To the new Director of SOAS: Speak to Sir Keir!

Dear Professor Habib

I read that you will become the new Director of SOAS starting next month. Welcome to London and I wish you every success. In many ways you are in the same position as Sir Keir Starmer, the new(ish) Leader of the Labour Party, the official Opposition Party here. Both of you lead an institution which is institutionally antisemitic and running out of funds (SOAS is ahead of Labour in this respect but give it time). Both of you are ’pooper-scoopers’ tasked with clearing up the mess left by your predecessors  (though while Sir Keir’s predecessor is heading for oblivion, yours has been rewarded with the Mastership of University College Oxford).   So your PA might want to book you for a chat with Sir Keir (and David Evans, Labour’s General Secretary) to compare notes.

No doubt you will be meeting the staff at SOAS.  I offer some briefing on one of them by the name of Yair Wallach. He’s the Chair of the Centre for Jewish Studies at SOAS. You might think he’s a good guy with whom to talk about  SOAS’s antisemitism problem. A word of warning. He isn’t. He’s part of the problem. Putting him in charge of any ‘Jewish’ academic department is like appointing Dr Harold Shipman as CEO of AgeUK.

Professor Habib, I’m sure you agree that those who block someone on Twitter in order to insult them consequence-free free are lowlife cowards.   Wallach (I won’t credit his with his academic title of ‘Dr’, you’ll soon see why) likes nothing better than to troll me on Twitter, thinking I can’t see his tweets because he blocked me:

Smeared by SOAS’s Chair of Jewish Studies

A less appropriate person to chair a Centre for Jewish Studies it is hard to imagine (Jeremy Corbyn?).

Professor Habib, someone whom I very much respect in South Africa speaks very highly of you:

We are devastated to lose Professor Habib. Not only has he saved Wits University through difficult times for Higher education in our country over the past years, but he has also been outstanding in terms of providing `safe spaces’ for all Wits students, including Jewish students.

He has taken strong stances on many issues including the disruption of a piano concert with an Israeli musician, ensuring the students involved were disciplined and that another concert be held with Israeli musicians that was fully protected. He dealt decisively with an incident of antisemitism in 2015.

Our students have been given the space to provide counter IAW campaigns and have always been given the opportunity to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut on campus.

This is a case of `our loss is your gain’.

I would therefore hope that you will move quickly to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism which makes universities safer for Jewish students. At least 28 have adopted. Wallach opposes it.

Wallach opposes adoption of the definition of antisemitism which makes Jewish students safer

Wallach thinks it’s appropriate for a Centre for Jewish Studies to host antisemites, see here and here

He has also smeared academic colleagues who challenge his demonisation of Israel. 

Wallach organised the smear campaign against ‘Word Crimes’

In summer 2019 the Journal Israel Studies published (Volume 24 Issue 2) a special edition entitled Word Crimes.  The issue’s guest editors were Association for Israel Studies President Professor Donna Robinson Divine, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East Executive Director Asaf Romirowsky and Professor Miriam F. Elman of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. In the context of the wilful demonisation of Israel in many Humanities disciplines in academia, the volume exposed how certain words and phrases have become distorted in the hands of leftist academic Israel traducers. Professor Habib, it’s a great read –it must be in SOAS’s library and it’s available online in the British Library if you obtain a Reader’s ticket (it’s simple to register).   Here’s a taster (by Professor Donna Robinson Divine):

From Word Crimes – Israel Studies 24/2

Here’s a selection of the topics covered: BDS, Settlements, On Three Anti-Zionisms, Tracing the Funders of anti-Zionism, Pinkwashing, Intersectionality, Islamophobia, Israel Lobby, Zionism, Human Rights, Arab-Palestinian Refugees, Holocaust Inversion, Apartheid, Terrorism, Occupation, colonialism, Indigineity. Authors include Professor Miriam Elman, Professor Gerald Steinberg,  Professor Gabriel Brahm, Lesley Klaff, Professor Efraim Karsh, Professor John Strawson and Professor Donna Robinson Divine.

‘…petulant, anti-intellectual bullies.’

Wallach was a prime mover in the smear campaign which followed.  As Jonathan Tobin writes, ‘This is one academic feud in which all decent people—scholars and laypeople alike—have a stake.’

Over to you, Professor Habib.  From South Africa to SOAS: May You Always Live In Interesting Times (the Sinologists at SOAS will tell you that the attribution of this curse to China is erroneous).

Jonathan Hoffman


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Addendum: At last SOAS is to be investigated for antisemitism