An academics’ union has passed a motion distancing itself from a controversial new definition of anti-Semitism at its annual congress.

University and Colleges Union (UCU), which has 110,000 members, rejected the new International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition, because it “conflates anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel”.

Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said the motion was “an attempt to discredit the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism” and while “deeply offensive,” he said it came as no surprise.

“UCU has a history of attempting to define anti-Semitism on behalf of the Jewish community as opposed to consulting with them,” he said.

“Thankfully UCU find themselves fighting a losing battle with the IHRA definition having been officially adopted by the Government as well as the Opposition, National Union of Students, the Greater London Assembly, Greater Manchester Combined Authority and numerous other local authorities.”

Board of Deputies’ president Jonathan Arkush condemned the motion, calling it “retrograde and deeply disappointing, not least because of similar motions in the UCU in the past.”

“Despite past form, it beggars belief that anyone in the UCU would want to dictate to Jews what constitutes anti-Semitic abuse against them.”
“This resolution seeks to deny victims of anti-Semitic abuse the right to call it out for what it is – particularly when it is dressed up as extremist and dangerous demonisation of Israel or when Jews are harassed or intimidated because of their connections with Israel.”
“This disgraceful motion – on top of previous UCU efforts – will not prevail. The Jewish community will continue to fight hatred of Jews in all its forms and those that oppose such efforts will continue to discredit themselves.”
“We urge the UCU to confront this pernicious affront to common decency, and stand with the victims of racist abuse, rather than the abusers.”