Anti Fascism

Who Wrote This Letter?

Consider this letter, sent by a member of the Bristol UCU Executive to Dr. Jonathan G. Campbell:

Dear Jonathan,

I’m on the Bristol UCU exec, but I prefer to give you my personal views on the matter. I also am disturbed by certain UCU statements, as reported by Engage. But then, many “committed” socialists have always been motivated more by hatred (of the rich, for example) than by love (of the poor, for example) so I am not particularly surprised by these unpleasant statements.

For myself, I believe that action should be taken against the Israeli state along the lines of what was brought to bear against racist South Africa in the past, and for the same reason. I think the actions of the Israeli state towards Palestinians are often unfair, and sometimes racist, and for that reason I am strongly anti-Israeli. I presume that most voters in the Israeli state are Jewish, but the vast majority of Jews are not Israelis in the important sense that they vote for the policies Israel adopts. Because I have no negative feelings towards the vast majority of Jews, I am not anti-semitic. But I most definitely am anti-Israeli. If Jews Worldwide are fed up with being identified with the Israeli state then surely they should try harder to distance themselves from Israel’s actions? They could join with non-Jews in an attempt to force the Israeli state to treat the Palestinians better. Perhaps wealthy Jews could influence Israel’s actions by organising to cut off external Funding?

Should I similarly take action against UCU extremists who make unpleasant anti-Jewish statements? Perhaps, but I am not strongly motivated to do this. I agree with their anti-Israeli policies, and I am merely uncomfortable with the clumsy way they sometimes fail to distinguish between Jew and Israeli. Their statements may irritate you (and me) but clumsy words do not cause real suffering to millions of people, as the actions of the Israeli state do.

Best wishes,
XXXXXXX University of Bristol

Let’s parse this letter.

This Bristol UCU Executive member believes that it is the responsibility of “Jews Worldwide” to distance themselves from Israel. That is an outrageous suggestion. It is akin to the demand that, whenever one Muslim group does something blameworthy, that all other Muslims must denouce it or be associated with it. The notion of collective ethnic or religious guilt is a particularly obnoxious one. When applied to Jews, it is a direct echo of this Biblical slander.

However, that is nothing compared to this UCU Executive Member’s declaration:

Perhaps wealthy Jews could influence Israel’s actions by organising to cut off external Funding

The assumptions underpinning this suggestion are explained well by two posters on this Engage thread:

Zkharya

As for “wealthy Jews could influence Israel’s actions by organising to cut off external funding”, classic antisemitic imagery of Israel as the centre of an international Jewish web, fed by the coffers of international Jewry.

Saul:

“Wealthy Jews” and “Jews Worldwide”. Leaving aside the baggage that that carries with it, what these comments show is a complete ignorance both of Israel and of Israel’s relationship with the diaspora. It is not 1927, or even 1947. Israel is integrated into the world system of nations. It trades, it borrows, it has a tax base, etc.etc.. It does not depend on the good grace of donations of the great and the good. But, for xxxxx, not only does he believe that Israel is financed by “Jews worldwide” but, also belives the donors have to power to determine Israeli policies. Back again to collective guilt and the supernatural power of Jewish money. 

This member of the Bristol UCU Executive accepts that there are “UCU extremists who make unpleasant anti-Jewish statements?”. Well that’s an advance. Because the standard response from the boycotters is that nothing that is said in relation to the Israel-Palestine debate is capable of amounting to anti-semitism.

However, they couldn’t give a toss about anti-semitism in their union, and won’t confront it. Why? Because “I am not strongly motivated to do this”.

Not to worry however, as “I have no negative feelings towards the vast majority of Jews”. Just some. So be assured “I am not anti-semitic.”

So, there you have it. A UCU executive member who believes that weathy Jews, worldwide, have the power to cut off external funding to Israel, who requires that Jews distance themselves from Israel if they are to escape anti-semitism, and who accepts that there are ‘extremists’ in UCU who make racist statements: but can’t be arsed to confront this racism. Oh, and they’re not anti-semites themselves.

The Bristol UCU Executive Member might well honestly believe that he or she is no racist.

Wrong.

In 2006, a lecturer in Russian Slavonic and Studies at Leeds University called Frank Ellis gave an interview to a student newspaper, in which he expressed the view that intelligence is influenced by ethnicity. He was immediately denounced as a racist by Unite Against Fascism. The student union called for him to be sacked. His employers suspended him, and he was forced to resign his post.

At the time, I did not speak up for Frank Ellis. My thinking was that, although he was an academic, his comments expressed a clearly racist attitude. Were he an ethnobiologist, he would be entitled to academic freedom. However, his field of study provided him with no insight into, and had no connection with, the question of the relationship between ethnicity and intelligence. I also worried that an academic who held racist views about ethnic minorities might discriminate against such persons in practice.

I think that I was wrong.

Frank Ellis had a right to job security. His treatment by the University was outrageous. There was no evidence that he had ever discriminated against a student. The UCU should have defended him, but it did not.

Likewise, there is no suggestion that this member of Bristol UCU Executive discriminates against Jews in their work life. I am emphatically not calling for this person to be investigated or disciplined by Bristol University.

However, I do not think that Bristol University UCU should contain a man or woman who believes that:

  • “Jews Worldwide” need to denounce Israel.
  • “Wealthy Jews” could cut off Israel’s “funding” but don’t.
  • There is racism against Jews in the UCU, but that they aren’t motivated to oppose it.

I do not know who wrote this letter. However, I would like to. I think that this Bristol UCU Executive member should be investigated by the UCU. I also think that those voting in UCU elections in Bristol should know who they are, so that they can vote against them: if they are anti-racists. They are politicians and union officials, and what they say and do is directly relevant to their function.

Here is a list of members of Bristol University UCU. The letter writer is one of them. The others did not write the letter and therefore cannot be held responsible for its content.

Who is it?

UPDATE

I am told that Mr XXXXX did give Dr Campbell permission to make the email public, in an anonymised form.

There is a response here

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