My speech against the UCU’s junking of EUMC antisemitism definition

I have been notified that I have been expelled from the Labour Party. The expulsion appears to have happened a few hours before hustings contribution on Question Time on Thursday, 8th September. In his contribution Owen Smith renewed attacks on the AWL started by Tom Watson on 15th August. He made a slanderous accusation that the AWL was anti-Semitic.

I cannot discount that my expulsion is not unconnected with Owen Smith’s attack. I know that the AWL as well as myself have campaigned against antisemitism for decades. As evidence of some of my work confronting anti-Semitism within the labour movement I am republishing my speech to the UCU congress of 2011 and some background to its context

Below is the text of the speech made against the UCUs explicit rejection of the EUMC definitions of antisemitism at its congress on May 30 2011. The motion to reject this definition of anti-semitism, explicitly motivated to support Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas ideologue, Azzam Tamimi, was unfortunately passed overwhelmingly.

At the time of writing it was not known what the alleged use of the EUMC definition referred to. As it was regarding Azzam Tamimi, who has argued that those who live now in Israel who were emigrants from the wartime concentration camps should go back to Ukraine and Poland, a clearly antisemitic assertion, if I had known that, my speech would probably have been rewritten drawing attention to Tamimi’s politics.

Probably only half a dozen against in a conference hall voted against the motion where probably more than a third of delegates had left.

“Those arguing for the motion say that this definition intimidates free debate on the Palestine/ Israel issue. No definition of any form of racism can ever prevent misuse. Each time an accusation of racism is made, of whatever form it should always be assessed by the specifics of its application. Who makes it, can they justify it? In particular does it crudely generalise a condemnation of a part of the people onto a whole people, nation or race?

The fact that definitions of antisemitism may have been misused is no argument that definitions are wrong or that it should not be used.

What does this definition actually say?

The most controversial part appears to be where it says that those who claim that ‘the existence – THE EXISTENCE – of the Israeli state is a racist endeavour’ are antisemitic.

Consider the refuseniks who serve prison sentences because of their opposition to the racist Israeli government’s repression in Gaza and the West Bank.

Consider the left wing peace movement Gush Shalom who advocate a withdrawal from the occupied territories and who as Sue Blackwell pointed out yesterday are being threatened by their government.

The definition means that to call people such as the refuseniks and Gush Shalom racists is an antisemitic act. And that is entirely right.

To blur the distinction between the racist Israeli government and a huge proportion of the Israeli people who oppose it IS antisemitic.

Comrades we should be endorsing this definition not condemning it.

Finally comrades bear this thing in mind. We know yesterday and from leaflets distributed today that we are probably going to have a fiercely contested General Secretary election. Partly because of this, but more importantly because of the inevitable attention that will be given to any union so prominently in opposition to this government as our own, we need to take care.
The business of our congress has never more been in the public eye. Do we really want to give enemies of our union the gift of seeming to think that antisemitism is not a problem.

It is a problem!”


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