I shan’t print his emails, but I can tell you that I’ve been in correspondence with Sean Wallis today.
If you haven’t been following the story, here’s a brief run-down: UCU Activists Sean Wallis said the the campaign to boycott Israeli academics had been threatened by lawyers backed by those with “bank balances from Lehman Brothers that can’t be tracked down.” This statement – so it seemed to many – was an uncanny echo of a conspiracy theory that has been circulating for some time that claimed that a missing $400 billion of Lehman Brothers’ money had been sent by Jews to Israel, immediately prior to the collapse of the bank.
Okay… fast forward. As I said, I’ve been in correspondence with Mr Wallis today. I had asked him whether he wanted to tell me the non-racist explanation for the statement. Mr Wallis, however, refused to share his explanation with me, claiming that it was ‘too late’.
I’ll share my final email to him below:
Why am I under any obligation to ask you to “seek your view” on a very clear statement you made in a public meeting? All I did was commented on a report of your speech on another website.
You are wracking your senior lecturer’s brain, Sean, desperately trying to come up with a non-racist reason for referring to money disappearing from Lehman Brothers. You can’t come up with one. You know you can’t come up with one. That is because there’s isn’t a non-racist reason for your comment.
Here’s my prediction. You’ll state, repeatedly, that you have a very good non-racist reason but it is now “too late” to tell anybody what that reason is. You’ll never explain what it is. And everybody will know why.
Obviously, you don’t think you’re a racist. You think you’re fighting, bravely, against supernaturally powerful Zionist-Jews who control the banks. Nothing racist about that.
But at least we have some progress here. Now you are “denying” the allegations, albeit not “refuting” them.
Perhaps as a result of our discussion, Mr Wallis has now made a public declaration on his UCL profile page. The three short paragraphs are just begging for a fisking. Sometimes a girl can’t resist. Here goes:
I am concerned to be accused of anti-Semitism following remarks I made at the UCU Congress last week. At the time of speaking I was not alluding to a conspiracy theory which I have since discovered to be in circulation on the internet. I categorically deny all allegations of anti-Semitism.
What? He appears to be saying that a thesis about Jews, Lehman Brothers, and missing money – that he himself described earlier as “a racist right-wing US conspiracy theory regarding the Lehman Brothers” – was arrived at by himself – quite independently! What a strange mind he has!
He doesn’t seem to appreciate that antisemitic theories are antisemitic because they spread poisonous lies about Jews, not because they’re authored by “a racist right winger”. What he said was antisemitic on its own. The fact that a web full of Nazis expressed something similar only drives home the point. But it isn’t the issue.
I have a long track record of defending Jewish members of the UCU and defending academic freedom on campus. I have spent my entire political life fighting racism and fascism.
Ah, the union activist’s version of “some of my best friends…”
How about a few examples from this “long track record” of “defending Jews”? On what occasion were Jews in British universities under attack (and from whom) and how did Sean Wallis defend them? It’s a “long track record” so a few illustrations can’t be hard to recall.
Did he defend Jews from a discriminatory and unlawful boycott of Israeli academics? No he did not. Quite the opposite.
Did he defend Jenna Delich, when she repeatedly posted racist conspiracy theories about Jews and Israel, sourced from neo Nazi websites to the UCU Activists List? Why, yes he did!
Academic freedom? It’s a strange defence to desire to single out on group of academics for a boycott – exclusively! But let’s not get sidetracked by this larger debate.
The UCL UCU branch position is that it is against a boycott of Israeli universities and as a branch representative I voted in accordance with that position.
Well gee whiskers. What he appears to be saying here is that he is personally in favour of boycotting Israeli academic exclusively, but that the cooler heads of the majority prevailed and he, well, did his job and represented that majority opinion. What does he want? Applause that he did his job despite his own convictions? And this “refutes” charges of antisemitism how? “I would have stuck it to the Jews, but others wouldn’t let me,” is hardly the strongest argument!
Do you suppose he could come up with something that amounts to more than saying that he wasn’t aware that Nazis were also making quips about money from a collapsed Jewish firm being secretly used to defend Israel?
Can someone explain to the man: A theory isn’t antisemitic just because it’s spread by Nazis – but spreading antisemitic theories makes you a nazi.
It would have been better to invoke the famous ‘Delich defence’ and to claim you didn’t knowthey were nazis.
Admitting that you think like them enough to arrive at the same antisemitic theory independently just makes matter worse!