The wrong sort of Jews

David Hirsh
David Hirsh

David Hirsh, a long-time opponent of calls for BDS in the University and College Union and a founder of the often scurrilous Engage website, has written a highly inaccurate account of this year’s UCU Congress. The account, published in the Times of Israel, says, “There are a few Jews there, but they are Jews who support and kosherize the boycott campaign” – the wrong sort of Jews.

Only Jews who subscribe to ‘my Zion right or wrong’ are real Jews in Hirsh’s eyes – the rest of them, a steadily growing number, are presumably ‘asaJew’ as Engage so eloquently describes them.

The article wilfully misdescribes the academic boycott:

If an Israeli is willing or able to disavow their institution and speak or submit to a journal or a conference without mentioning their institution then they may be exempted. The ‘institutional boycott’ is a myth; a political test by another name. It is an exclusion of Israelis who work at Israeli institutions.

Neither the PACBI guidelines not the BRICUP UK call says this. Indeed the PACBI guidelines are more than explicit: ‘Mere affiliation of Israeli scholars to an Israeli academic institution is therefore not grounds for applying the boycott’. Individuals submitting papers are not boycotted whether they state their affiliation or not. The boycott covers people of all nationalities, Israeli or any other, who work at Israeli universities who seek to represent their institution, for instance speaking as Dean seeking to recruit to their faculty. I will leave aside for now the curious fact that there is no Israeli nationality.

Hirsh also claims that ‘In the old days UCU tried to set up a McCarthyite political test so that it could exempt Israeli academics of whom it approved.’ This is a simple untruth, at no time has there been a UCU Congress motion or debate suggesting such a test – the boycott motions have always followed the PACBI principles.

The prompt for this conflation of falsehoods is the resolution agreed at the Congress. It was a resolution about Palestine, so Hirsh’s whinges such as “The failure of western governments ‘to hold Israel accountable for war crimes’ is added to the picture. No mention is made of other governments,” are pitiful. As the debate was about Palestine and Israel it is hardly surprising.  Resolutions about the Health Service similarly did not deplore the Government’s attacks on schools.

Similarly Hirsh evinces surprise that, “the conflation of ‘anti-Zionism’ with ‘anti-Semitism’ is held to be ‘orchestrated’”. Does he expect UCU, or anyone else, to believe that there has been a spontaneous uprising of the recent spate of accusations at a time when a succession of Israeli government representatives have stated their intention to pursue all supporters of BDS? At a time when the media is full of a succession of Zionist leaders, right-wing Labour politicians and Tory ministers making similar mendacious accusations?

The article mispresents the Fraser vs UCU case. Hirsh claims that, ‘The UCU made a determined attempt to force Ronnie, a sixth form maths teacher, to pay them hundreds of thousands of pounds in punitive costs’. Fraser had wealthy backers who paid for the far from inexpensive Anthony Julius to represent him. This case, scathingly dismissed by the Tribunal, cost the Union considerably, not just in legal fees but in the time of officers who had to neglect their responsibilities for defending union members in order to fight this frivolous and damaging case. It was Fraser’s backers who were liable for the union’s costs, the price of attempting to wreck the union and losing humiliatingly.

The evidence of an atmosphere of antisemitic intimidation which Hirsh and Fraser’s other witnesses attempted to adduce were regarded as a tissue of invention at best. Having failed to convince an independent tribunal Hirsh now parades the same fantasies in front of a more gullible audience in the Times of Israel and in Engage where this sad piece has been reprinted.

Only on one point do I have sympathy with Hirsh: his indefinite suspension from participation in the UCU activists list. I protested at the time that while a limited suspension for his deliberate breach of the list’s rules was appropriate, indefinite suspension was not. However it is important to note that his suspension was not, as is implied in the article organised by a pro-Palestinian anti-Israel cabal but applied by union officials known to be hostile to the academic boycott. The activists list is used to discuss pay campaigns and other domestic union issues and occasionally international issues such as Palestine. It is notable that Israel’s defenders, with the honourable exception of Sarah Brown, noted in the article, only posted about Israel. Palestine’s supporters were, generally, frequent posters on pay and conditions and on branch organisation as well. Palestine’s supporters were, and are, involved union members who see their support for Palestinian rights as a part of their union activities, between negotiations and casework duties. Israel’s apologists appeared to be only interested in the Union in as far as it affected their far greater concern for supporting Zionism.

Colleagues have said that we should not respond to Hirsh’s calumnies, suggesting that he is such a marginal and pitiful figure that he is not worth the attention but craves it. However it is worth putting the record straight and setting out once again how the current campaign of vilification of human rights support floats on a stinking pool of falsehood.

Mike Cushman
June 2016

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18 thoughts on “The wrong sort of Jews”

  1. Well done Makes Cushman for demonstrating that David Hirsh is correct in his conclusions. The only free speech is the pathological obsession with Israel and Zionism. Putting one’s opponent into some odious categories is a sign of engaged desperate on.

  2. Mike,
    If you think David Hirsh’s piece is so flawed, why not refute it in the Comments section on Engage. That way, everyone will be able to see your comments rather than the handful of people who read this blog.

  3. David Harsh sounds extremely intelligent and sensible to me. I see no reason to doubt what he says.

        1. This is nothing but an hysterical tissue of false claims, lies and misrepresentations.

  4. I have visited occupied Palestine – Hirst can write as many words defending the indefensible as he likes – I don’t need to read them- the evidence of my own eyes trumps anything Hirst can write – my impression gained at first hand is that Zionism is a racist supremacist political ideology with nothing in common with Judaism

  5. Dov employing the usual Hasbara tactic – none of us need to spend our valuable time refuting drivel “point by point” – why don’t you just go away and peddle your racist poison somewhere else? Which part of Israel is an apartheid state don’t you understand? I’ve seen it in action at first hand

    1. Got it. And there was me thinking that this website was all about “free speech” on Israel.

  6. There’s Hasbara and then there’s Free Speech – Two entirely different concepts – glad the penny has dropped for Dov

  7. Yeah I didn’t think Free Speech on Israel meant free speech for the supporters of the racist war criminals of The State of Israel. Surely they have enough spaces for themselves in the mainstream parties and media.

    It’s particularly galling to see David Hirsh posting here given his own record of blocking anti-racists from both Engage and from his twitter account and his record of sock-puppetry http://jewssansfrontieres.blogspot.co.uk/2006/09/alexandra-simonon-apology.html

    It’s not just tit for tat that makes me say these hasbaristas should be banned from here. Unless they have something new or interesting to say they are wasting time and space here.

    I just scrolled up the comments here to see this Mendes chap touting his book https://www.newsouthbooks.com.au/books/why-boycotting-israel-wrong/

    Why Boycotting Israel is Wrong? Sheesh, even the blurb is wrong: “it argues that peace will come ony when both Israelis’ and Palestinians’ legitimate claims to statehood are recognised – by both sides.”

    But Israel isn’t a state for Israelis, it’s a state for the world’s Jews. That’s why it’s not simply a state with racists but a full blown racist and therefore, illegitimate state. Why waste time and space on such people?

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