What kind of spider is this?

I told you we have all kinds here in Barkingside. But I’ve never seen one like this before. Any ideas (Barkingside 21)?

What kind of spider is this?

Other information – found in the evening in the sink, seemed sluggish but after 15 minutes under a glass on a fairly warm window sill it dashed away into the grass.

Apologies for bad shot – light was fading and camera battery running out.

What Israel’s boycotters will claim

Sometime ago, when the latest reincarnation of the campaign to boycott Israel was getting underway, I created a Diigo tag and began excerpting web pages which gave some indication of how pro-boycotters would respond if the boycott failed. Now that it’s been dropped (though I get the impression there are a few still furtively toying with it) I’m reviewing the predictions.

The Harvard Crimson:

One group, the Harvard Society of Arab Students, pointed out the positive results of the proposed boycott, noting that it “has already prompted the presidents of four major Israeli universities to push for Palestinian rights to travel from Gaza to the West Bank to study.”

So the means of the boycott justified the ends – the debate was the important thing all along.

(This would explain why you couldn’t get boycotters to agree on their objectives – what Israeli academics could do to do to lift the boycott.)

The SWP in Malcolm Povey’s article AUT Boycott Debate That has put Palestine Back on the Map:

Last year’s strike transformed the union and recruited predominantly young and temporary staff.

Many of the new members are part of the anti-war movement, part of the anti-G8 forces and so on.

These radicalised people joined forces with the left at the April conference to pass the pro-boycott motions in the teeth of opposition from the union executive.

Suddenly we found ourselves facing a call for a special council meeting right in the middle of examinations.

Already the University of Haifa had briefed Princess Diana’s former solicitors to write accusing the union of every kind of law breaking.

That threat of legal action was the first thing members heard from the union over why a special conference was taking place.

In other words, authentic union activists, the flower of our youth, devoted to proper causes and so on – confounded in their righteous struggle. The boycott campaign was sabotaged.

Sabotaged by…? Well, already some are talking “external pressure”, and others openly about a Zionist nexus. The lawyers mentioned included Anthony Julius of Mishcon de Reya – a steady campaigner against antisemitism – and he didn’t accuse them of every kind, to be fair.

From a chirrupping anti-zionist twit who will remain unlinked and unnamed (Flesh policy but you can always search for him):

“Your reference to the “real left” is just a tad enigmatic when you consider the array of rightists, including people who have been encouraged to join the union simply to oppose the boycott, supporting your side. If this left of yours is so real, how come so many weren’t in the union in the first place? And how come Sharon and his cohorts have the same position as you on the boycott?”

So, encouraging union members to overturn the union’s bad decision just wasn’t cricket. And whichever side Sharon is on, we should be on the other side (please note, this also includes withdrawing from Gaza).

From one Parina Douzina Pariaki writing in response to a 2003 LRB piece by Judith Butler titled No, It’s Not Antisemitic (possibly, I’m not sure, the origin of that clause in UCU Motion 30).

“Israeli policy since 11 September 2001 has not encouraged goodwill towards Israel. An impression has been given that ‘since we suffered the Holocaust we can do anything we like now and anyone who dares criticise our aggression in the West Bank, say, is nothing but a bigoted anti-semite.’ I am well aware that this is most certainly not the attitude of all Jews; however, the Sharon Government, assisted greatly by the US’s one-sided stand (the Israelis have a right to defend themselves but the Palestinians don’t), has done a great deal to rekindle a pernicious anti-semitism. Butler is absolutely right to insist that criticism of Israel should in no way be construed as anti-semitism. On the contrary, I believe that Israeli policy should be criticised, and very strongly, with a view to reining it in, or else we risk a horrible anti-semitic backlash that will, of course, target not Sharon and his sympathisers, but ordinary Jews trying to go about their daily business, all over the world.”

So, clearly Israel deserves everything it gets – doesn’t matter what, we all know it deserves it. A big dose of no-holds-barred antisemitism – sorry, criticism – is the only thing that can save Israel from itself and a well-deserved – sorry, horrible – antisemitic backlash. The academic boycott is precisely the thing. (And calling antisemitism ‘pernicious’ proves that I’m definitely not an antisemite, so shut up.)

So on the basis of that, pro-boycotters will say (or insinuate in the case of the more sophisticated ones):

  • The means justified the ends – the debate was the important thing
  • The boycott was a righteous cause – anyone who opposed it is a baddy
  • Lawyers who oppose the boycott are Zionists and the law, a Zionist ass which must be resisted. Or less contentiously, since this pro-boycott policy is inherently virtuous, it must be the law which is wrong
  • Now the Israel Lobby has blocked our decent, peaceful boycott, worse measures will follow and they’ll have brought it on themselves

The responses are already mounting up. In a few days we’ll see.

On invoking the law to oppose boycott. And why only now?

Some are disappointed that the academic boycott stunt was ended by lawyers rather than UCU membership. Shalom Lappin responds on Normblog.

The Jim Crow laws in the United States were overturned in the 1950s and 1960s through Supreme Court decisions and civil rights legislation, rather than by popular referendums in southern American states. The civil rights movement did not attempt to argue with segregationists to give up their misguided commitment to discriminatory practices. It invoked legal authority in order to compel them to respect the human rights of African Americans. In a liberal democracy the rights of individuals and minorities against racist exclusion are ensured by legal guarantee.

I’m waiting to find out exactly what the lawyers said – there’s a circular promised for Monday. And more to the point, when did they say it. Could it be that the UCU NEC compromised with the pro-boycotters and allowed this debacle, with its associated onslaught of horrible UCU-hosted “absurd, anti-semitic and mendacious” emails, continue until the beginning or term, even though it knew the boycott and associated campaign to be racist in effect?

Shalom (who stalked out of UCU in disgust when it passed pro-boycott policy back in May) reckons:

… it is important to recognize that the union leadership has consistently failed to provide serious moral and political leadership in the face of the boycott campaign. Neither of its antecedent executives in the AUT and NATFHE ever took strong, unequivocal stands against the boycott. They sought to appease the boycotters on each occasion that a boycott resolution was introduced and passed. These executives and the current UCU administration effectively stood aside, adopting a position of studied neutrality. Given the clearly discriminatory nature of the proposals and the AUT’s decision excluding boycotts except in very restricted circumstances, the obvious question to ask is why the UCU executive did not seek legal support for excluding the boycott when the current motion was first introduced, prior to the national UCU conference in May 2007.

I don’t know, but the timing raises some questions.

Academic boycott unlawful

UCU had to spend thousands of pounds of our subs on inquiries into the legality of the boycott policy passed at 2007 Congress. They’ve just announced that it was found to be unlawful. Does this mean that it won’t come up again? Or will the SWP and fellow travellers press on regardless?

The law, here, is only a substitute for members’ moral convictions. Pro-boycotters are bound to be furious and will probably renew their vows to finish the job. But for now they’re a good few steps further into a corner than they were before.

Want to earn -£47.00 for two weeks’ work? Domino’s Pizza.

I wonder what goes through Stephen Helmsley’s head as he bats back outrageous platitudes in the face of good questions about how profitable Domino’s can justify exploiting all those Eastern European kids who deliver its pizzas while living 8 to a room on a negligible or even negative income. I don’t know how he sleeps at night. I saw their sad eyes on Newsnight and I can’t. Odious.

UCU members for a ballot on the academic boycott of Israel


UCU Members for a Ballot

We want a ballot of all members of the University and Colleges Union on the question of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. We want a direct say in our union’s policy on this issue.

Whatever members think about the issue of a boycott of Israel, we believe that members have a right to a direct say. Individual members should have a direct vote, just as we do on industrial action. A decision on a boycott taken at Congress, without a ballot first, would be wrong – and disastrous for the credibility of the union. After the debates, let’s have a vote.

It’s our union. We want a ballot.

This website is launched by two ordinary UCU members: Jimmy Donaghey (Queens University, Belfast UCU) and Jon Pike (Open University UCU).

A ballot because our Congress delegates have a track record of voting against the interests of their members on this matter, and because if we don’t have one I think that delegates will be elected on a single issue – like last time.

Hard cheese, sour grapes and they want to make me eat them

Via Engage. Socialist Worker reckons the academic boycott has fallen victim to a “well-funded Zionist campaign” and recommends a vindictive kind of climb-down. Which will in all probability leave those who oppose the boycott (in the most unedifying ‘debate’ I’ve ever had the shame to participate in) dealing with undiluted diehard nutcases.

The left faces two problems here. The first is that the boycott is an issue that divides critics of Israel. Even as sterling an anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist as Noam Chomsky opposes it.

The second is that any ballot would be dominated by a well-funded Zionist campaign that would enjoy the overwhelming support of the mass media. Under such pressure, the boycott would almost certainly be heavily defeated. Such an outcome would set back the cause of solidarity with Palestine in British universities for many years.

The left should refuse to walk into Hunt’s trap. We should make it clear now that we do not intend to propose an actual boycott of any Israeli academic institutions at the next union congress.

We should do so in order to achieve the maximum unity over the question of Palestine.

Many opponents of the boycott have been fulsome in their support for the Palestinians. We should put them on the spot and demand to know, if a boycott were off the agenda, what they intend to do help the Palestinians.

And, rather than apologising for raising the issue of a boycott, we should go onto the offensive. Not only should we put the spotlight on places like Ariel, but we should argue that UCU campaigns against the complicity of the British government in the US-Israeli policy of dividing the Palestinians and blockading Gaza.


Which david t interprets.

What do I intend to do to help the Palestinians, ask the SWP members. (Using, incidentally, the only instance of the world ‘fulsome’ on the entire SWP Online site. Fulsome: “unpleasantly and excessively suave or ingratiating in manner or speech”. Well. They really know how to make you want to work with them.)

In UCU? Nothing. I’ll be regarding UCU activists who claim to want to help Palestinians with suspicion for a long time to come. Just can’t seem to envisage myself settling down to business with them. Just seeing certain names in my inbox gives me recoiling pavlovians. They can’t be trusted to deal sensitively with Jewish issues, is the thing. Well, OK, depends what kind of ‘help’ is on the table. Never say never.

In my institution? Will help with initiatives as required (after vetting for the wrong sort of enthusiastically antisemitic kind of stuff which masquerades as ‘helping the Palestinians’ in UCU) and take any opportunity that presents itself. But I think there are more urgent causes for an institution than the Palestinians – most people realise this and I predict that, denied the opportunity for Israel bashing, there’ll be very little in the way of positive initiative from so-called pro-Palestinian activists.

In my personal life? As before but perhaps more intensively.

Is that too fulsome, or not fulsome enough?

Two good things have come out of this ‘debate’ though – I understand Jewish and Arab Israelis’ points of view a lot better and I can spot antisemitism at 50 paces.