UCU Congress rejects “confusing” definition of antisemitism

Press Release from Free Speech on Israel and BRICUP (British Committee for the Universities of Palestine)

for immediate release – 29th May 2017

UCU Congress rejects “confusing” definition of antisemitism

Support for Palestinian professor denied entry to Israel

Free Speech on Israel, a Jewish-led organisation which defends the right to criticise Israel, and the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, which campaigns for academic and cultural boycott of Israel, today welcomed the vote by the University and College Union (UCU) to reject the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

Motion 57, submitted by UCU branches at the University of Leeds, Goldsmiths, and the University of Brighton, along with two strengthening amendments from Queen’s University Belfast and London Retired Members Branch, was carried overwhelmingly in the closing minutes of UCU’s annual Congress in Brighton.  Only one delegate spoke against the motion.

UCU Congress delegates standing up to racism
UCU Congress delegates standing up to racism

UCU had previously, in 2011, rejected the “Working Definition of Antisemitism” of the EU Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC).  The IHRA definition strongly resembles the EUMC version.  Today’s vote strengthens UCU’s existing policy. Continue reading “UCU Congress rejects “confusing” definition of antisemitism”

Don’t Go to the Doctor

Karma Nabulsi writes about Prevent

[Editor’s note. These are extracts from Don’t Go to the Doctor by Karma Nabulsi published in the London Review of Books and reprinted by permission. We are republishing it not just because of its intrinsic interest but because of the link between the IHRA definition of antisemitism and the Prevent programme. We are finding that allegations of IHRA antisemitism, no matter how wild and unfounded, are producing referrals to the Prevent programme; these referrals are being used as a pretext to raise concerns of threats to public order or campus security and justification for cancellation of the event. In this way spurious claims of antisemitism are effective in halting discussion of Israel without any scrutiny of the validity of the allegations. A link is being made between unacceptable and deplorable acts of violence and free expression of of areas of legitimate public concern. The war on ‘terror’ segues into a war on free speech. Mike Cushman]

Karma Nabulsi on the British government’s Prevent programme.
A colleague of mine at Oxford was asked to see an undergraduate who was falling behind in her work. The student – a Muslim – explained that she had been suffering from depression and was being treated for it by her GP. My colleague believed the student’s explanation placed her under an obligation to ask the student whether she was being radicalised.

….

A librarian was asked for a reference by another university: ‘Are you completely satisfied,’ they wanted to know, ‘that the applicant is not involved in “extremism” (being vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs)?’

Out of the blue, a college head refused the usual joint arrangements with a university centre for a lecture by a very distinguished European academic, whose work is on the politics of Islam. Special Branch had informed the college that a great deal of extra security would be required.

….

A student society set up decades ago to represent a well-established immigrant community in the UK wanted to hold welcome drinks for new undergraduates at the beginning of the academic year. The university told them to hand over the guest list 48 hours before the event. They explained that they had no way of knowing who would turn up, as the event was to welcome new members, but offered to check university IDs at the door, take names, or have a senior member in attendance – no, they couldn’t hold the event, it was against the new rules. One of the organisers was sent an explanatory email: ‘The event was impossible without a guest list because of our legal duty to abide by Prevent. All colleges across the university must screen guest lists before they offer an event, for security purposes … our hands are simply tied on this one.’

The British government’s Prevent programme, aimed at keeping people from being ‘drawn into terrorism’, was developed in 2003, after the invasion of Iraq, as part of the overarching counter-terrorism strategy known as Contest. Continue reading “Don’t Go to the Doctor”

Zionists fail in attempt to block criticism of Israel on Facebook

Shurat HaDin fail in latest lawfare attempt to silence Israel’s critics

Mike Cushman

Surat HaDin describes itself as  working “with Western intelligence agencies, law enforcement branches and a network of volunteer lawyers across the globe to file legal actions on behalf of world Jewry” and is presumed to have close links with Mossad, the Israeli spy agency. It has a record of pursuing aggressive, and fortunately usually embarrassingly unsuccessful, lawsuits to silence critics of Israel. They have pursued charities, churches, journalists and academics who do not adhere to their apologias for Israeli crimes and of course presume an identity between their sponsors, the Israeli state, and “world Jewry”.

They appear well-funded and setbacks do not halt their efforts to exploit US claims that their courts have worldwide jurisdiction in the USA’s ever expanding and morphing ‘war against terror’.

Their most recent failure was when US District Judge Nicholas Garaufis threw out their billion dollar suit against Facebook. Shurat HaDin claimed that the social media corporation was assisting Hamas (in violation of the US Anti-Terrorism Act) in “recruiting, radicalizing, and instructing terrorists, raising funds, creating fear and carrying out attacks.” They claimed that, therefore, Facebook was liable for the exaggerated compensation that US law provides to ‘victims of terrorism’.

Billion-dollar Israeli lawsuit against Facebook thrown out
Shurat HaDin versus Facebook: Vexatious Litigation as Warfare
Zuckerberg don’t kill us!’ Facebook incitement battle heats up

The suit failed because the US law clearly states “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” The US has a long standing commitment to freedom of speech under the First Amendment but current and recent administrations express strong interest in curtailing  this protection in pursuit of America’s self-identified ‘enemies’.

Shrat HaDin took advantage of First Amendment rights themselves to post large billboards outside Mark Zukerberg’s home.

Billboard outside Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's home
Billboard outside Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s home

Threat is worldwide

Law in other jurisdictions, including the UK and Europe, is more cautious in claiming global scope but protection of free speech is also less robust.

Current debate on the responsibility of Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies for content posted on their platforms gives rise ot concern. How the line is drawn between the unacceptable and the merely unwelcome to some sectional interests is going to be highly contested and crucial to maintaining space for promotion of Palestinian rights. We can expect Shurat HaDin and others to exploit any opportunity t drive critics of Israel off of social media with devastating impact on our ability to inform and organise.

The UK Government’s adoption of the IHRA (mis)definition of antisemitism, and the drive to get the EU to adopt it, expands the definition of antisemitism to embrace legitimate debate on Israel’s actions. It is essential to prevent the IHRA definition being used as the benchmark for permitted speech in public meetings, on broadcast media or the internet.

Three “Wise” Monkeys Throttle Palestinian Hunger Strikers off the Airways

Glyn Secker

There has been an unprecedented blackout by the British broadcast media on the Palestinian Hunger Strikers and their protest against detention without trial, rigged courts, their illegal deportation to prisons in Israel, the denial of family visits and food parcels.

On 17 April 2017 the Palestinian leader Mawan Barghouti, from his prison cell, issued the following statement to the NY Times:

The eldest of my four children in now a man of 31. Yet here I am, pursuing this struggle for freedom alongside with thousands of prisoners, millions of Palestinians and the support of so many around the world.

 

Even the Apartheid Wall says Free Marwan Barghouti
Even the Apartheid Wall says Free Marwan Barghouti

Continue reading “Three “Wise” Monkeys Throttle Palestinian Hunger Strikers off the Airways”

If you thought the IHRA (mis)definition was bad enough…

… the version that Luke Akehurst is peddling is even worse

Mike Cushman

Luke Akehurst of ‘We Believe in Israel’ has been circulating an amended version of the IHRA definition of antisemitism to Local Authorities and encouraging them to adopt it. A letter sent by Akehurst, former Labour Leader of Hackney Council and failed NEC candidate, has been urging councils to pass a motion that subtly, but significantly, toughens the suppression of pro-Palestinian voices. Worse it tries to pass off this new version as the same as the original. The letter has been circulated in the name of a previously unknown front organisation ‘Local Government Friends of Israel’.

The IHRA definition is in two parts: a flawed core definition and a series of exemplars that link the definition to criticism of Israel. The IHRA definition describes the exemplars as:

“Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:”

Akehurst's motion to intensify the IHRA definition
Akehurst’s motion to intensify the IHRA definition

Akehurst’s model motion amends this to:

“The guidelines highlight manifestations of antisemitism as including:”

This makes criticism of Israel such as “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.” an absolute offence; regardless of whether there is any evidence of antisemitic intent.

Continue reading “If you thought the IHRA (mis)definition was bad enough…”

Pro-Israel Interference in Free Speech in the UK

How a Zionist campaign of distortions stopped audiences hearing Tom Suarez speak about his book State of Terror

Tom Suarez

State of Terror cover
State of Terror cover

Note: In late 2016, my work State of Terror : how terrorism created modern Israel was published in hardcover in the UK (Skyscraper Books) and paperback in the US (Interlink). This book was the culmination of several years’ research based primarily on British government source documents held by the National Archives (Kew), relating to Palestine during the four decades between the Balfour Declaration (1917) and the Suez Crisis (1956).

Book talks that were affected

1. SOAS (3 Nov)

My first publicised book talk was to students at SOAS. This was sabotaged by a handful of non-student outsiders, principally by well-known activists Jonathan Hoffman and, less flamboyantly, David Collier. Security was called, but Mr. Hoffman yelled “assault” when he was approached by a guard (who had done nothing), at which security declined to intervene. The student organisers were unable to control the situation and the Q&A was soon abandoned. The saboteurs had recorded the talk and uploaded out-of-context video snippets, labelling me as an anti-Semitic hate speaker.

A video of the talk that Tom managed to give in Cambridge despite harassment
Continue reading “Pro-Israel Interference in Free Speech in the UK”

Lib Dem leader Farron ducks questions over sacking of David Ward

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi.

Farron ducks questions as David Ward fights to clear his name

On April 26, Liberal Democrat party leader Tim Farron caved into McCarthy-style pressure to dump one of his own parliamentary candidates, former Bradford East MP David Ward, who had been unjustly accused of antisemitism.

Ward is fighting to clear his name and has said he will stand as an independent candidate in the forthcoming general election.

The day after the sacking, I emailed Mr Farron offering to introduce him to Jews who could explain the widespread misuse of politically motivated antisemitism allegations. His reply, received on May 2, made no reference to any of my discussion points and was in fact a carbon copy of the reply he sent to others who had protested at the sacking of Mr Ward.

In a follow-up email, I challenged Mr Farron to justify the vacuous arguments in his message point by point. Having received no response, I am publishing our correspondence for the edification of students of the political art of evasion.

To tim.farron@libdems.org.uk

April 27, 2017

Dear Mr Farron,

I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked (when people discover that I am Jewish) questions along the lines of: “How is it possible that the Jews, who suffered such terrible persecution during the Holocaust, could go on to commit atrocities against Palestinians in the state of Israel, and continue to do so in the West Bank and Gaza?”

I recognise these questions for what they are – regretful expressions of bafflement at a seemingly inexplicable state of affairs. They are questions which usually lead to a discussion about the history of Israel and Palestine, during which I invariably have the opportunity to explain that despite the claims of the state of Israel to represent “the Jews”, actually many of us do not identify with Israel and resent the assumption that we all share its ideology.

If the people making comments like the one in my first paragraph above, which is almost word for word what David Ward wrote on his website in 2013, express any hostility to Jewish people or give any hint of harbouring hateful feelings against us, I have no hesitation in chastising them for their antisemitism. But there is nothing in such comments of themselves that even hints at hatred of Jews – which is what antisemitism is. Nor is it antisemitic to refer to Israel as an apartheid state. It’s controversial, yes, and it makes some people very cross, but it is decidedly not an expression of hatred of Jews.

I am, quite frankly, horrified that you have bowed to pressure from apologists for Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, such as Eric Pickles, in blocking David Ward’s candidacy.

If you have been influenced by the government’s enthusiasm for a new definition of antisemitism which deliberately conflates it with criticism of Israel and Zionism, then I recommend reading a piece on the subject by Sir Stephen Sedley, a distinguished judge, himself Jewish, in the latest London Review of Books. Sir Stephen gives short shrift to the definition so ardently embraced by Pickles and Theresa May, warning that attempting to act upon it could result in legal suits for denial of free speech.

Once you’ve read it perhaps we could meet and you could explain to me why you have departed from Nick Clegg’s view that what David Ward said was neither racist or antisemitic.

Seriously, I would like to propose a discussion between you and other parliamentary colleagues, and some of my many Jewish friends who share Sedley’s understanding. We are on dangerous ground when we allow proponents of a partisan political (in this case pro-Israeli) stance to determine what may and may not be spoken about. Freedom of expression is seriously at risk here and you, as a Liberal Democrat, should be defending it, not conniving in its demise.

I look forward with interest to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi

 

From: tim.farron.mp@parliament.uk

Tuesday, May 2, 2017 4:02 PM

Subject: RE: David Ward and antisemitism

Dear Ms Wimborne-Idrissi,

Recently David Ward was removed as the Liberal Democrat candidate in Bradford East.

Despite assurances to the contrary, David has consistently made remarks and statements which have been considered as inflammatory by people on both sides of this contentious debate.

I have been clear that I believe in a politics that is open, tolerant and united.

I am also clear that this is part of a pattern of behaviour that is not consistent with those values, and therefore David has lost the right to seek to represent our party in Parliament.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Farron, MP

Leader of the Liberal Democrats

 

To: tim.farron@libdems.org.uk

Date: 4 May 2017 at 00:17:19 BST

Subject: David Ward and antisemitism – your disappointing response to my detailed concerns

Dear Mr Farron,

I am deeply disappointed with your formulaic response to my detailed and personal concerns about the removal of David Ward as a candidate.

I addressed you sincerely as a Jewish human rights activist who is increasingly alarmed at the alacrity with which people in positions of authority, such as yourself, cave in to demands to deny freedom of expression to supporters of justice for Palestine. You sent me in return the same letter that I have seen on social media, posted by other people who wrote you entirely different messages.

I ask you now to do me the courtesy of responding specifically to my questions.

1.You talk about Mr Ward “consistently” making certain remarks and statements. But the abuse hurled at him is based almost exclusively on deliberate distortions (as I explained in my letter) of two comments made in 2013, neither of which deserve to be labeled antisemitic. Can you explain why you believe those remarks to justify exclusion from your party’s list of parliamentary candidates? And I do not mean why you believe these remarks are upsetting to a certain politically motivated group in society. I mean – what is fundamentally wrong with the things that he said? On what grounds do you discount the arguments that I put to you about this?

2.You assert that his remarks “have been considered as inflammatory by people on both sides of this contentious debate.” I am at a loss to understand what you mean by this. Those who have publicly denounced him are all very clearly on one side of the Palestine/Israel issue. For those of us on the other side, who are struggling to defend our right to speak in support of the Palestinians, it is the arguments of those who denounce us as antisemites that are inflammatory. It is they, not David Ward, whose views are “considered as inflammatory” by us. On what grounds do you suggest that David Ward has inflamed opinion “on both sides?” Who, apart from those who wish to defend Israel from criticism, has been “inflamed” by David Ward’s words?

3.You assert your belief in “a politics that is open, tolerant and united” and allege that David Ward’s behaviour is inconsistent with those values. Can you show me any evidence of your openness and tolerance towards people campaigning for human rights of Palestinians? In what way does forcing out a candidate supported by his local party, solely because of his views on one contentious area of politics, serve to bring about unity?

I reiterate my offer to introduce you to other Jews who can help you and your colleagues understand the complexities of this issue, explained in depth at the launch on March 27 in the House of Lords of an authoritative legal opinion about the definition of antisemitism mistakenly adopted by the government and some other bodies.

I have so far kept this correspondence private but I will feel obliged to make it public if you are unable to satisfy me on the above points. I look forward to hearing from you in the coming week.

Sincerely,

Naomi Wimborne Idrissi

Israel’s New Cultural War of Aggression

A Small Battleground in a Large Culture War

Richard Falk

This article first appeared on the author’s blog Global Justice in the 21st century and is reproduced by his permission

Cover of Palestine’s Horizon: Toward a Just PeaceA few weeks ago my book Palestine’s Horizon: Toward a Just Peace was published by Pluto in Britain. I was in London and Scotland at the time to do a series of university talks to help launch the book. Its appearance happened to coincide with the release of a jointly authored report commissioned by the UN Social and Economic Commission of West Asia, giving my appearances a prominence they would not otherwise have had. The report concluded that

Cover of suppressed UN report
Cover of suppressed UN report

the evidence relating to Israeli practices toward the Palestinian people amounted to ‘apartheid,’ as defined in international law.

There was a strong pushback by Zionist militants threatening disruption. These threats were sufficiently intimidating to academic administrators, that my talks at the University of East London and at Middlesex University were cancelled on grounds of ‘health and security.’ Perhaps, these administrative decisions partly reflected the awareness that an earlier talk of mine at LSE had indeed been sufficiently disrupted during the discussion period that university security personnel had to remove two persons in the audience who shouted epithets, unfurled an Israeli flag, stood up and refused to sit down when politely asked by the moderator. Continue reading “Israel’s New Cultural War of Aggression”

Bias, what Bias?

Analysis of the Letter Sent by All 100 US Senators to UN Secretary-General, about ‘eliminating Anti-Israel bias’.

Jonathan Ofir

Last week, all 100 US senators signed a letter to UN Secretary General, demanding ‘equal treatment’ for Israel.
The letter was an ostensible display of bipartisan unanimity about UN ‘anti-Israel bias’. While bias should definitely be examined, the blind cannot lead the blind.

This letter is thus an exhibition of bipartisan bias – on behalf of Israel.

The text of the letter, which in itself only fills 1.5 pages, ostensibly seeks ‘balance’:

“Through words and actions, we urge you to ensure that Israel is treated neither better nor worse than any other U.N. member in good standing.”

This is a paraphrase of a clause in the anti-Semitism definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) recently adopted also by UK: “Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”
Continue reading “Bias, what Bias?”

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and Mike Cushman talk about the FSOI journey

Film maker Jon Pullman interviewed Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and Mike Cushman to produce this video on the FSOI journey to playing a vital role in defending the space for action in support of Palestinian Rights.