Another worthless ritual at UCU

May 28, 2009 at 11:05 pm (anti-semitism, Champagne Charlie, Middle East, palestine, unions)

It’s now become a ritual, and a worthless one at that: every year the UCU (the University and College Union) national conference passes a motion to boycott Israeli universities and academics; every year the union is told that such a boycott is illegal under anti-discrimination laws, and they back down. The same old routine has just happened again. It’s no longer worrying –  now it’s just tiresome. And it does not one iota of good for the Palestinian people.

No doubt most of those voting for the “boycott” resolution, are well-meaning supporters of the Palestinian cause and don’t know that they’re being used by long-standing “left” anti-semites like the SWP, and the likes of Cushman (see below), now turning the UCU into a Jew-free zone (though, of course, it will always allow space for those Jews willing to abase themselves and disavow Zionism and Israel):

Michael Cushman and the Jew-free UCU Congress

May 28, 2009 — David Hirsh

Michael Cushman Michael Cushman 

Mike Cushman is one of the leaders of the boycott campaign in UCU.  In the past he has pushed antisemitic conspiracy theory.   He has defended union members who passed material from David Duke’s website around the union.  He has rhetorically employed antisemitic stereotypes.   He has been feted by the Iranian state propaganda machine.  He has fawned over Hamas.

Now Cushman has provided the following breathless commentary of events at yesterday’s UCU Congress debate:

“It was brilliant. The Zionists bareley showed up. John Pike was totally isolated. On the first vote about invetigsting institutional anti-semitism in UCU he got about 6 votes out of 350.”

“On the key motion there were only two speakers against Pike and a woman from Workers Liberty, when the president asked for other speakers against no-one put their hand up. The vote was on my estimate about 300-30 (we should have asked for a count to rub salt into the wound).”

“What we must remember this was a victory built not just on hard work but even more on 1400 murders in Gaza.”

“Mike, in haste from Bournemouth”

This commentary requires a little bit of unpacking.  Two years ago, at the first Congress of the newly merged UCU, there was a big, very tense, very nasty debate about the boycott.  Cushman kicked off the ‘debate’ that day by declaring that he was “not going to be intimidated” – and received a huge cheer for it.  What he meant, and what Congress understood, was that he was not going to be intimidated by Jewish power.  And Congress followed his lead and voted for a boycott, many delegates showing clear signs that they were collectively excited at the feeling that they were standing up to the Jews.  Sorry.  To the Zionists.  This 2007 Congress was a horrible Jew-baiting Congress and it voted for a boycott motion.  When somebody stood up and mentioned antisemitism that day he was howled down by the delegates.

The Jew-baiters in UCU had a de facto deal with the union leadership – which was to allow them their fun at Congress but on the condition that the union would not actually do anything at all to implement any boycott.

Two years later, yesterday, the atmosphere was different.  There was not much cheering and there was not much howling.

Why?  Because there were no Jews left to bait.  As Michael Cushman says above, “the Zionists barely showed up”.

The Chair of the Open University Branch showed up to make a case for debating whether to have a ballot.  Congress voted him down.

Jon Pike showed up to argue that Congress should ask the union leadership to find out why Jews are resigning from the union.  Congress said it didn’t want to find out why Jews are resigning from the union.

Camila Bassi showed up, a member of a small Trotskyist group, she made a brave Trotskyist speech against the boycott.  Congress voted her down.

But there were speeches against the boycott available for anyone who wanted them.  But there was nobody left to make them.

There were no Jews there to speak against the boycott.  “The Zionists barely showed up”.

The soft left faction of union activists, the “reasonablists”,  the people who had always said they were against the boycott, remained silent, except for Mary Davis’ procedural question.  Perhaps some of them had gone soft on the boycott.  Perhaps some of them were frightened of being made into pariahs in the union if they stood up against antisemitism.  Not one of them spoke.  Not one of them insisted on making their argument.

Michael Cushman is excited by his victory.  He hasn’t noticed the significance of the fact that Congress is now free of Jews.  Except for Jews like him, the Jews who speak “as a Jew” but  who are quite unable to recognize antisemitism.  Haim Bresheeth.  John Rose.  Michael Cushman.  These are the Jews now, at UCU Congress.

David Hirsh

H/t: Engage


  1. Dr Paul said,

    Dr Hirsh: ‘He [Michael Cushman] hasn’t noticed the significance of the fact that Congress is now free of Jews. Except for Jews like him, the Jews who speak “as a Jew” but who are quite unable to recognize antisemitism. Haim Bresheeth. John Rose. Michael Cushman. These are the Jews now, at UCU Congress.’

    So Jews who oppose Zionism are not real Jews? This is normally the stock-in-trade of the far right; that is, say, a German or a British person who does not support German or British nationalism is not genuinely German or British. I expect that sort of thing from Adolf Hitler or Nick Griffin, but not from someone who calls himself a socialist.

    I’m not in favour of the proposed academic boycott of Israel, but is this the best you can do on this site?

  2. maxdunbar said,

    I think Hirsh’s point was that the only Jews welcome at Congress are Jews that agree with the SWP, just as the SWP supports Muslims but only Muslims that agree with the SWP.

  3. Conrad Barwa said,

    Hirsh is not a reliable source imo.

  4. Dr Paul said,

    ‘… those Jews willing to abase themselves and disavow Zionism and Israel’ — so for Jews to disavow Zionism and the state of Israel is to ‘abase’ themselves? A Jew must always stand by Zionism and the state of Israel — is that what you’re saying?

  5. johng said,

    Conservative Anti-Semites in the late 19th century saw liberalism and cosmopolitanism as a threat to national cohesion and treated Jews as representing these vices, both rootless and particularist (liberals could thus be presented as dupes). This style of reactionary conservative thought was then built on by the Nazies in the era after the Bolshevik revolution in which the internationalism which had to be fought was a Communist one (hence the strange amalgamations of “Jewish bankers” and “Communism”). Handily for them left wing ideologies were very successful amongst the Jewish masses suffering under the double burden of capitalism and anti-semitism, and, equally handily, many of the most prominant leaders of both the socialist and communist movements were consequently Jewish.

    It is little short of astonishing to see the same stereotypes on that engage thread being circulated about left wing Jews which at points comes pretty close to duplicating this very same language: except in this case the “rootless cosmopolitans” are undermining a Jewish nationalism. The reproduction of these stereotypes is truely grotesque, but the connection seems to be the defence of a national chauvinism against those who dissent from it. Shame on all at Shiraz Socialist for putting a left wing gloss on this.

    One thing does strike me though. For all the attempts to dress up chauvinism of this kind as a militant anti-racism (all this talk of anti-Zionist Jews ‘debasing’ themselves etc) It is this language of contempt for the ‘rootless cosmopolitan’ etc, which is the real abasement. An astonishing if unwitting deployment of stereotypes about left wing Jews which were once the property of quite different forces. At points in those threads its very ugly indeed, and whilst some more measured voices attempted to intervene, there was a real sense that even here a point was being missed.

    Is this the best you can do, indeed.

  6. charliethechulo said,

    “A Jew must always stand by Zionism and the state of Israel — is that what you’re saying?”

    No, Doc Paul, that’s *not* what I’m saying.

    I had in mind the question of loyalty tests and the famous quote from Ring Lardner to HUAC, discussed below by the late Steve Cohen:

    “I would hate myself in the morning” – Steve Cohen

    The quote above comes from Ring Lardner Jr, the famous writer and member of the Hollywood Ten – who were convicted in 1947 of criminal contempt for refusing to cooperate with the House Unamerican Activities Committee. The ten were imprisoned for a year for their defiance. In fact Lardner was one of the few who did respond to a question put to him. The question of course was whether he was or had ever been a member of the Communist Party. To which he replied “ I could answer the question exactly the way you want , but if I did I would hate myself in the morning”.

    I am sure Lardner, whatever his position on Zionism (if he had one) would have responded in exactly the same way to the resolution passed at the NATFHE conference which calls for a “a boycott of those that do not publicly dissociate themselves from” Israeli governmental policies towards Palestinians. It is this imposition of a loyalty test which is so reminiscent of McCarthyism. And of course Lardner did not stand alone. The playwrite Lillian Hellman famously said “I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions”. The fact that this year’s fashion –support for the Palestinians – is to be supported whereas old fashioned anti-communism is to be condemned – is irrelevant. The issue here is loyalty tests. It is being forced into making an open and public political statement not out of principle but out of blackmail.

    Loyalty tests have a particular significance when forced on Jews. The significance is the assumption of collective responsibility, of collective guilt. Intrinsic to this is the requirement to grovel. Groveling, the humiliation of Jews, is fundamental to all anti-semitism. Degradation ceremonies are central to Jew-hatred. Remember those shocking images of Nazi Berlin where rabbis were forced to scrub pavements. Likewise it was central to McCarthyism. As the actor Larry Parks said “I would prefer, if you would allow me, not to mention other people’s names. Don’t present me with the choice of either being in contempt of this Committee and going to jail or forcing me to really crawl through the mud to be an informer”. As far as I am aware Larry Parks (who rose to fame playing Al Jolson in the Jolson Story before being destroyed by McCarthyism) was not Jewish. However being a squealie, a snitch, an informer, has always been seen within the Jewish tradition as being an abomination – particularly where the victim of denunciation is another Jew. For what it is worth (and culturally it is worth a lot) it says in Genesis “Though they all be killed they shall not betray a single soul from Israel”. This is one reason why the Kapos (the Jewish guards of the concentration camps) are so reviled. Morally there is no difference between this and loyalty teats – including the NATFHE test (though of course politically NATFHE have not achieved the status of Kapos). Loyalty tests, by blackmailing some into “coming clean” only act to point a finger at others who refuse to submit and who then become subject to a blacklist. And there is no suggestion that Palestinian academics submit to such a test (why should they?). Only Jews (and why should they?).

    The NATFHE resolution refers to be boycotts of individuals and institutions – with the loyalty test applying to both. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has said in support of the boycott “no Israeli academic body or institution has ever taken a public stand against the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.”. This I am sure is true. But it is equally true that in the UK no academic body has taken a stand against the institutionalised racism of immigration control – which creates at least a quasi apartheid in the UK and which renders legality of employment in colleges (as elsewhere) as well as level of student fees dependent upon immigration status. Why does not NATFHE campaign for a boycott (not a loyalty test) against UK college institutions for compliance with such racism? In reality NATFHE has for years been accepting the loyalty test set by UK colleges and universities –“Are you or have you ever been of full immigration status?”. It would be interesting to know if NATFHE as an employer demeans itself by complying with immigration legislation (legislation which incidentally would prevent it employing Palestinian asylum seekers fleeing Israeli repression). Perhaps NATFHE should start boycotting itself.

    Obtaining names was actually irrelevant to McCathyism. The American state (through its own espionage agents) already had these. What was important was naming names – the degradation ceremony. Likewise the deep anti-semitism behind the NATFHE resolution is not the boycott principle. It is the loyalty test on which it is based. It is the loyalty test more than anything else exceptionalises Israel. As a materialist I am far more concerned about what people do as opposed to what they say. I am far more concerned to see solidarity in action with the Palestinians – both in the occupied territories and Israel itself – than with verbal support extracted through blackmail. It may be that the proposers of the NATFHE boycott were not conscious anti-semites. It may be that the loyalty test was clumsily added as a “compromise” against a blanket boycott. So what? It doesn’t make it any less anti-semitic in its consequences. If I were a Israeli academic campaigning for Palestinian rights I would only have one response to the NATFHE demand – the response would be to get lost. Otherwise I would not be able to live with myself in the morning.

    Steve Cohen
    Author of Thats Funny You Don’t Look Antisemitic

  7. Jim Denham said,

    John G: where the hell does anyone either at “Shiraz” or at “Engage” (and we don’t always agree) go on about “rootless cosmopolitans” or anything even remotely comparable or analogous? Please explain, or withdraw that scandalous and baseless smear.

    To be honest, I long ago concluded that you’re either a hysteric (the charitable explanation) or simply a liar.

  8. johng said,

    Follow the discussion at Engage in the UCU conference where we are treated to a long discussion about ‘creatures’ who are ‘non-Jewish Jews’, who are not ‘noramative mainstream Jews’ etc, etc (‘good’ and ‘bad’ Jews etc, etc). Its absolutely revolting. And if you just glanced at the discussion without reading the whole context it reads like a hysterical set of diatribes against left wing Jews which belongs to another tradition entirely. The resemblence is not of course consious, but is shaped by the outraged chauvinism of the discussants. Of course this time these disobediant Jews are being disobediant to a Jewish national community and not an outraged gentile one. But the tone is much the same. The stereotypes invoked are the same stereotypes as the grotesque ones about ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ etc. This is what modern anti-semitism actually was. A belief that Jews symbolised an indigestible cosmopolitan element, along with bolshevism and liberalism. a universal dissolvent of nations. As liberal nation states went into crisis this conservative reaction was radicalised by the Nazies. Read the outrage about ‘liberals’ , ‘cultural relativists”, and all the rest. Its horrible.

  9. johng said,

    Do loyalty tests have any special significance when forced on Palestinians? How about bombing their universities? Does that have any special significance?

  10. Fred said,

    Jim – best to just ignore antisemites like the “Bizarre” , “revolting” , “unbelievable” JohnG. He’s fancies himself as an antisemitic theoritician. Pure filth and dangerous to Jews. Don ‘t encourage him , treat him like you’d treat somebody who comments from the BNP.

  11. Can’t see for looking « Shiraz Socialist said,

    […] Max Dunbar, anti-semitism, immigration, students) I’d just like to highlight something that Comrade Charlie highlighted in his post about the ludicrous and unworkable proposals to boycott Israeli […]

  12. Can’t see for looking « Max Dunbar said,

    […] see for looking By maxdunbar I’d just like to highlight something that Comrade Charlie raised in his post about the ludicrous and unworkable proposals to boycott Israeli […]

  13. maxdunbar said,

    I think what JohnG is trying to say is that only Jews who support Likud-style Zionism are tolerated by Engage. See, I managed it in one sentence.

    If you actually read Engage you’ll find that his analysis is complete bollocks.

  14. Fred said,

    Well Max if that is what John G is doing then he is incredibly stupid or a liar. I often read Engage and it is nothing like Likud.

    Still for antisemites like John G as for most racists , there’s very little rational in what they say. After all racism is not rational. As i say , just scum.

  15. maxdunbar said,

    Fred, this is why John is so verbose, it is to conceal the poverty of his arguments

  16. Richard Gold said,

    Have you noticed all the dramatic adjectives he uses such as “unbelievable” , “bizarre” etc. He’s the Swp’s very own Jim Bowen. Super , smashing.

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