Delegates from four leading universities have tabled a motion for this year’s University and College Union (UCU) Congress, arguing that the union should oppose the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism – which the UK government adheres to.
The publication of the resolution — ironically, on the eve of Yom Hashoah — comes five years after a bitter tribunal battle between UCU and Jewish academic Ronnie Fraser, who alleged institutional anti-Semitism in the union. Mr Fraser lost his case — which he brought initially as a result of UCU dissociating itself from the EUMC, or European Parliament, definition of anti-Semitism.
The resolution, proposed by delegates from Leeds, Brighton, Goldsmiths and London universities, says that the IHRA definition, which has been adopted by the British government, “conflates anti-Semitism with criticism of the state of Israel and has been used to intimidate academics who are engaged in activities that are critical of the policies of the Israeli government, but that are not anti-Semitic”.
The motion complains of “government-inspired attempts to ban Palestine solidarity events, naming Israel Apartheid Week”, and instructs the conference, if the resolution is adopted, to dissociate UCU from the IHRA definition and to “contact all members …urging a report to [the union’s national executive] of all repressive uses of the IHRA definition”.
Mr Fraser, who is still a UCU member but is not attending this year’s Congress, said: “The motion says that the UCU opposes racism. Then they pat themselves on the back for all their good work and immediately follow it up with “We don’t want to have anything to do with the IHRA definition”, a definition which has been adopted by both Anglo-Jewry and the British government in the fight against antisemitism. This is hypocritical, extremist and racist behaviour which shows no respect or tolerance for the views of British Jewry”.
He added: “This motion is not primarily about the Israel/Palestine conflict; it is about the denial of Jewish human rights, the right to live without discrimination, as well as our definition of anti-Semitism. If the UCU adopts this motion then they are guilty of racism towards the Jewish people and should be labelled as racists and extremists”.