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Racism in NATFHE as Jewish member attacked

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Racism in NATFHE as Jewish members' rights questioned

A minority representative in NATFHE was verbally attacked and accused of being a racist and unsuitable to attend annual NATFHE conference, this was not because he did anything wrong, but because he was a religious Jew and a Zionist.

The thought police seem to be out in force. Not only do they wish to decide who is not worthy of their membership right based on racial grounds, they also want to decide what all their members may think, and to examine the thoughts of overseas academics before deciding whether to sentence them to sanctions.

On a positive note though, people seem to be catching on. Below this article is a selection of comments people have made at the engage site. They reflect both a clear understanding of the antisemitic nature of the verbal attack and recognition of the growing and often unacknowledged trend of left antisemitism.

You can add your own feedback at our forum thread on this article.

"Zionist" trade unionists not suitable to vote at NATFHE confernece

Article Source: Engage, by Mark Osborn

When I arrived at the Saturday 18 March (2006) London Regional Council, a discussion was taking place about the Region’s delegation to national NATFHE conference. Various speakers objected to one proposed delegate, Ronnie Fraser. Ronnie is a religious Jew and does not attend Saturday meetings, although he is a delegate to the Region from his branch.

Pete Green (ex-SWP) from Kingsway College said Ronnie should not be a delegate because he was a “Zionist and a racist.” I interrupted, saying that calling Ronnie Fraser a racist was a disgrace, and that the remark should be withdrawn.

Eventually Pete Green did “withdraw” the remark but in such a way that the allegation was both withdrawn and re-stated: Pete Green declared that Ronnie Frazer was not a racist, but that Zionists are racists and that Ronnie Frazer is a Zionist.

Although Pete Green’s remark was awful, at least he was being honest: others were trying to edge “the Jew” out on technical reasons of about his attendance — apparently a cover for political hostility.

The meeting discussed and defeated two amendments which I proposed to the two dreadful conference motions that are now on the NATFHE conference agenda.

The nature of “the debate” is important. It seemed impossible to make clear and direct points in this discussion. For example, no-one denied my characterisation of Hamas as profoundly reactionary, anti-working class, anti-semetic, anti-women and anti-gay, but the meeting still rejected the written criticisms of Hamas; objections to the demonisation of Israel were met with “the Palestinians are oppressed.” Clearly the Palestinians are oppressed, but this is no answer to the point.

Following the meeting I wrote to members of NATFHE’s executive committee asking how this culture of “left” anti-semitism could be dealt with. I got these replies:

Maire Daley: “I think you are wrong on almost everything you say.” Since this is no kind of reply, I asked her to positively state her views. She answered, “No, you may not have clarification — I have responded to you and now have no more time to discuss matters further.”

Andrew Price wrote: “I find the contents and tone of your original communication offensive... The policy of the Israeli Government has caused a lot of suffering to the Palestinian people. Zionism is a form of nationalism which, as a socialist, I oppose. To equate either of these statements with anti-Semitism, a form of racism, is a slur which I resent.”

Again, he avoids the point. I hadn’t objected to Zionism being characterised as a form of nationalism (I think it is), but as racism (which is stupid and offensive).

Mick Jardine wrote: “If there is a way of condemning Israeli government policy on any matter while remaining strongly supportive of a flourishing Israel and not anti-semitic, please advise.”

These three replies are typical of a particular strand of union opinion: short, flippant remarks which fail to answer any point that has been made, but which slot into the lazy, “common sense” “left” view in the union.

Steve Cushion wrote to say that he “supports a complete boycott of Israel. Israel is a colonial settler state and, as such, is built upon racist foundations.”

And, “To criticise Zionism and Israel is not to be anti-semitic, but rather it is criticism of a political philosophy that many of us believe is a blind alley for the Jewish people. The Zionist state’s reprehensible behaviour in the occupied territories has caused an increase rather than a decrease in anti-Jewish feeling in this world… A two state solution in Palestine institutionalises a racist divide in the region and is a bar to peace. The only possible solution is for a secular socialist state from the river to the sea.”

Andrew Price writes, “May I remind you as politely as possible that as an elected member of the Executive I am accountable to my constituency, FE members in Wales, which does not include you… In my view differences between Jews and Arabs have historically been fostered by imperialism. This in no way condones the state terrorism promoted by the Israeli Government against the oppressed people of Palestine. I also believe that the material resources exist in the Middle East to provide a decent life for all. Unfortunately what stands in the way of this is private ownership of the means of production. I therefore support a socialist federation of the Middle East.

“If you want to know more please study either the writings of Leon Trotsky on the Jewish question or contact my party, the Socialist Party. You may be unaware of the fact that as a lay activist I do not have the luxury of time to debate with you.”

Prior to the Socialist Federation of the Middle East, do Zionist Jews have to put up with being denounced as racists? And what about Hamas? Again Andrew Price simply avoids the issues, using a stream of gibberish rote-learnt in the Labour Party Young Socialists 25 years ago (and ignoring what Trotsky actually wrote on the Jewish question!)

The 2005 NATFHE conference passed a motion — written by a member of the Socialist Workers Party — which declared, “to criticise Israeli policy or institutions is not anti-semitic.”

But many of the criticisms of Israel are anti-semitic. That the conference did not recognise this is one indication of the disease of “left” anti-semitism that currently exists in the union. Rather than oppose the motion, general secretary Paul Mackney (a former member of the SWP, then called IS), “interpreted” the clause to mean, “to criticise Israeli government policy or institutions is not automatically anti-semitic”. That was in clear breach of the rules of the English language!

Mark Osborn, NATFHE member


You can add your own feedback at our forum thread on this article. Some comments from Engage where the article is originally posted follow.

Posted by Paul at May 11, 2006 11:38:12 AM

I am rather on the outside of UK university union matters but to me this appears to be an important report. I am not in a position to provide experienced commentary on it but I am happy that it is on Engage where there are people who will know how whether and how to respond and take it further. It is also important as an addition to a growing body of record that already today gives a rich picture of effective anti-Jewish racism on the left.

Posted by Bill at May 11, 2006 04:21:13 PM

The sticking matter here his clearly racist and treatment of Fraser both with the Saturday stunt (Are the meetings ever on a Sunday?), and having Green's statements stricken from the record (that really burned my bacon). Osborn should be credited for providing the “full minutes” of the meeitng. Green's constituents clearly have an obligation to know that they are being represented by a walking talking liability suit waiting to happen. As I said in the earlier thread on this topic, we as faculty were briefed, workshopped, pecked, poked, drilled and tested as to what is discriminatory and harassing behavior (using both Corporate and Government benchmarks) and the impact it has on the University. And Green and Company definitely shot the moon on their conduct. Green's, Price's and the rest's job in NATFHE is to represent a large and diverse block of faculty. If they wants to put on a red shirt with a brown inner lining, they can do so in any of their *political* meetings, but not at meetings where academic policy (direct or shadow) is made. They should know better (Knowing better is not just for Zionists or Israelis). And their constituents deserve to know their character and indeed (and this is the messy part), be held accountable for choosing people who are not so much interested in representing all faculty, but making their own politically correct prejudices system-wide policy. If I were a dishonest and heavy handed administrator, union reps like Green would be a gift from Heaven.

Posted by Bill at May 11, 2006 05:42:32 PM

I am very VERY uncomfortable seeing this as an issue in an academic professional union, period. The only way it would qualify is in the area of Academic Freedom. Though there is a lot of pushing and pulling on Israel/Palestine on both sides, the only *official* stance AF-wise on I/P that I see getting any headway and agenda time seems to be dictated by those who want a one-sided boycott and want *their* view as the exclusive view on the matter at hand **as per union policy.** And as goes the union, so goes the university. And if that’s NATFHE’s idea of Academic Freedom, you can have it. And I have a very hard time swallowing that it IS the overall membership’s view.

Plus if NATFHE keeps sliding in political stances, what’s next? Will there be a stance on genetic modification? Why not, we have a stance on Israel. To that add any other political firecracker that the union now has precedent to juggle. Meanwhile there is this issue of next year’s contracts for lecturers… But we’ll table that for now and work on this ban on genetic research and letter of solidarity with Chris Davies. Wait till next years meeting! We’re going to issue sanctions against faculty who are members who order veal at restaurants and subscribe to the wrong newspapers! Silly, no sillier than an official stance on Israel at a place where debate and contention are supposed to be rule, not the exception.

Posted by Susan at May 11, 2006 06:27:45 PM

"A two state solution in Palestine institutionalises a racist divide in the region and is a bar to peace. The only possible solution is for a secular socialist state from the river to the sea.”"

I'm sure that I will be called a racist for saying this, but a single secular state would be a death sentence nearly all of the Jewish residents of such a state. Socialsim is not the solution for all problems. A socialist state would not necesarily make a difference. It would never work. Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians would want one state. The Palestinians want their own state as well.

Posted by at May 12, 2006 02:02:13 PM

for Stephen Cushion and Andrew Price to propose a socialist secular Middle Eastern federation as a 'solution' to present problems suggests that they have a struggle to understand the English language. How can there be a 'solution' which would be unacceptable to Hamas, Fatah, most Arab states, many Christians and most religious Jews? A dream or an ideal is not the same thing as a solution. To pretend that it is is simply to abdicate all responsibility for bringing suffering to an end, in favour of gesture politics and self-rightous attacks on comrades who try to live in the real world.

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