UCU, EUMC and the need for context
10 June 2011
The Engage website has a typically excellent recap of the resignations and exchanges of letters that have brought about the current controversy between many Jewish communal groups, Engage and the University and College Union.
The article should be read here on Engage. It is premised upon the assertion that UCU's general secretary, Sally Hunt, "pretends not to understand the term 'institutional racism' ", and largely bases this upon Hunt's latest letter to UCU branches (see it here).
Sally Hunt's defence of UCU is regrettable, but is also understandable given her position as head of the Union. Her letter seems not so much a pretence, but rather a spirited attempt to limit the allegations concerning UCU's "institutional racism" to the latest UCU provocation alone. (Namely, its banning of the EUMC working definition of antisemitism. For detail, see here.)
There is a deep irony in all of this. The EUMC working definition stresses the need for everything to be taken into context before deciding if it is, or is not, antisemitic. In deciding if UCU's behaviour reagrding EUMC is, or is not, institutionally racist (ie institutionally antisemitic), everything relevant must be taken into context. If you go to the Engage article then you will see that context and you will see why Jewish communal organisations have taken the highly unusual step of denouncing UCU as being institutionally antisemitic.
The context is actually very simple and appears to be beyond any one person's control.
The current context is that UCU has consistently rebutted mainstream Jewish concerns about antisemitism in any Israel related context; and has stood by whilst many Jewish members walked out in disgust. Now, its response to mainstream Jewish concerns is a disgusting lie that the concerns are fake cover for Israel; and to pass a motion rejecting the right of any members to ever cite EUMC in relation to what may, or may not, be antisemitic.
The historical context is that the anti-Zionist far left has long been institutionally racist against the mainstream Jewish community. (Especially given the emboldening and 'kosherising' effect upon their rhetoric and actions of anti-Zionist far left Jewish activists.) So, UCU's attitude and actions are entirely consistent with decades of campus arguments between mainstream Jews and far left anti-Israel obsessives, particularly the Socialist Workers Party. This formerly involved Jewish societies being threatened with banning motions (for refusing to denounce "racist" Zionism); and has seen countlesss Jewish student activists and societies being denounced as racists, fascits or Nazis.
Overall, this is essentially the same game as it has been since the 1970's, but today's UCU has far more legal responsibilities than a bunch of wide-eyed student Marxist wannabe revolutionary twits and bullies ever had. Verbal intimidation and singling out Jewish students for condemnation has long been the campus order of the day: but only time will tell if you can you get away with taking it up to the next level of dominating the policies of a national trade union.