The Faces of Antisemitism Today

Most bigotries, counter-intuitively, circulate quite brazenly among us, though sometimes dressed as salvation: save a culture, save a race, save a nation. That last these days, in the U.S., takes the form of saving us from the foreign policy error of standing by the lone outpost of democracy and liberal, enlightenment values in what is otherwise a desert of liberty and human political development. In Britain, it verges for some time now on becoming an immediately recognizable feature, like a twisted mouth, of academic culture: antisemitism in the guise of moral conscience.

Last week TULIP (Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine) reported on the statement of 37 Nobel Laureates rejecting any form of boycott “divestment and sanctions against Israeli academics, academic institutions and university-based centers and institutes for training and research, affiliated with Israel.” This morning TULIP joins Engage in reporting on the resignation from Britain’s University College Union (UCU) of three Oxford faculty members, including biologist Dennis Noble, whose open letter read in part:

Nobody in the world of learning can take seriously a professional organisation that purports to represent academic staff but which entertains proposals to discriminate whether it be on grounds of sex, race, national origin or other characteristics that are irrelevant to academic excellence. Nonetheless our union has voted repeatedly in favour of such discrimination, and those who have been discriminated against are always Israelis. The wording of the discriminatory resolutions has sometimes been contorted for legal reasons, but the intention has been transparent: to hold Israeli colleagues responsible for, and punish them for, the actions of their government via a type of reasoning (guilt by association) that is never applied to the academics of any other country. Of course, I accept that the Israeli government is guilty of human-rights violations, and I accept that the union is entitled to criticise it. But many other governments in the world are also guilty of human-rights violations, often far more egregious than those committed by Israel, and yet Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) have never been endorsed by the Annual Congress of UCU against any other country.

It is instructive to compare the motion about China adopted by Congress at its 2010 meeting with one of those about Israel. (I choose these examples because both countries have been in occupation of the territories of a different ethnic group for many years and both have encouraged their citizens to settle in the territories thus occupied). The motion on China, while asserting that UCU “will continue to condemn abuses of human rights of trade unionists and others”, recognised “the need to encourage collegial dialogue” with Chinese institutions. By contrast, a motion on Israel approved in the same session of Congress reaffirmed its support for BDS, sought to establish an annual international conference on BDS and a BDS website, and severed all relations with the Histadrut, the Israeli counterpart to the TUC. There are many countries in the world whose governments are guilty of atrocities: there is no other country in the world whose national trade union organisation is boycotted by UCU.

I find it impossible not to ask myself why UCU exhibits this obsession with Israel. The obvious explanation – that the union is institutionally anti-semitic – is so unpleasant that I have till recently been unwilling to accept it, but I changed my mind after witnessing the fate at the 2010 Congress of the motion of my local branch (University of Oxford) about Bongani Masuku.

There are links at Engage to the details of the Mosuku case and other recent UCU developments.

Another of the repulsively insinuating faces of contemporary antisemitism is made up in the favored cosmetic of the present time: victimization. It is, in fact, the antisemites who are mistaken and mistreated when their blemishes are noted. Mondoweiss, which often verges on Stormfront, without the beguiling regalia, last week offered up this nugget:

The Canadian Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) held an international Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism in Ottawa from Nov. 7-9, in what for many not only signals Canada’s increasingly pro-Israel policy, but demonstrates the dangerous worldwide trend of equating legitimate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.

Jillian Kestler-D’Amours went on to say,

“The CPCCA’s goal is to criminalize criticism of Israel and Zionism, not to hold impartial hearings,” wrote Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) Canada, in a petition addressed to Canadian Parliament members that has been signed by over 1,500 people.

“Therefore, we oppose the CPCCA as an ideologically biased organization with an agenda that will harm free speech and human rights activity in Canada. We oppose the CPCCA’s Orwellian distortion of anti-Semitism activity in Canada. It is a danger to both Canadian liberties and to the genuine and necessary fight against anti-Semitism,” IJV Canada wrote. [All emphasis added]

Appreciate, please, the close of that sentence. It is they, the IJV, and all their fellows, who are the true opponents, the genuine combatants in the “necessary fight against anti-Semitism.” That, I’m afraid, is not make-up. That’s the insidious mask.

It is my practice, in closing, always to report and remind that Mondoweiss is “a project of the Nation Institute,” affiliated with The Nation magazine.

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