This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman
Having attended three IAW meetings this week (UCL, KCL, Brunel), blogged about two of them and taken an early bath from the third, I have been thinking hard about various aspects of this annual hatefest.
The most obvious observation is that if IAW was a brand, it would be judged to have failed long ago. It is clear that its main aim is to boost support for BDS. But BDS has failed miserably. Israel’s GDP rose an estimated 3.5% in 2016 and annual growth since 2009 has averaged 3.8%. Neither is BDS gaining followers. I see the same Israel haters at anti-Israel meetings now as I saw five years ago. Neither is the law going their way – in fact, the opposite – in the UK the government has made it absolutely clear that in local authority purchasing decisions and investment decisions, a boycott of Israeli goods and services is not acceptable (in truth in public procurement decisions, it never was). And in the US many State have passed laws which discourage BDS. At the Federal level this is also the case. So IAW has very little impact on Israel. Its main impact is on Jews in the Diaspora – particularly students.
The second response is how shocking that with only one exception (the University of Central Lancashire), Vice Chancellors appear studiously indifferent about hosting these hatefests of lies and demonisations of Israel. In the Medieval Disputation a Jew was required to defend a philosophical position. But the contest was rigged. The only way for the Jewish side to ‘win’ was to force a draw by drawing the Christian side into a position in which it was necessary to deny the Old Testament to win, committing heresy. IAW is much the same. For a Zionist, either (i) you stay away completely or (ii) you go and wait until the Q+A to speak or (iii) you go and make your voice heard in response to the lies as they are voiced. In every case the dice are loaded against you.
If you stay away, you hand the field to the liars and defamers to brainwash young people. Standing aloof has never been a smart move for Jews. Nobody else is going to stand up for us. We stand up for Israel and Israel gives us in the Diaspora the confidence to stand up for ourselves. If you go and stay quiet and discuss it afterwards on Facebook – what’s the point? Waiting until the Q+A can sometimes work, but the biased Chairs often either do not call you or cut you off – or you get shouted down by the anti-Israel audience. The final alternative is to rebut the lies at source and then hang around after the event to see if anyone is open-minded enough to want to talk and learn. That of course risks being thrown out of the Disputation……….. Except if there are enough of you the event can be brought to an early close – as happened in Manchester on Wednesday for Esack and Monet (the event was disrupted three times then brought to an early close). As seen below, the Disputations are an affront to academia, both to its spirit and its letter – so the Queensberry Rules of normal courtesies for attendees simply go out of the window.
The third observation is that these events are diametrically opposed to the ethos of a University – scholarship, seeking after the truth and teaching independent thinking. They are nothing more than a hatefest of defamatory lies, designed to lure young people into the BDS cult. If you don’t believe me, see my reports of the UCL and KCL events and David Collier’s reports (here and here) and David’s report of the Brunel event on Thursday. Just three examples:
- At UCL Dr Ang Swee Chai produced fake maps of Israel since 1948.
- At KCL Farid Esack said ‘Life in the shadow of Zionism is worse than Apartheid’. If that’s the case, how some Arab women in Israel get the best education in the Middle East and how come – when asked if they want to transfer to a Palestinian State through land swaps – the vast majority of Arabs in Galilee wants to remain in Israel?
- At Brunel Salayma said that Israel ‘arrested’ a five year old boy for no reason. It takes about 30 seconds to expose this lie. The boy was detained for throwing stones – not arrested – and was returned to the Palestinian police along with his father.
And there isn’t even an attempt at these events to discuss Hamas or Hezbollah terrorism against Israel. Nor the Israelis who have been killed in recent months by stabbing or by ramming with vehicles. Nor the Islamist nature of the government in Gaza or in Judea/Samaria (both appear to be assumed to be secular!). No – It is simply assumed that Israel is the Great Satan and then the time is divided between defamatory lies and recruiting for BDS. The KCL event was even sponsored by War On Want – the most viciously anti-Israel of all the charities.
Fourth –the Vice Chancellors with IAW events on the campuses (at least 20 of them) are in breach of their Prevent obligations, their Equality Duty and their duty to respect the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism.
The Prevent Obligation says that if an event has the risk of radicalising students (which these IAW events clearly did) then the speakers must be researched, a risk assessment drawn up if the speakers are deemed suitable and opposing speakers engaged to speak at the event – not afterwards. There certainly weren’t any opposing speakers at the three events I attended! I very much doubt that the other Prevent requirements were respected.
The Equality Duty says Universities must have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation, to advance equality of opportunity, and to foster good relations between persons of different ethnicities, nationalities and religions. The term ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ is anti-Semitic, because it suggests Israel is a ‘racist endeavour’. Therefore in accordance with the Equality Duty, Vice Chancellors should not allow events that have been promoted by means of these antisemitic words to be held on their campus.
Imagine if students wanted to start a “Muslim Sex Abuse Week” each year with captions such as “Remember What Happened in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford” and speakers such as Dame Louise Casey? The term “Muslim Sex Abuse Week” is not nearly as misleading or damaging as “Israel Apartheid Week” and Dame Louise Casey is honest and moderate compared with the speakers at last week’s “Israel Apartheid Week” events.
The IHRA Definition of Antisemitism is accepted by the government. Inter alia, it says that it’s antisemitic to suggest that Israel is a racist state; to compare Jews with Nazis is antisemitic; and to hold Israel to a higher standard than any other democratic nation is antisemitic. As was said above – the very phrase ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ is antisemitic. Vice Chancellors should know that.
Moreover Vice Chancellors are responding inconsistently to these obligations and often do not know what is happening on their campuses. After the Brunel meeting on Thursday I received the following from the Deputy VC:
The event to which you refer was a discussion group on the theme of ‘Describing the state of Palestinian since the creation of Israel (Balfour Declaration)’. This is a legitimate topic of debate within a University and opposing speakers have been invited to attend. Initially there was some unauthorised advertising used but this was removed and replaced with a poster that more accurately reflected the nature of the event and made no reference to ‘Israeli Apartheid’.
Professor William Leahy BA (Hons), MA, PhD, FRSA
Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs and Civic Engagement)
Vice Chancellor’s Ambassador for Teaching and Student Experience
He says ‘opposing speakers were invited to attend’. But it’s not enough to ‘invite’ them – they have to be there and speak! (I have submitted an FOI to find out who they were). He suggests the meeting was not branded as ‘Israeli Apartheid’. That’s just not true. It is there, on the ‘Israeli Apartheid’ website:
And even Universities UK – the body that represents universities to the government – does not appear to understand (or maybe, to want to understand) the Prevent/Equality/IHRA responsibilities of universities. Those who emailed Nicola Dandridge (CEO of Universities UK) received a lawyer-speak response straight out of ‘Yes Minister’. Unbelievably she believes that the PSC is committed to combatting antisemitism! That’s the PSC, 45% of whose supporters are hard core antisemites according to the explosive findings in David Collier’s inestimable undercover research………:
“Separately, we have liaised with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and discussed the implications of IAW with them. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign share a common concern about the importance of being able to explore and debate views free from racism, antisemitism or Islamophobia. ….. We do not believe that the government’s recently adopted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism precludes IAW events from going ahead, providing they are properly handled and remain within the law.“
Fifth is the impact on Jewish students. Most have an affinity with Israel. Many have friends and/or family there. Vice Chancellors who preside over IAW events are causing distress to Jewish students and are in blatant transgression of their Equality Duty. There are undoubtedly some ‘no-go’ Universities for many Jewish students because of the extent of hostility to Israel. Exeter and Manchester are examples. The number of Jewish students at Manchester has fallen from over a thousand some years ago to less than 200 now It is shocking that in twenty-first century Britain, Jewish students are shunning a major university because of its hostile reputation.
Sixth is the ability of Palestine Societies to use blatantly biased Chairs for their meetings whereas Israel Societies are made to use neutral academic Chairs for their meetings. This is blatant discrimination and it is an outrage. All three Chairs at the meetings I attended were irredeemably biased. Dr. Saladin Meckled-Garcia at UCL considers Zionism a “racist ideology”; the Chair at SOAS was Rafeef Ziadah, a ‘Palestinian poet and human rights activist’ employed at SOAS and previously at War On Want. She has extremist connections and she has praised a terrorist member of Islamic Jihad, Khader Adnan. And at Brunel, the Chair was a member of the Friends of Palestine Society. With such Chairs there is no chance of challenging the lies properly. Indeed when you try, you are asked to leave. It is the crudest form of censorship.
Seventh – there were some successes however last week. Notably the University of Central Lancashire – which cancelled an IAW event. Well done Professor Mike Thomas! Exeter also cancelled an event, albeit on Health and Safety grounds. The Manchester event on Wednesday was disrupted and brought to an early close and an ‘apartheid wall’ at Manchester University was removed. Leeds University asked Craig Murray to submit a speech in advance.
But the overall conclusion has to be that by allowing these offensive and often antisemitic events, the Vice Chancellors and the government are failing the Jewish community. Just the name ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ is antisemitic. Vice Chancellors need to stop conveniently hiding behind ‘free speech’ and start to meet their obligations to Jewish students. If they do not – then government must step in.
In the years to come – when EU students will be discouraged from studying in the UK by having to pay the same fees as non-EU students, after exit from the EU – does the government really want to see increasing numbers of Jewish students opting to study in the US? And shunning universities such as SOAS, Manchester and Exeter because they do not wish to run the gauntlet of the Israel Haters?