NUS adopts EU definition of Antisemitism, including new antisemitism re: Israel

NUS, student, UK, antisemitism, racism and hatred of Jews

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NUS adopts EU Definition of Antisemitism

NUS adopts EU's definition of Antisemitism, including recognising New Antisemitism, that is manifestations of antisemitism in relation to Israel.

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NUS adopts EU Definition of Antisemitism

A Zionism On The Web Special, by Andre Oboler, 29/3/07

A motion was put to NUS conference 2007 on fighting racism. Motion 801 had a title of "Anti- Racism: Challenging Racism on Campus and in our Communities" and stated in part that the student movement believed:

Last year, racist attacks increased by 7%, with the racist murder of student Anthony Walker a stark reminder of the direct threat to students. Police figures have shown Arabs are 13 times, African Caribbean's ten times and Jewish people three times more likely to suffer racist attacks than white Europeans. Every such attack must be condemned and students' unions should take steps to prevent them.
The resolutions of the basic motion called for freedom for students to dress as they pleased, including for religous purposes. It also called for the right of students of all faiths and none to organise as student societies. It also challenged "Racist scapegoating, such as calls for universities to spy on 'Asian looking students'". The real exitement however came in the ammendments.

Fighting Islamaphobi

Ammendment 801a titled "Fighting Islamaphobia" saught to "oppose the current racist and Islamaphobic backlash" and specifically to:

ensure that a ban on the hijab and niqab (headscarf and veil) should not be enforced at the present time or in the future across any campus, and if such a thing were to occur that both the SU’s and NUS should condemn and take immediate action against this injustice.

Religious Dress: Not a Political Football

Ammendment 801b titled "Religious Dress: Not a Political Football" went along similar lines to 801a, but added a condemnation again David Cameron "for his comments likening Muslim organisations to the fascist BNP".

Tackling Antisemitism

Ammendment 801c titled "Tackling Antisemitism" is where things got interesting. The motion provided the EU Monitoring Center's definition of antisemitism (now addopted by the EU) and called for it to be implemented across the student movement.

The interest arises because the EU definition includes that

"such manifestations [of antisemitism] could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity".

The definitions includes a list of examples, such as "Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel". Motion 801c noted that

In September 2006 the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into antisemitism report after receiving comprehensive evidence as to the causes of the steep increase in antisemitic crimes, recommended that the EUMC working definition be adopted as the definition to be used by the government and law enforcers.
This should have been enough to avoid the need for much debate, after all, if the government have already made it law, how can the student movement take a weaker stand against racism?

The answer can be found in a flier we picked up from a stall at the conference. The flier is from GUPs, the General Union of Palestinian Students. Their stalled is shown in the picture, or see the larger version. The flier says in part that adopting the motion would "label the folowing individuals as antisemitic and ban them and their views from our universities: Noam Chomsky, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Edward Said, Jimmy Carter (former US president), Roni Kasrils (South African Minister and ANC activist), Jose Saramago (Nobel Prize for Literature), Michael Warschawski (Israeli antizionist activist), Rabbi David Goldberg, and many Orthodox Jews who oppose Zionism". This flier deserves analysis in its own right, the "many Orthodox Jews who oppose Zionism" is perhaps the most misleading part. They refer ofcourse to the tiny spliter sect of Neturei Karta (Exlanation on Neturei Karta and Jewish Anti-Zionists that make up less than 1% of Jews)). Neturei Karta is the Jewish group that attended and supported the Iranian Holocaust Denial conference - but ofcourse they're not going to say that in plain English, it might cost votes!

Amendment to Tackling Anti-Semitism (sic)

Ammendment 801d titled "Amendment to Tackling Anti-Semitism" was an ammendment to the above. The title probably gives anyway the intention. Where as the motion against antisemitism spelt antisemitism as one word, the motion seeking to make some forms of antisemitism "ok", used the hyphenated form. We have a discussion on it is antisemitism and not anti-semitism as part of our sources (please take a look).

Motion 801d put in by School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), aka the [S]chool [O]f [A]nti[S]emitism [Reference], amoungst others, saught to add resolutions:

1. Not to adopt those sections of the EUMC working definition of antisemitism that label legitimate criticism of Israel as racist
and
3. Add new conference resolves at the end "That the working EUMC definition will not be used to stifle debate and discussion regarding the morality or legitimacy of any country".

The result

Motion 801c (Tackling Antisemitism) was adopted. Motion 801d (Amendment to Tackling Anti-Semitism) was defeated.

This is an amazing result for Jewish students who have felt isolated on campuses for many years now. The student body has turned around and said "No". They have said there is no exuses for antisemitism. They have said demonising and questioning the legitimacy of the State of Israel is no longer acceptable. They have said this should apply to NUS, but local campuses should also be encouraged and supported in adopting such a position and preventing racism on their campuses.

This is truely an amazing result (in the British context). At a conference with about a third of stalls sporting Palestinian flags and anti-Israel propoganda, this motion means things are going to have to change. The motion does not seek to prevent discussion, but it draws a very clear line in the sand. It says intimindation, demonisation and prejudice will no longer be tolerated. I don't doubt all the stalls will be back, but from now on their are going to have to check their material much more careful. From now on the debate will have to be legitimate according to a definition everyone has agreed on.

By the time NUS conference 2008 comes along Jewish students may be living in a different world. A world where it is safe to wear a Magen David publically on campus, and a world where any attacks (verbal or otherwise) aimed at them over Middle East policy with not be accepted as their due for being Jewish, but will be solidly rebuffed by students of all political views. It may not happen everywhere, but each campus that becomes again a safe space for Jewish students will be a reward beyond price.

The Free Palestine Campaign

Another side effect of this motion will have very little to do with Jewish students. Having begun to understand the problem of left wing antisemitism, the anti-Racist left who support the creation of a Palestinian state (along side Israel) may begin to notice the racism in their campaign. Should this happen the hardline antisemites could see themselves expelled from the campaign. This would lead to a non-Racist pro-Palestine movement that rejects antisemitism (including antisemitic propoganda from the Arab states) and encourages Palestinians to do likewise. With the hate no longer fanned from abroad (the UK being a hot bed of it at the moment) this could see a real step forward for peace and bring the creation of a two state solution closer by decades. The other choice is to reject the consensus and continue to fight with racist tactics, becoming ever more marginalised. For Jewish students in the UK the choice makes little difference. To Palestinians and Israeli's who long for peace it is a world of difference.

The press and follow up

So far the press have been slow to realise the significance. Coming two years after three officers of the NUS resigned over antismitism (The Guardian, April 2005) and the press was flooded with comment, this turn around has so far seen only one article (The Education Guardian, March 29, 2007). The Campaigns Director of the Union of Jewish Students of the UK and Ireland who oversaw the Jewish students response was Mitch Simmons. Rounding off his second and final year in the job, Mitch has over the last three years seen both despair and now hope. Two years ago, just prior taking up his current job, it was Mitch who along with two others resigned their post and walked out of NUS conference with an appeal for other not to follow them. Two years later Mitch, UJS and Jewish students can hopefully close that sad chapter in the history of the NUS and begin looking to a far brighter future, sharing their experise in the fight against all forms of racism, respected at last as equals.

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Key references

The following may help you identify antisemitism and other types of racism

EU definition of antisemitism

Used by law enforcement throughout Europe

Behind much criticism of Israel is a thinly veiled hatred of Jews

Emanuele Ottolenghi, in The Guardian on Saturday November 29, 2003

A New Antisemitism

Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, June 2002

Blurring the line

Fair critisism or antisemitism? By Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (the ADL), in Haaretz on April 4, 2004

Antisemitism in 3-D

Differentiating legitimate criticism of Israel from the so-called new anti-Semitism. By Natan Sharansky in Jerusalem Post, on February 23, 2004

Anti-Zionism

What is Anti-Zionism?

Disagreeing with the policies of the Israeli government is in and of itself neither Antisemitic nor Anti-Zionist.

Even outside of this Anti-Zionism is not always Antisemitism, but many of those who claim to be anti-Zionist are in fact in fact peddling re-badged Antisemitism.

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