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Israel hatred on campus 'mirrors what happened in my trade union'

Ronnie Fraser examines how campus Israel-hate crosses over into mainstream

    Hundreds of Palestinian nationals and pro-Palestinian activists gathered at Times Square on May 18, 2018 to support the ongoing struggle in Israeli-occupied territories . (Photo by Erik McGregor/Sipa USA)
    Hundreds of Palestinian nationals and pro-Palestinian activists gathered at Times Square on May 18, 2018 to support the ongoing struggle in Israeli-occupied territories . (Photo by Erik McGregor/Sipa USA)

    The route to power of the far left in the Labour Party exactly mirrors what happened in my trade union, the University and College Union (UCU), after they took over in 2006.

    Their first step was to gain control at grassroots level to ensure their own people were delegates to the annual conference, as well as becoming members of union’s national ruling body. Apathy amongst the general membership made it easy, as only the committed were willing to attend a three day Congress over a Bank Holiday. Even though fifteen percent of Anglo-Jewry works in education, very few stand up for Israel in the teaching unions.

    The election of Jeremy Corbyn in September 2015 provided his acolytes with opportunities to demonise Israel and cross the line into antisemitism, by masking it as anti-Zionism. This is exactly what happened in the UCU.

    Back then, we saw it as a takeover by the far left, then on the periphery of Labour politics, whose anti-Zionist policies made the union an intimidating, hostile, and offensive environment for Jews. It was the model for what has since happened in the Labour Party: fringe racist anti-Israel policies which have crossed into mainstream politics with a resulting rise in antisemitism within the party.

    There have been other similarities.

    Both have condemned the IHRA definition of antisemitism and have written their own definition.

    Both have consulted only with those few Jews who agree with their policies.

    Both have become intimidating, hostile and offensive environments for anyone who has spoken up for Israel whether they are Jewish or not.

    Their response has always been to accuse us of acting in bad faith by wanting to shut down debate, saying that any critic of Israel was antisemitic.

    By 2011, I was the last Zionist to speak at Congress as the far left had cleansed the UCU Congress of supporters of Israel. The same process is now in play in the Labour Party; threatening deselection for MPs who have spoken up for Israel or supported colleagues who have been subject to antisemitic abuse.

    If one looks at the Labour Party through the prism of what has happened in the UCU, as long as Corbyn and Momentum are in control, they will continue to promote their anti-Zionist and anti-Israel policies laced with antisemitsim while ignoring all protests. These people are vindictive and spiteful and are playing with our lives.

    Showing solidarity with and claiming to support justice for the Palestinians masks their true agenda which is the elimination of the State of Israel.

    We know that all of Britain’s leading trade unions support BDS, the international Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions movement directed at Israel, which is in effect antisemitic because it seeks to end the “occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands” and promotes a right of “Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.”

    These goals, which Jeremy Corbyn supports as a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, undermine the fundamental right of the Jewish people to self-determination.

    Do not be under any illusion; although Labour has accepted the IHRA definition this will not be the end as there will be problems over ‘legitimate criticism’ of Israel.

    We know from experience that the far left is loath to compromise on anything, especially antisemitism.

    BDS campaigners, although claiming that they are engaging in “legitimate criticism” of Israel, use rhetoric which explicitly violates examples in the IHRA definition.

    There is an inherent conflict as the unions and Labour cannot continue to support BDS or the Palestinian right of return and the IHRA definition at the same time.


    Anti Zionism on Campus is edited by Andrew Pessin and Doron S. Ben-Atar, published by Indiana University Press