Joseph Mintz

There is a lack of ‘solidarity’ with Jews in academia

'The opposition from academics to the IHRA has been stunning... They should be ashamed of their failure.'

December 17, 2020 10:31

Antisemitism is something that I have experienced throughout my life.

From children telling me how Jews smell and are dirty during my boyhood in Glasgow and then North West London, through being beaten up as a teenager walking to the bus stop from Hasmonean, and on to cries of “Jew-boy” and “kike” in the bar at university, or being told my religious practices were exotic and strange by fellow students.

Don’t get me wrong, people go through a lot worse, and these incidents are relatively infrequent. As someone who wears a kippah in London, it’s really par for the course.

That does not mean it has no effect — it’s always there in the background, making you wonder if you really belong.

I’ve also experienced this in my professional life as an academic.

A few times I had students call names after me as I walked around campus when I worked in south London. Teenagers saying “Jew” in a derogatory fashion as I went into schools as part of my work researching education. But it’s been possible to tell myself that these were still just relatively rare events, almost background noise.

Then along came Corbyn and the overtaking of the Labour Party by the far left. When it became clear that Labour was tolerating anti-Jewish prejudice, there were no voices of concern from the academy.

The day after the 2017 election, when Corbyn came close to winning, a colleague from another university who happened to be visiting my institution came up to me in my office, joy in her face, and told me how wonderful it all was.

Then came the EHRC report. Still nothing. Utter and complete silence. All we did have was a backlash against the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

University leaders did begin, albeit very late in many cases, to push through the adoption of the definition. But the opposition from academics to the IHRA has been stunning – from the union, in published letters in national forums, in long hours spent on policy papers. They should have been standing in solidarity with us. They should be ashamed of their failure.

Joseph Mintz is an Associate Professor in Education at UCL Institute of Education

December 17, 2020 10:31

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