Eve Garrard, one of the most articulate, nimble and outspoken of the UCU (University and College Union) members who oppose boycott, and a great inspiration, has left UCU because of the way it has handled the boycott campaign. Her letter of resignation can be found on Normblog.
“The primary impact of Motion 25, as with previous boycott motions, will not be to harm Israel, whose academics will simply transfer their valuable contributions to other, less prejudiced, collaborators. Nor will it have any discernible impact on Palestinians, except perhaps a negative one. The discriminatory procedure which the motion mandates will certainly discredit UK academia. But its principal impact will be on British Jews and Jewish academics. Most, though not all, Jews in the UK, and most Jewish academics, support the existence of Israel, and are extremely concerned that it has been singled out for hostile treatment in this way. Most of them feel that the palpable hostility to Israel and its supporters displayed by the pro-boycotters is based on an astonishingly one-sided, partial, and often quite false account of the troubled history of the Middle East; and that the principal effect, and quite possibly the principal aim, of the boycott project is to demonise and delegitimise Jewish national identity and self-determination. Most Jewish academics feel that Jews have as much right to self-determination and national aspirations as any other people, and that the UCU has become a place where such rights are being dismissed and denied. They increasingly feel that the Union is no longer a place where they can be as much at home as any other members, and that its increasingly chilling attitude to Jewish self-determination is creating an unwelcoming and even hostile environment for people with their political sympathies. And the Executive of the Union has made no attempt whatever to address such concerns. It has treated the worries and fears of its Jewish members with contemptuous neglect.”
Engage reviews some of the other ways that UCU has fucked its members – particularly its Jewish members – over in order to gratify the obsessions of a loud, self-indulgent and unethical minority.
Anyone else feeling a bit Jewish these days? A bit perched? Robert Fine is.
“I used to visit Israel, where I have relatives and friends, but I haven’t been back for some years now – in part because I disapprove of the occupation and the militarism that has accompanied it. I think it has damaged Israeli society from within as well as adding to the suffering many Palestinian men and women have had to endure throughout the Middle East. Over the last few years, however, we have had to listen to the grotesque vilification of Israel and exaggeration of its crimes. We have had to resist relentless calls to exclude Israeli academics from our campuses, editorial boards and research networks. With an increasing sense of adversity we have honed our arguments. Now for the third time our own union has chosen to go down the road of considering ‘the appropriateness of continued educational links with Israeli academic institutions’. The tones are mellow but they give me a shiver and make me feel my Jewishness in a new way.”
For some years now anti-boycotters who have wanted to organise with colleagues to resist the intrusion of the private sector where it doesn’t belong, resist cuts and closures, campaign for a decent wage and conditions, for academic freedom, to name a few activities trade unions are needed for – basically if they’ve wanted to be active members rather than normal members – they’ve been obliged at the same time to vocally fight the discrimination represented by the boycott campaign, because to be an active member and strengthen UCU in its rightful business but to do nothing about the canker of this discriminatory policy would be tantamount to acceptance of that policy. I think this kind of position is known as a ‘detriment’. In fact, UCU says it is.
For no good reason at all (this needs to be stressed – UCU’s chosen action against Israel is no help to Palestinians, no leverage on the occupation, and in stark constrast the the supportiveness of its other international policy) UCU – activists and National Executive Committee – have made Jews feel like strangers. It’s common knowledge that European Jews in the shadow of the Holocaust are prone to feel perched. Or if it’s not common knowledge, go to UKNova and download the BBC4’s Jews – The Next Generation. Why else do UCU delegates and officers suppose that so many Jews view Israel, despite its dreadful occupation, as a place of last resort, a bolt-hole, insurance against antisemitism in the countries where they live? They should read the sections on Zionism’s Prominent Position in Jewry and The Distortion of the Jewish Predicament in Steve Cohen’s free, revelatory online book That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Anti-Semitic.
Nobody wants to feel like a victim-in-the-making but it’s the analysis of antisemitism embodied in the anti-Israel campaign along with the effects on British Jews which makes what UCU is doing particularly repellent, particularly un-left and absolutely un-Marxist.
But UCU isn’t an institutionally antisemitic organisation, it protests. I’m finding it hard to see how it’s not.