Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

UCU's 'chilling' vote

Even the most harmonious society is not immune to irrational hatreds. The Holocaust was designed in the home of Mozart, Goethe and Schiller. A nation's defence against prejudice is not its cultural achievements, but the attitudes and actions of its citizens.

That is why I was concerned about the recent resolution on antisemitism passed by the University and College Union. On the surface, it says that the definition of antisemitism adopted by the National Union of Students and other local university unions "is being used to silence debate about Israel and Palestine on campus."

It is not, by definition, antisemitic to criticise the state of Israel. I would defend anyone's right to express such criticism, however much I might disagree, provided they do not incite violence or hatred.

The UCU, however, is a most unlikely champion of free speech. It has been boycotting visits by Israeli academics for a number years. Much like the
Scottish councils which have banned the purchase of Israeli books in
municipal libraries, their actions suggest that their true goal is not, and cannot be, to secure freedom of speech, but to silence dissenting opinion.

In fact, this is only the most recent decision by the UCU that has left many Jewish academics and students feeling uneasy. In 2006, it rejected the findings of the groundbreaking All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism, putting it at odds with every one of Britain's main political parties. In 2009, the UCU invited a trade unionist, who had called for Jews in his native South Africa to be stripped of their citizenship, to speak at a conference.

When seen in this context, the latest resolution is in fact sending out a chilling message. It says that Jewish academics and students who perceive that they are being harassed or bullied should understand that they will be held to a different standard. It says that they should expect to be fair game for invective, and learn to live with feeling more vulnerable. Little wonder that the UCU has already seen many members of the Jewish faith, other faiths and none, vote with their feet and leave.

No-one's education should come at the cost of intimidation. I am calling on the Equality and Human Rights Commission, as the national champion for equality and good relations, to investigate.

Eric Pickles is the Communities and Local Government Secretary

Leaders

The JC leader: On Corbyn, and on Arkush

The JC Leader

Friday, January 20, 2017

The JC leader: On Corbyn, and on Arkush
Comment

10 resolutions for anxious liberals

Edie Friedman

Friday, December 30, 2016

10 resolutions for anxious liberals
Uk News

Commission criticised over inquiry into 'antisemitic' charity

Daniel Sugarman

Monday, December 5, 2016

Commission criticised over inquiry into 'antisemitic' charity
Education features

Allegations of anti-Semitism Oxford University Labour Club

Baroness Jan Royall

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Allegations of anti-Semitism Oxford University Labour Club
Comment

Year in review: USA 2016

Jonathan Cummings

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Year in review: USA 2016
World

'Jews should pay for their own security' say Swiss

Daniel Sugarman

Sunday, December 4, 2016

'Jews should pay for their own security' say Swiss
Comment

Breaking out of the bubble in India

Eli Baigel

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Breaking out of the bubble in India
Features

Year in review: the arts 2016

Keren David

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Year in review: the arts 2016
Comment

When it comes to rabbis, who is really in charge?

Miriam Shaviv

Thursday, December 1, 2016

When it comes to rabbis, who is really in charge?