UCU’s boycott of Israel blinds it to antisemitism. Is this solidarity?

In a post on Engage, David Hirsh gives context to the invitation UCU, the main British trade union for academics, extended to Bongani Masuku to speak against Israel. Last week, Bongani Masuku was found to have incited hatred against Jews by the South African Human Rights Commission.

Self-righteously, UCU rubbishes the SAHRC and the blogs which have tried to raise the alarm about Masuku. What is the word for an organisation so self-regarding that it considers the actions or decisions of its activists sufficient benchmark of goodness, regardless of any other objective criteria? UCU is like that. It would be ridiculous if it wasn’t so serious.

David Hirsh points out:

“The Human Rights Commission is a national institution of post apartheid South Africa. Part of the antidote to the old racist system, and independent of government, this institution functions as the linchpin of the new constitution which endows the rainbow nation with a set of legal and democratic guarantees.

The Human Rights Commission ruled last week that the statements of Bongani Masuku on the subject of Israel amounted to antisemitic hate speech. He is a senior official in the South African trade union movement and is currently in the UK on a trip paid for by the University and College Union to promote the exclusion of Israelis, and only Israelis, from the global academic community.

The Human Rights Commission does not makes its judgments frivolously. The Human Rights Commission is aware of the distinction between criticism of Israel and antisemitism. The Human Rights Commission is not pro-Israel and is not concerned with defending the reputation of Israel. It is concerned with racism.”

He then summarises the history of the anti-boycott campaign in UCU, which warned against precisely this welcoming of antisemitism.

To quote a comment which once caught my eye on Engage, UCU’s insistence that its anti-Zionism cannot be antisemitism is “A bit like the commercial for a car where the would-be buyer asks “Do you have any colour but black?” and the salesman replies “Yes, we have noir””.

What kind of trade union would allow law to become the only thing standing between a group of people and the enactment of another trade union’s prejudice against them? Is this what solidarity has come to mean?

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5 thoughts on “UCU’s boycott of Israel blinds it to antisemitism. Is this solidarity?

  1. Pingback: UCU’s Blind Eye To Antisemitism. « ModernityBlog

  2. Pingback: Snow Day Roundup « The New Centrist

  3. In this Blog “exclusion of Israelis, and only Israelis, from the global academic community.” is what is given as the facts to me, the reader, for proof of the accusation this person Masuku is antisemitic.
    I have to admit that I am so exhausted by the notion of antisemitism being totally interchangeable with that of being anti-Israeli that I almost instinctually agreed with the UCU out of pure compassion fatigue against the author’s arrogance.
    However, after a deep breath and a re-read of the last sentence of this article, which made no sense to me the first or even the second time I read it, I began to think twice about letting the intellectual lightweight who wrote this article twist my principles, despite the whining, rambling posture they seemed so keyed in on.
    I realized that this type of boycott is exactly the sort of thing Israelis love to do to Palestinians, and the more developed Western academics of Britain should allow freedom of association to Israelis so they can see another way of living and relating outside of their own society which is so wracked by one sad form 21st century apartheid, a reason to not create another with such a sweeping boycott.
    So.. “Now children two wrongs don’t make a right” … if only we could get Israeli and Palestinian leaders to write this on the chalkboard 200 times after class?

    • L Silverman,

      “I am so exhausted by the notion of antisemitism being totally interchangeable with that of being anti-Israeli that”

      you’ve started to imagine it everywhere, I think.

      For evidence Masuku’s antisemitism, all you need to do is search the web for “Bongani Masuku” and “South African Human Rights Commission”.

  4. L Silverman wrote:

    “I realized that this type of boycott is exactly the sort of thing Israelis love to do to Palestinians,”

    Er, no, a fair few Palestinians do study at Israeli universities (not enough in my view, but still), including one of the leading, er, pro-boycotters, Omar Barghouti.

    Mr. Barghouti is enrolled at Tel Aviv University.

    http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2009/04/25/omar-barghouti-do-as-i-say-not-as-i-do/

    So, no, Israelis are not always boycotting Palestinians, in the real world.

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