2 June 2017

Bogus Definition of Anti-Semitism Suffers Its First Defeat at the University Colleges Union Conference

European Parliament sees Anti-Semites, Fascists and Islamaphobes unite to Condemn ‘Anti-Semitism’

Green MEPs reject IHRA and Caroline Lucas MP withdraws her support for the IHRA
According to the IHRA Definition, this article in Israel's Ha'aretz paper is anti-Semitic
 Today (Thursday)  a debate took place in the European Parliament over whether to support the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism [IHRA].  An amendment to delete support for the IHRA was lost by 479-101.

The winning majority consisted of Conservatives, far-Right nationalists and anti-Semites, social democrats and UKIP voting to support the Zionist definition of ‘anti-Semitism’.
Victor Orban's racist and antisemitic Fidesz party also supported the IHRA 
As Naomi Wimborne-Iddrissi reports we saw UKIP’s Gerard Batten, infamous for calling Islam a “death cult”, MEPs from Italy’s Northern League, who can’t even stand Italians south of Rome, together with racist Hungarian MEPs from Victor Orban’s Fidesz party, open anti-Semites from Poland’s Law and Justice Party ally with Zionists and corporate social democrats like Spain’s Lopez Aguilar and Péter Niedermüller from Hungary.  All were apparently opposed to ‘anti-Semitism’.  Perhaps they will form an ‘anti-Semites against anti-Semitism’ group in the Parliament!
Caroline Lucas email to me saying that she no longer supports the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism
The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism used to be known as the EUMC Working Definition of Anti-Semitism.  It was removed from the web site of the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency in 2013.  In 2016 it was, like the Undead in Dracula movies, brought back to life.

The IHRA has been used to close down and prevent meetings up and down the country.  Israel Apartheid Week at the University of Central Lancashire was banned. At other universities like Exeter and UCL restrictions were placed on events.  In all cases ‘anti-Semitism’ was the excuse.
Geert Wilder's fascist Freedom Party was also in favour of the IHRA definition of antisemitism
During the debate Péter Niedermüller praised the IHRA clause for making clear that “you cannot question the very being of the Israeli state.” which is, of course, exactly what the IHRA is about.  Even former UKIP MEP, Steven Woolfe, who described himself as of Black and Jewish heritage and as a supporter of the state of Israel, nonetheless said adopting the IHRA clause would mean preventing freedom of speech and creating fear of speaking out. “This definition is so broad and wide that if we adopt it we would have to jail Mahatma Gandhi for things he said about Palestine,” Woolfe said.
Europe's flag is at half mast but not because of the passing of this bogus definition of anti-Semitism
Anti-Semitism of course is a form of racism against Jews as individuals.  It is not hatred or criticism of a state.  You cannot be racist towards a state.  States are not human beings they are the constructs of human beings.
The racists of UKIP are all in favour of fighting 'anti-Semitism' because they know it is a stick to beat Muslims with
I reported a few days ago on the attempts by far-right Zionist solicitor Robert Festenstein to use the IHRA definition to close down European’s largest Palestinian festival of art and culture, Expo 2017.  Indeed anything or anyone who supports the Palestinians is now defined as anti-Semitic under this bogus definition.
Unfortunately Jeremy Corbyn, having abandoned the Palestinians in an attempt to appease the Zionist lobby in this country, has also adopted a definition of anti-Semitism which, 18 months ago, would have branded him an anti-Semite.  It is shameful that Corbyn has jettisoned so many of the principles he once stood for – be it on Palestine or Ireland or indeed the monarchy.
Gerard Batten of UKIP spoke in favour of IHRA  - Islam is a 'death cult'
Only a few weeks ago Hugh Tomlinson QC gave a formal legal opinion regarding the IHRA definition in which he made it clear that the IHRA definition was being used in an unlawful way to restrict freedom of speech under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.  Sir Stephen Sedley, the former Court of Appeal judge, who is himself Jewish, has made searing criticisms of the IHRA in the May issue of London Review of Books.  Sedley’s first paragraph begins:

Shorn of philosophical and political refinements, anti-Semitism is hostility towards Jews as Jews. Where it manifests itself in discriminatory acts or inflammatory speech it is generally illegal, lying beyond the bounds of freedom of speech and of action. By contrast, criticism (and equally defence) of Israel or of Zionism is not only generally lawful: it is affirmatively protected by law. Endeavours to conflate the two by characterising everything other than anodyne criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic are not new. What is new is the adoption by the UK government (and the Labour Party) of a definition of anti-Semitism which endorses the conflation.

In just one paragraph Stephen Sedley demolishes this bogus attempt to restrict freedom of speech.  It is therefore to be welcomed that the lecturers’ union, the University Colleges Union has voted, at its annual conference last week to reject the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.
Spanish Blairite Lopez Aguilar was one of the movers of the bogus IHRA definition of antisemitism
I also wrote an Open Letter to Caroline Lucas asking her to support the position of her fellow Green members of the European Parliament who have rejected the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism as a threat to freedom of speech and because it conflates anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.  I am pleased to say that Caroline has given a very strong indication that she has now changed her mind and understands the threat that the IHRA poses to freedom of speech.  The IHRA was supported by right-wing Tories like Eric Pickles, the former Tory Cabinet Minister and Chair of the Conservative  Friends of Israel.  Pickles it was who defended the Tories alliance with openly anti-Semitic parties like Poland’s Law and Justice Party and Robert Zile’s Latvia’s LNNK in the ECR (European Conservative Reform) group in the European Parliament.
Marine Le Pen, French fascist leader is all in favour of fighting 'antisemitism'
In an article The Nazi whitewash Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthall Centre, wrote that
‘I can't believe Eric Pickles supports Latvia's 'For Fatherland and Freedom' party, which wants to rewrite a murderous history... The sight of SS veterans marching down the main avenue of the capital city of a member of Nato and the European Union is hardly a sight to bring joy to the heart of a British political leader. Yet just a few days ago, Conservative chairman Eric Pickles saw fit in an interview on Radio 4 to rush to the defence of the Latvian "For Fatherland and Freedom" party which is among the staunchest supporters of precisely such an event that takes place annually in Riga every 16 March.’

This is the same Eric Pickles who, when it comes to defending Israel, is a vociferous opponent of ‘anti-Semitism’!

Below is a press statement from Bricup (British Committee for the Universities of Palestine) and Free Speech on 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 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.

Both these definitions are considered highly problematic because they seek to conflate  criticism of Israel with genuine anti-Jewish racism: examples cited in them make  explicit reference to Israel. The UK Government has adopted the IHRA definition,  and in February this year Universities Minister Jo Johnson wrote to Universities UK  insisting that university activities must respect the definition. In particular, he alleged  that ‘anti-Semitic incidents ... might take place under the banner of Israel (sic) Apartheid’ events.  Some universities have banned or curtailed campus events during  Israeli Apartheid week or subsequently, and campaigners for Palestinian human rights  consider that the definition is being used to censor legitimate political activity and  debate which criticises the Israeli occupation and human rights abuses.  In moving the motion, Mark Abel of Brighton UCU noted that an event organised by Friends of Palestine had been cancelled by the University of Central Lancashire, who  cited the IHRA definition as making the event ‘unlawful’.  Reacting to this wave of censorship the new, Jewish-led organisation Free Speech on  Israel, along with Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Independent Jewish Voices,  and Jews for Justice for Palestinians, obtained a legal Opinion from the eminent  human rights lawyer Hugh Tomlinson QC.

The Opinion is devastating: it characterises the IHRA definition as confusing, not  legally binding, and putting public bodies that use it at risk of ‘unlawfully restricting  legitimate expressions of political opinion’. A public body that bans a meeting under  the IHRA definition without any evidence of genuine antisemitism could be breaching  the European Convention on Human Rights which guarantees freedom of expression  (Article 10), and freedom of assembly (Article 11). 

In concluding his speech, Mark Abel said: ‘This is a dangerous conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-semitism. ... It is a definition intended to silence those who wish to  puncture the Israeli state’s propaganda that it is a normal liberal democratic state’

Mike Cushman, a UCU member and co-founder of FSOI, said: ‘Free speech on Israel  welcomes UCU’s recognition that fighting antisemitism is a separate struggle from  defending the rights of Palestinians, and that both these struggles are important.  Putting these in opposition to each other assists both antisemites and war criminals.’

Les Levidow, a UCU member speaking for BRICUP, said: ‘Congratulations to UCU  for defending free speech on Israel/Palestine by rejecting the government-IHRA  agenda to weaponise antisemitism, conflated with anti-Zionism.’

UCU Congress also passed a motion in support of Professor Kamel Hawwash, a UCU  member at the University of Birmingham, who was prevented from entering Israel on  7th April on a trip with his wife and young son to visit relatives in occupied East  Jerusalem. It seems likely that Prof. Hawwash was banned under the new Israeli  boycott law, which prevents activists accused of supporting BDS (Boycott,  Divestment and Sanctions) from entering Israel. Prof. Hawwash was until recently  the vice-chair of PSC. The General Secretary of UCU will now be writing to the  Israeli Embassy and the FCO to urge that the ban on Prof. Hawwash and all non-  violent human rights campaigners be lifted.

Below is the full text of Motion 57 as carried, incorporating amendments: 
57 Composite: International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism  University of Leeds, Goldsmiths, University of London, University of Brighton, Grand Parade
Congress notes:
1.         UCU's exemplary anti-racist work, e.g. Holocaust Memorial Day materials;
2.         policy (2011) dissociating UCU from the ‘EUMC working definition’ of antisemitism;
3.         the close similarity between the IHRA and EUMC definitions, including their conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israel;
4.         That government has formally adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism;
5.         That this definition conflates anti-Semitism with criticism of the state of Israel and has been used to intimidate academics who are engaged in activities that are critical of the policies of the Israeli government but that are not anti-Semitic;
6.         Government-inspired attempts to ban Palestine solidarity events, naming Israeli Apartheid Week.
7.         The legal opinion from Hugh Tomlinson QC, obtained by PSC and other groups, characterising the IHRA definition as confusing, not legally binding, and putting public bodies that use it at risk of 'unlawfully restricting legitimate expressions of political opinion'.

Congress re-affirms:
a.         UCU's condemnation of all forms of racial or religious hatred or discrimination;
b.         UCU’s commitment to free speech and academic freedom;
c.         the importance of open campus debate on Israel/Palestine;

            Congress resolves that UCU dissociates itself from the IHRA definition and will make no use of it (e.g. in educating members or dealing with internal complaints).

Congress instructs:
i.          NEC to contact all members in a dedicated communication urging report to NEC of all repressive uses of the IHRA definition;
ii          Conduct research about the implications of the use of the IHRA definition;
iii.        General Secretary to write to VCs/principals urging staff protection from malicious accusations, and freedom of political criticism;
iv.        President to issue, and circulate to members, a detailed press statement on UCU’s criticism of the IHRA definition;
v.         Lobby government to seek a review of its endorsement of the IHRA definition and to replace it with one that will both protect free speech and combat anti-Semitism.

Recalling the experience of Fraser vs UCU, we call upon the NEC to take a position against any university management that reacts to spurious accusations of anti-semitism by banning speakers who are opposed to the policies of the State of Israel but who have not in any way expressed racism against Jewish people.

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