative of the current chairman of the 56-nation Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, (OSCE), is coming to London next week to meet leaders of trade unions which voted for a boycott of Israel.

His mission will be to find out why they did so, and to try to persuade them to change their minds.

“It is the view of the OSCE that boycotts lead to increased antisemitism,” Prof Weisskirchen told the JC this week. “My trip is still being planned so I do not know for sure who I will be meeting. I want to find out what is behind this and to try to convince them to change their minds. We fear that this boycott ‘instrument’ is pushing Israel into a corner. I would like to understand whether or not there is antisemitism behind it.”

Prof Weisskirchen, a German Social Democratic Party MP and his party’s foreign policy spokesman, said the OSCE members took a dim view of boycotts.

Britain had escaped criticism so far because the British government had taken a firm anti-boycott stance, but he believed that that could change if the boycott votes continued.

The OSCE parliamentary assembly met in Kiev last week and made reference to boycotts in its final declaration, saying it “expresses its concern at all attempts to target Israeli institutions and individuals for boycotts, divestments and sanctions.

The conference also “deplored the continuing intellectualisation of antisemitism, racism and other forms of intolerance in academic spheres” and called for “guidelines for academic responsibility to ensure the protection of Jewish and other minority students from harassment, discrimination and abuse in the academic environment”.

It appears that he offered to make himself available on a range of dates in London and Berlin, but nobody from UCU has arranged to meet with him. If true, this adds to my growing sense that UCU wants its Jews to leave – no that’s melodramatic and wrong in any case. Just to my sense that UCU (including its anti-Zionist Jews) doesn’t want to face up to the antisemitism behind its boycott campaign.

AIC – Palestinians want reconciliation between political leaders

From the Alternative Information Centre – Palestinians are losing faith in their political leaders and want reconciliation.

“Fafo [Norwegian Institute for Applied International Studies] carried out an opinion poll of 1,953 adult individuals in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the period 2-12 July. The study entailed face-to-face interviews with persons aged 18 years and older. It gathered information on all household members’ living conditions and the selected individuals’ attitudes regarding current political affairs, elections, the security situation, and relations with Israel. The poll was funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”


  • If there were an election now, Fatah would win. Hamas’ support has slipped since last year
  • 85% (91% of Hamas supporters and 75% of Fatah supporters) want negotiations
  • 47% of Hamas supporters believe it will attempt to take over the West Bank by violent means
  • 84% blame Israel for the current situation
  • 83% of Hamas supporters and 20% of Fatah supporters (total 44%) want to see Islamic Law established in Gaza, and most of those want the same for the West Bank
  • 73% have no trust in the Quartet, only 31% have trust in the governments of Fayyad or Haniyeh, and 32% have trust in Parliament
  • 40% say they wouldn’t vote in elections
  • 59% of the polled expressed general fear for the security of their households (WB 34%; Gaza 54%).
  • Only 28% of Palestinians over 15 had worked in the week prior to the interview; 38% said that their household would fail to provide their basic needs if the economy remained the same
  • Only 7% of respondents believe Tony Blair is the right man for his new peace envoy job
  • 58% (WB 78%; Gaza 50%) want peace talks with Israel to resume, a decline from 78% in December 2006. People who vote for Fatah are much more supportive of peace negotiations than those who vote for Hamas, at 74% and 29% respectively.

Employment, law and order, cooperation, trustworthy leaders. And a state.

Israel signs EU agreement – will participate in FP7 research programme

Because, said the research commissioner,

“Israel’s association to the framework programme has proved to be of mutual benefit for both sides over the last couple of years. Whereas the European research area will benefit from the renowned excellence of the Israeli research community, Israel will gain full access to the biggest research programme in the world.”

The EU will benefit from Israel’s participation in this 6 year programme. Those boycotters haven’t managed to cut off our noses yet.

Ghada Karmi deals the antisemitic card

Somebody advised me to read Ghada Karmi’s Married to Another Man if I wanted a good example of how anti-Zionists use Jewish conspiracy theories to delegitimise Israel. I will, pending a stronger stomach.

In her recent bitterlemons piece on the boycott, she identifies two “misconceptions” of anti-boycotters: that the boycott is against individuals and that the boycott is antisemitic. In addressing the first she fails to engage with any of the arguments, and to argue the second she twists the antisemitism charge into something other that what it is.

The argument that the boycott targets individuals:

In a malicious misrepresentation of this position, opponents claim that the boycott will end the free exchange of ideas with individual Israelis and encourage discrimination against them within British academia. By suppressing “free speech,” goes the argument, this would end any hope of change in Israel’s policies that academics could have brought about. This is an erroneous argument, and it has galvanized opposition to the boycott in Britain.

As a prospective target of boycott, Baruch Kimmerling said it best in his 2003 piece for Borderlands:

“My friend Elia Zureik suggested that the boycott should be only institutional but not personal. Very kindly and generously, he has offered to cooperate with me, (presuming I’m on his personal list of “good guys”) but to boycott my institution, the Hebrew University. Self-evidently it is his right to boycott every institution or person he want to, but he must realize that if his call to freeze funds to my institution is effective, the resulting constraints on research and conferences will also hurt “good guys” like me. Moreover, the very idea of making selections among members of the academy is a horrifying idea and I hereby pledge not to cooperate with any institution or person who will make such selections, even if I myself am ruled acceptable by them. Selections made on the basis of non-academic criteria endanger academic freedom.”

So we can expect individuals, even anti-establishment, anti-occupation individuals like Baruch was, to act pretty unpredictably when faced with boycott. Haricombe and Lancaster found this too, in their study of the academic boycott of South Africa.

Institutions don’t author research proposals. Institutions don’t submit abstracts for conferences. Institutions don’t collaborate on solutions for the world’s problems. Institutions don’t participate in international debates. All of these things are done by individuals. Any effectiveness of the boycott will involve harming institutions precisely by harming individuals. Not only that – any effectiveness of the boycott involves this harm to institutions and individuals being recognised by the Israeli government. Moreover any effectiveness of the boycott will involve the Israeli government acting on this recognition. Moreover it will involve the act of the Israeli government being to – depending on whether you are anti-Zionist or not – a) withdraw from the occupied territories and help set up a viable Palestinian state or b) dismantle Israel and make abject reparations for the outrageous project of Jewish self-determination.

This academic boycott the most shamelessly and improbably baroque measure to end the occupation imaginable.

Moving on to the second of her “misconceptions”:

The allegation is that the real reason for the boycott is hatred of Jews, a new outbreak of an old gentile affliction. Nothing is more designed to provoke and mislead than this charge, which, its authors know, antagonizes all Jews and many non-Jews … In fact of course, the imputation of anti-Semitism is a red herring, as so often when Israel is criticized, and its aim as always is to deflect criticism.

This is unfounded. Nobody serious has said that the real reason for the boycott was hatred of Jews. On the contrary, opponents of the boycott have made a vigorous argument that it is possible to commit racist acts in sincere good faith and have persisted in separating antisemitic acts and expressions on the one hand, and the characters of the people responsible for them on the other. Hatred of Jews may come into it, but there is no reliable litmus test for hatred of Jews in this battle of ideas. That said, Israel’s the target of so much selective censure and selective punishment that this boycott can reasonably be argued to constitute racist discrimination, and it is entirely appropriate to point out both this fact and the fact that applying a boycott will have a selectively damaging effect on Jewish academics and students in Israel and in the UK. To point this out is not a “diversionary tactic” – the Palestinians remain our concern – but in arguing that it is (and that it is “malicious”), Ghada is cynically dealing the anti-semitic card to close down a principled and legitimate argument against the boycott.

Lastly, people may argue that the reason the boycott hurts Jews is that the majority of the Palestinian’s aggressors are Jews. But we know why so many Jews came to gather in that part of the world (and the real reasons have nothing to do with Karmi’s conspiracy theories) and how Israel has been the target of neighbourly violence, non-cooperation and hostility since its inception. The asymmetry of the conflict and the trampled rights of Palestinians nothwithstanding, Palestinians and neighbouring states are an independent factor in this conflict. Israel is not a lone aggressor. So I’d recommend some decent human understanding for Israelis alongside the rightful holding to account for Israel’s atrocious and humiliating treatment of Palestinians. That the occupation must end is a given, but the means of exerting pressure for this can be, and in this case are, antisemitic. And anti-boycotters are obliged to argue this point, no matter what stain of malice, “hysteria” people like Ghada attempt to stain us with.

The last thing I want to deal with is the easiest – that rusty old prophylactic against charges of anti-semitism “But I’m Jewish myself – how can I do anything anti-semitic?”.

In the case of the British boycott committee, it is particularly inapt, since most of the members are Jewish.

This is irrelevant if we make a distinction between the act and the person who carries out that act. The behaviours and attitudes which constitute antisemitism aren’t dictated by ethnicity and Jews are not somehow immune from being antisemitic. Jews are not constitutionally incapable of being antisemitic. But astoundingly the BBC made the same point about David Milliband:

“David Miliband’s Jewish background will be noted particularly in the Middle East. Israel will welcome this – but equally it allows him the freedom to criticise Israel, as he has done, without being accused of anti-Semitism.”

Anti-Israel campaigners find Jews particularly useful to the cause, so it doesn’t surprise me that Ghada Karmi uses the Jews of the anti-boycott movement to shield it from charges of antisemitism.

That’s enough, back to my confounded paper.

Luddism is something different

In my line of work the term ‘luddite’ is thrown about with abandon and for the merest reasons.

But in United We Stand. A History of Britain’s Trade Unions by Alastair J. Reid, I read that Ned Ludd was an invented character used to sign letters to employers during the intense industrial disputes between process workers and their employers in 1811-12. Reid writes (p62) of the associated acts of sabotage (for example 1000 stocking frames in Nottingham):

“…the violent opposition to technical innovation was confined to declining occupations in rural districts. After all, machinery rarely leads to net reductions in either skill or labour requirements. It usually replaces manual rather than mental labour in the processes concerned and it is generally introduced during expansions in production which simultaneously absorb any temporarily displaced workers. Thus though individuals might experience uncertainly and disruption, organized groups of workers rarely oppose the introduction of labour-saving machinery in principle though of course they are always concerned about the wages and hours involved in its operation. The exception to this rule seems to have been in rural areas, where isolation and lack of alternative employment opportunities weakened the workers’ collective bargaining and led on occasion to unusually desperate resistance to innovation.”

Just one more bit of fine spam

I think Jonathan Safran Foer is writing Anatr1m ads:

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(Despite the 1s, I don’t think this practice of sharing spam affecting my ratings. Although one person did arrive here via the search “Does megadik work”.)

Funny Gilad Atzmon

I was interested an amused to read the transcript of therecent interview Mary Rizzo carried out with Gilad Atzmon (“anti-zionist” jazz saxophonist, “political artist” and “trained continental philosopher”) I knew he fell out with the PSC and SWP because they found him too anti-Jewish, but didn’t realise he had cooled about the Israel boycott:

“to impose a boycott is to employ a boycotter. When it comes to an academic boycott I would expect the inquisitor in charge to be a scholar of great esteem. This isn’t the case obviously. The reason is simple. As it naturally happens, major intellectuals are engaged in scholarship rather than in union politics, working class and proletarian activity. Seemingly, it isn’t the leading minds in British academic life and ethical thinking who are leading the boycott.”

Unionists not leading minds? That is so elitist – to think he was invited to play jazz at Marxism 2007. To be fair though, that’s not the only reason. He is also a defender of academic freedom.

On the subject of ideological and political divisions amongst Palestinians, he was asked who he supported:

“…my moral duty is clear to me. I just support the Palestinian people and their different choices even if those are contradicting. Rather than trying to fit the Palestinian struggle into a decaying 19th century working class philosophy or any other ideology, I fit myself to their call. I do regard Palestine and the Palestinians as the avant garde and the forefront of the battle against modern evil.”

Best laugh I’ve had all day – fence-sitting and underdoggism all rolled up in one clown. I might even set up an alert to see how he copes with the impossible.

Moby protests the flatulence of cows. Proposals to ease it.

Moby rightly criticises organisers of LiveEarth for allowing meat to be sold at the concerts. He writes on his blog (I hope he doesn’t mind if I add some capital letters here and there):

“Livestock production is responsible for the release of more greenhouse gases than every car or suv or pickup-truck on the planet. I’ve asked this before, but why wasn’t this fact included in ‘Inconvenient Truth’?
when the major news media report on global warming why do they rarely (if at all) discuss the role of livestock production in climate change? It’s kind of like talking about the causes of the civil war and forgetting to mention slavery and abolitionism. Or talking about someone with lung cancer and neglecting to mention that they smoked 2 packs of cigarettes a day. Yesterday at the ‘Live Earth’ concerts people were eating hamburgers and hot dogs and chicken, which is akin to getting drunk at the funeral for someone who died of alcohol poisoning.”

(Reminds me of the debate about mentioning anti-semitism in the anti-boycott argument, palatable or not.)

(To be fair, I think it might be OK to drink at the funeral for someone who died of alcohol poisoning.)

Even if I didn’t respect animals I’d still be vegan for environmental reasons. And I’d still scoff at the idea reported in today’s Guardian that more digestible foodstuff – those higher in sugars such as white clover and birds trefoil – can make our beef and dairy industry green. The greenest animal farm I’ve seen is the Netherland’s Pig City, plans for a stylish, environmentally-optimised residence for pigs which recycles solid, liquid and gaseous waste and, being a high rise, has a small physical footprint too. Pig City would be a technological triumph if it weren’t part of a system of imprisonment, coercion, rupture of social units and, ultimately, needless death. And if it didn’t require that large tracts of land be commandeered for growing monoculture animal feed.  Between that and biofuel (which is already pushing up the price of maize), I despair.

Wikipedia – number of users (summer 07)

April 2007 survey by the Pew Internet and American Life project finds that “36% of online American adults consult Wikipedia. It is particularly popular with the well-educated and current college-age students”.

E-consultancy reports (9th July) that “figures from Nielsen/NetRatings show that Wikipedia had 46.8m unique visitors in May 2007, a 72% increase on June 2006. In addition, the site topped the news and information category every month this year.”