The backlash against the IHRA definition of antisemitism from leftist academics continues. Because they want to be free to violate it.
According to my Freedom of Information enquiries, 46 of the 133 UK Universities have thus far adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism. 19 of the 24 Russell Group Universities have adopted it: within Russell, Cardiff and LSE failed to adopt it, FOIs are still out to Queen’s Belfast, Sheffield and Southampton (all Russell) and several others.
The Senior Management Team at University College London agreed to adopt IHRA in November 2019. This was despite the efforts of 44 UCL academics who had written an open letter urging against adoption.
The 44 included Philippe Sands. Sands was a Board Member of the Tricycle Theatre when it refused to host the Jewish Film Festival unless it distanced from funding from the Israel Embassy. He defended the decision on BBC TV. Commendably the Festival stood its ground and has never returned to the Tricycle. I boycott the Tricycle and many others do likewise. Another is Professor Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh. More about her later. She signed a petition stating ‘Israel’s policies have brought Gaza to the brink of economic, social and ecological collapse’ (the truth is that it is Hamas which is the obstacle to progress in Gaza) and that Israel ‘inflicts collective punishment on the people of Gaza’ (the truth is that Israel acts to defend its citizens from rocket fire and only restricts the import of items which can be used to make weapons). She also was at SOAS – the well-known incubator of Israel demonisation and antisemitism – for two years in research and teaching jobs. A third signatory is Harvey Goldstein. He’s the Corbyn-supporting statistician who cited false facts to ‘prove’ that antisemitism is worse on the Right than the Left. A fourth is Haim Yacobi. He’s a former academic in Israel who voices the apartheid lie.
UCL’s decision to adopt IHRA has prompted an academic backlash in the grossly misleadingly-titled form of the ‘Academic Board Working Group on Racism and Prejudice’ (henceforth abbreviated to WG). The Guardian (who else?) covered it here (scroll down).
Adoption of IHRA is non-negotiable. Every minority has the right to set out what it considers offensive and this is the response of mainstream Jewish organisations, all of which have democratic or representative legitimacy. Anyone who tries to reject IHRA is simply an accessory to antisemitism.
How necessary it was for UCL to adopt IHRA was shown by a survey of antisemitic experiences on campus done by UCL Jewish Society in January 2019. 78 Jewish students were surveyed. 72% of them said they had experienced antisemitism on campus. The WG Report includes the responses as Appendix E. The typeface is not very clear so I have included it as an Appendix to this blog. The comments are heart-rending. For example:
“Yes – being told I have “a small nose for a jew”, being asked if my parents earn lots of money, being asked if I want to kill Palestinian children, being told I am lieing about the holocaust having happened”
The Chair of the WG is Dr Seth Anziska (and here and here), a US-born Jew. He was one of the 44 opposing IHRA adoption. Three others on the WG were also in the 44: Prof Garb (Israel born), Dr Guesnet and ex-Israeli Prof Suissa. So 5 WG members were not in the 44. One, Prof Saprai, dissented from the majority WG view that UCL should jettison IHRA.
Harry Goldstein of North London Friends of Israel (supported by UK Lawyers for Israel) rapidly did a good job of deconstructing the WG’s anti-IHRA Report. He points out that neither of the two UCL Student Union representatives nominated to the WG were Jewish! But it’s worse than that – One of them, Aatikah Malik, wants a full boycott of Israel! IHRA rules that to demand this without demanding a boycott of any other nation is antisemitic.
He also notes the fringe views of David Feldman, credited as advising the WG. Feldman was the Deputy Chair of the infamous Chakrabarti (non) Report into antisemitism in the Labour Party. I recently blogged about Feldman’s unsuitability to lead the UK’s foremost academic institute for the study of antisemitism. Three other supposed experts are credited for inputs into the WG. There’s Sir Geoffrey Bindman. He recently wrote to the Guardian to defend Richard Burgon MP who said “The enemy of the Palestinian people are Zionists, and Zionism is the enemy of peace and the enemy of the Palestinian people.” That rules him out as a reliable adviser on antisemitism, because ‘charging Jews with conspiring to harm humanity’ is antisemitic qua IHRA. Then there’s Philippe Sands (see above) who objects to cultural funding from the Israel Embassy. The third is Yair Wallach. We recently met Wallach in this blog. Wallach thinks it’s appropriate for a Centre for Jewish Studies to host antisemites, see here and here – see the blog for more colour on him.
Harry Goldstein’s critique of the WP Report is thorough. He points out the absurdity of describing IHRA as ‘notoriously problematic and politically controversial’ when it has been so widely adopted worldwide (At least 42 UK Universities have adopted it – I am auditing with FOIs). He identifies the almost complete failure to mention the appalling anti-Israel hatefest when Hen Mazzig was due to speak in 2016. And he rightly calls out the WP authors for citing the shameful IJV Canada Report which I fisked here.
But in addition I am calling out the WP Report’s contention (p48) that ‘reasonable people can contend that the legal framework of the State of Israel is or always has been intrinsically racist’. Look at the evidence they use to justify that statement. It’s in footnote #66 on page 48. It’s that old chestnut the Adalah Database so expertly fisked by David Collier here. Here’s what Collier says: ‘Adalah’s discriminatory laws list is a scam’.
Now to the ‘Up Close And Personal’. As Harry Goldstein observes, the WP Report smears me (bottom of page 79). The Report uses as a ‘case study’ my complaint in August 2019 about an exhibition at UCL which contained anti-Israel propaganda. (David Collier also tweeted about it). Who was one of the creators? Professor Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh – see above.
The authors cannot dispute the substance of my complaint. So they smear me: ‘In June 2019, Hoffman was convicted for aggressive, bullying behaviour during a 2018 demonstration in central London for hectoring a pro-Palestinian activist.’ Now let’s have the truth. I merely shouted at one of the worst antisemites in the UK. In a political trial I chose to take a minor conviction rather than incur legal fees of thousands of pounds to go to appeal. That’s what happens in the UK to people who protest about antisemitism – they are victimised. And that’s precisely why the climate around antisemitism needs to change. Which – yes dear Reader – is precisely why we need the IHRA definition.
But look at the vile way in which Anziska and his fellow nine aiders and abetters of antisemitism weaponise their smear of me: ‘Such an act of bullying by a convicted offender should have given UCL’s Senior Management Team ample reason to avoid engaging seriously with this critic’. Let’s get this straight: If you shout at an antisemite and appear in a political trial in Court, you lose the right to complain about antisemitism. You become a non-person. An Untermensch.
Who else forced Jews to become Untermenschen?
Anziska and Co spend pages alleging falsely that IHRA ‘Chills free speech’ but look what they wish to do to the free speech of a campaigner against antisemitism! Utter hypocrisy.
Do they really expect anyone to take their views on antisemitism seriously?
G-d help any Jewish student who has the misfortune to be supervised by any of these eight UCL academics who not only deny them protection from antisemitism, they dehumanise campaigners against antisemitism: Seth Anziska, Celia Caulcott, Tamar Garb, François Guesnet, Farid Panjwani, Alan Sokal, Judith Suissa and Sean Wallis.
 I exclude Saprai who dissented
Appendix – UCLU Jewish Society Survey Information (p151)
Antisemitic comments on campus made to UCL Jewish students:
“I have had peers make comments such as “Jews own all the big businesses” and “the perks of being Jewish society president is that it makes you rich”. As president of UCL Jewish society from 2017-2018, we also had to deal with speakers being invited to campus who had tweeted things like “jews are dirty, sleazy thieves” and “holocaust, yes or no?”. Despite several meetings with the vice provost we were unable to prevent these speakers coming to campus since we were told there is no working definition of anti semitism.”
“A student who is well clued up on politics and is a very strong Pro-Palestine campaigner was shocked to find out that I was Jewish. (I am on a committee with them) The way that she responded to this was shrowed with a negative tone on my identity as a Jew and it was assumed that I was Pro-Isreal and therefore a horrible person. Nobody in the room even flinched at how she said this to me and noone even thought it was anywhere near wrong. This is a very small incident but I can imagine how bad it may be on a larger scale. ”
“Often people will say things like ‘so jewish’ or ‘typical jew’ whenever money gets involved in anything, assuming Jews are all rich (even though completely not true – or applicable to me (I am Jewish, not extremely rich)). Whether it’s wanting to go out for lunch or even getting a coffee, racial slurs associating Jews and money are prevalent. I find this ridiculously offensive. I usually just to brush it off or fake a laugh but it does hurt inside knowing that people are judging me based on my religion. ”
“People making holocaust references and saying ‘death to Jews’ in my earshot”
“Calling me Jew boy for not showing my answers in a test”
“Being yelled at for wearing a Star of David necklace”
“Cloaking Jewish hatred through anti-Israel rhetoric”
“Students telling me oh you’re jewish? So you take all the water from gaza ? ”
“Yes being told I have “a small nose for a jew”, being asked if my parents earn lots of money, being asked if I want to kill Palestinian children, being told I am lieing about the holocaust having happened”
“Mainly hostility from fellow students which impacted directly with a group project we had to work on. There is a very uncomfortable response when representing the Jewish Society. I walk around campus petrified to be a Jew. UCL NEEDS to adopt this definition. Racism is racism and the Jewish community have contributed HUGELY to UCL (who do you think Barnard Katz and Wolfson were???). This topic makes my blood boil. ”
“In a what started as a friendly conversation about Israel/Palestine it was mentioned that the Jews control the media, the United States politics and were racist for wanting a state for the Jews (not having mentioned that that would not mean that Palestinians couldn’t feel home in the same state as well). It was kind of assumed that Jews hated Palestinians and that we didn’t care about the welfare of them. The discussion then swiftly turned into Israeli’s being child killers (which I felt a comparison could be made with the centuries old blood libel). I don’t walk arround with a kippa as I feel prejudice against Jews would then define my life at UCL here and not my actions as a human being, I also hide me being Jewish from most of my classmates. ”
“Before the workshop for all the UCL Society’s new welfare officers one of the girls there said to me that it was funny that the price of membership for the Friends of Israel Society was higher than that of the Friends of Palestine, hereby implicating that Jews are rich and care a lot about money. ”
“I honestly self identify as BME. I am part of a marginalised minority. Therefore I should feel represented by our BME officers. Especially last academic year I felt really unsafe, as our own BME officer took the lead in making this campus unsafe for Jews. For example saying: “comparing Israel to Nazis is not just a valid critique but it is a true statement to make.” Herewith downplaying the atrocities of the holocaust.
“I am a international student who experienced firsthand anti-antisemitism directed at me more than 20 times in my home country, I partly decided to go to UCL because of all the advertisement it made saying that at UCL you could be who you want to be and that it was such a safe space. Now I know that it is a numbers game; if you are part of the “big” minorities you can feel kind of at home and feel represented, but if you are not there is nothing that can be done for you because the so called “democracy” here at the UCLU only cares about the [truncated] ”
“Students – of Faith and non-faith – have made derogatory comments about Judaism in passing, during social situations. Such comments would be ignored by Jewish students as humour, but would be opposed I.e. as ‘Islamophobia’ it made to students of Islamic faith. I don’t see why Anti-Semitism is not taken seriously. ”
“Have been told that all Jewish are rich and all the richest people are jews so there is no reason to be complaining”
“Have been told that by wearing a Star of David I support an apartheid state”
“Tell me I should renounce my Israeli citizenship because of the crimes of Israel. ”
Being called Gid- a slur for jew in Russian. ”
“I’ve been told that I must have lieces cause all jews do. My friend has been called “a smelly dirty Jew” cause in shabat he was walking around with a kippah
“When I was speaking to somebody about antisemitism, due to its prevalence in current affairs, I gave an example of antisemitism by saying that it is a common line used by antisemites that Jews control the world/media; to which the person I was speaking with responded with “well that’s not entirely wrong though is it?”
“Yes I felt a great deal of antisemitism in the room during the student union vote for the IHRA definition. The booing and disrespect was certainly antisemitism. Besides that, I have had arabic people in my dorm at garden halls tell me that they are supposed to hate me when I say I am an israeli, and I have endured endless holocaust, jew jokes. ”
“Note: I am not a Jewish student at UCL (in fact, I am a practicing Muslim) and some of the incidents detailed below are not some in which I have been personally involved, but some that I have witnessed: 1) The chant “From the river to the sea, palestine will be free” is heard frequently on campus and is used often, though not exclusively, by members of the UCL Friends of Palestine Society. This chant openly and unambiguously calls for the destruction of Israel as a state. This constitutes anti-semitism under the IHRA definition and indeed any sensible definition. 2) At the October 2016 event featuring Hen Mazzig, Jewish students were forced to leave the venue with cries of ‘Shame’ being shouted by protestors. This constitutes the denial of the Jewish peoples’ right to self determination and suggests that Jewish people should be ashamed of their identity. Protesters, including most notably UCL student, laughed as one particular Jewish student was brought to tears. When Mazzig returned to UCL in January 2018, this same student was again confronted by who said he ‘remembered’ them from the previous event, laughing once again. He then proceeded to direct abuse at this student, accusing them of being complicit in the so-called ‘crimes’ committed by Israel. 3) Holding Jewish students at UCL responsible for the actions of the Israeli government constitutes discrimination, solely on the grounds of one’s identity. This is racist and anti-Semitic in the purest sense. It must be noted that Judaism is not solely a religion, but an ethnicity which is so intrinsically linked to Israel as a nation. 4) At the recent general assembly vote on the IHRA definition of anti-semitism, a group of students behaved very aggressively towards Jewish students in attendance. In particular, during one of the speeches for the motion, the speaker was finishing a sentence when their time was up and they were asked to stop speaking by the chair. As the speaker continued, the audience erupted and begun to heckle the speaker. One Jewish student in the audience said to themselves “he’s just finishing a sentence”. Immediately, a group of students sitting nearby said “your people never play by the rules”, referring to the Jewish people. This was followed by a further exchange in which the group of students became very aggressive. This is pure and blatant anti-semitism as it directs hate at one very particular group of people. 5) As a Muslim student at UCL that is outspoken in my support of Jewish students on campus, I have often been subject to discrimination from other Muslim students on campus. In particular, I have been called a ‘race traitor’ and have been accused of engaging in ‘respectability politics’. On one occasion, during a protest organised by the UCL Friends of Palestine in the main quad, I was physically attacked by a student for expressing my views. I was later threatened by the student to remove a video containing evidence of this which was posted The also contacted me (via Facebook messenger) threatening me with disciplinary action after they said they had received complaints about me from a number of students. No formal complaint was lodged and no action was taken, yet sent me threatening messages in an attempt to silence me from speaking out in support of Jewish students. ”
“I was jokingly told that I didn’t need to apply for internships, because I’d have a guaranteed job at a bank. The fact that I was Jewish being the suggestion. ”
“Chased down a street while being shouted at for being a Jew ”
“There have been several experiences – being told that my grandfather’s experience in the Holocaust was a lie and that it didn’t happen; I was told at an anti-Israel protest that I was a dirty Jew; I was singled out as a Jew in a class about the Holocaust; I was told to “go back to the gas chambers and die, you dirty f-ing Jew” by someone at university. These are just a few incidents – perhaps the worst – but incidents of this nature occur frequently for me on campus. ”
“Having the IHRA definition – a concrete and unequivocable line that cannot be crossed and can be prosecuted – will create more reassurance of protection on campus for Jews who experience anti-semitism.
“Yes I was called a dirty Jew and other derogatory terms by someone in a social setting, not someone I knew. He had guessed by looking at me that I was Jewish.
“I was told on campus by a fellow UCL student that Jewish people kill so many innocent people. ”
“During the student Union IHRA vote, when Jewish society president was describing the need for a definite definition of anti-Semitism on campus as Jews wearing kippot (skullcap) need to be able to walk around without being verbally harassed, one girl from behind me yelled out loudly, “that doesn’t happen, nobody cares!” To which the people surrounding her laughed. The irony of this blatant racism by denying obvious anti-Semitism whilst during a vote for the need for more protection of Jews on campus”
“A fellow student on my University course asked me where I live, I replied in North-West London to which he asked if that was Hampstead, because he knows lots of Jews live there as it is a more affluent area. He then asks if my dad is a banker, to which I replied no an accountant and he said he thought it must be something to do with money. Followed by asking if my mum worked, when I said she did he acted very surprised. Finally he asked me if I come in by the train everyday, to which I replied yes and he said ‘oh right of course you can afford that’ and if I charge more for tutoring in my area because the jews will pay more. I felt deeply offended by this incident. It was stereotypical, untrue and quite frankly very uncomfortable. ”
“Holocaust jokes, woke up to find a penny outside my bedroom door. ”
“Physical assault, verbal abuse, social media abuse etc”
“Someone said they didn’t want to talk to me because I was “supporting war criminals and a fascist state” as they knew I was Jewish and supported Israel
“During exam seasons in May 2018 I experienced anti semitism in the cruciform hub at UCL. I was studying in a shared room when I overheard a group of five people next to me starting to discuss Israel. They said things like “it’s a sad world to be accused of anti semitism for being against Israel”, then another student continued with “yes they should’ve all just burnt in the concentration camps”. The whole group laughed out loud. I graduated now but as a Jewish student listening to this I did not feel safe. ”
“Comments made to me by fellow students that insinuated I was greedy because I was a Jew”
“Too many to describe”
“People saying hurtful things/ mocking my identity”
“Yes I often experience people making inappropriate and unacceptable Jewish jokes that stereotype and patronize. This lack of consideration for my religion is deeply offending as I am proud of who I am and where I came from. It hurts me to know that in this day and age prejudice against Judaism is still prevalent… I think education and awareness is necessary in order to change the public’s misconceptions… and to better the student life at UCL. ”
“Spat at for wearing a Star of David necklace. Called a dirty jew terrorist for being half Israeli. Been told Israel shouldn’t exist and the Holocaust wasn’t as bad as Jews say. Etc”
“Incidents of being shouted at on campus, and once a car honked and shouted derogatory things at me. ”
“Maybe At the IHRA vote, when examples of antisemitism where mentioned like calling Jews names etc, I heard someone say ‘that doesn’t happens, it doesn’t exist’ and lots of other mutterings from the people against the motion to deny that Anti-semitism occurs”
“I was walking through malet place with a Kippah on my head and I heard someone in a large group call me a “fucking Jew” under their breath”
“I asked a member of staff to move an assessed presentation that fell on a Friday afternoon. He did move it but “informed” me that in the real world people will not change their schedules because of my religious beliefs. ”
“As a PhD student on a limited budget, found fund I could apply to, was told by supervisor he’s unsurprised of my success in obtaining the funding given how “your people are so good with money”. ”
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Postscript: More on Anziska in David Collier’s excellent piece here about the contamination of academia.
Khalidi was allegedly a spokesperson for the PLO in Beirut at a time when the PLO was shocking the world with its terrorism. No stranger to antisemitism, Khalidi recently stated during a radio interview that Israel supporters would “infest” the American administration.
When Daniel Pipes launched an attack on Khalidi’s appointment at Columbia, it was none other than his faithful student Anziska, who came to his defense. When Rashid Khalidi wrote his book Anziska helped him with the launch. In return when Anziska wrote his book ‘Preventing Palestine’ guess who helped him launch the book – you guessed it – his old supervisor Rashid Khalidi.
This means that the person who was chosen to lead UCL’s examination of the IHRA definition of antisemitism, spent years being academically shaped by an ex-PLO spokesperson.
Postscript 2: I complained to UCL about the dehumanisation of me. Here’s the Provost’s response:
Dr Spence says antisemitism ‘is, appropriately, an issue around which passions are raised’.
He has clarified (email to me): ‘By way of clarification, the passions to which I was referring were yours and those of the Jewish community and all those right-thinking people who oppose antisemitism.’
I welcome his assertion that Anziska and Co were entirely wrong to seek to deny me the right to object to the exhibition.