Friday, June 05, 2009

Solidarity with Anti-Semites

The UCL branch of the UCU has apparently unanimously voted to stand by its branch secretary, Sean Wallis, who has been harshly criticized for anti-Semitic statements at a BRICUP fringe meeting outside the UCU. Wallis claimed that the legal threats directed at the boycott movement stemmed from lawyers backed by those with "bank balances from Lehman Brothers that can’t be tracked down." Wallis does not appear to deny saying the words, but claims there is nothing anti-Semitic about them. However, he has never given an alternative account for what the statement could possibly be except a reference to thieving Jewish financiers; more particularly, a myth that Jewish bankers looted Lehman Brothers prior to its collapse and routed the money to Israel. Indeed, he has persistently refused to answer queries inviting him to clarify or otherwise contextualize his remarks.

This decision by the UCL UCU, paired with the UCU's proud refusal to examine anti-Semitism in its ranks, is unbelievably infuriating. It's as if a union of broadcasters voted to unanimously to back Don Imus and claim that there was nothing racist in his words. I am sick of this leftist conceit that says that just because you say you're opposed to anti-Semitism (and you have chic positions on other issues), that's the end of the matter, and any claims of anti-Semitism are irrational neurosis or bad-faith distractions. Everyone says they're opposed to anti-Semitism. Yet, intriguingly, Jews don't seem to experience it that way -- which given proper humility and truly egalitarian attitudes, would trigger introspection and self-questioning. Alas, it never does. Surely Wallis knows more about opposing anti-Semitism than Zionist Jews ever could!

In not unrelated news, tireless boycott opponent Jon Pike has resigned from the National Executive of the UCU. His stated reasons are numerous, ranging from the adamant refusal of the leadership to put controversial issues to a full membership ballot, to general anti-democratic practices, to the stifling of academic freedom norms, to the leadership's defiant refusal to examine anti-Semitism in its ranks. Normblog laments what the UCU has lost; and to be sure, it has lost a great deal. I wish that Dr. Pike had continued his fight -- the voices of light need a voice even in the darkest of places. But it isn't his obligation. Nobody has an obligation to continually put himself in a place where his equal dignity, worth, and human rights are constantly up for question. It is a superobligation, and we should be thankful Dr. Pike took up the burden for as long as he did.

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