Jewish Activist Defends MPACUK

Tony Greenstein, a founding member of Palestine Solidarity Campaign and a member of Jews Against Zionism, writes a fantastic eye-opening piece whereby he exposes the UJS’s (Union of “Jewish” Students) close connections with and loyalties to Israel. He vindicates MPACUK”s clear and unequivocal stance on the tragedy of the Holocaust, despite the UJS and other pro-Israeli lobbies instigating smear campaigns in an attempt to discredit the organisation and halt its work of tackling extermism, lack of womens rights, political engagement, inter-faith dialogue as well as many other projects.

MPACUK is against all types of racism and condemns anyone who is or supports an oppressor like Israel.

Vetting in Practice

One of the most damning conclusions of the all-parliamentary inquiry into anti-semitism was that “Jewish students feel disproportionately threatened in British universities” (page 54, paragraph 25). Yet in his evidence to the inquiry, Mitch Simmons of the Union of Jewish Students admitted that when it comes to actual anti-semitic incidents, there were only 11 in one year, most of which, even if true, were relatively trivial.

The real concern of Simmons and the UJS, as described in the evidence, was the “anti-semitism” of “the far left and pro-Palestinian groups” rather than the BNP and neo-Nazis.

As Simmons made clear: “It is the view of the UJS that certain views are not acceptable under free speech.” Leaving aside whether the UJS is the best arbiter of what is acceptable, Simmons was not talking about Holocaust denial but the banning of a speech by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee by Westminster University authorities. Simmons also cited the practice of Birmingham University that two weeks” notice must be given of visiting speakers “so that the university can vet them”.

This attempt to police what is and is not acceptable on the campuses of British universities should be worrying to all who believe in free and open debate.

Yet one might have expected that what happened recently at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London would have greatly disturbed the UJS. According to the chair of the Jewish Society, Emma Clyne, posters for a meeting the society put on were repeatedly torn down. Ms Clyne told a meeting of Independent Jewish Voices on May 15 that she had to put new ones up every day.

The UJS not raised its customary hue and cry about this. A clue as to the reason for its silence might lie in a short article in the Jewish Chronicle of April 27 (“Students in censorship row over IJV debate”).

When the Jewish Society at Soas proposed holding a meeting with speakers from IJV, including Brian Klug, Sir Geoffrey Bindman and Professors Donald Sassoon and Jacqueline Rose, the UJS sought to prevent the meeting on the grounds that it was “propaganda for a particular viewpoint”. When this ploy failed, Simmons sought to “balance” the speakers” panel – something the UJS has never attempted with pro-Zionist speakers.

Ms Clyne has come under considerable pressure ever since taking up the chair of the Jewish Society at Soas. When the UJS tried to offload a weighty stack of pro-Israeli propaganda for freshers, she suggested that it might be more suitable for an Israeli society rather than a Jewish society.

Attacks on the free speech of anti-Zionists and supporters of the Palestinians are par for the course. For example, the parliamentary inquiry took on trust the allegations of Mitch Simmons that the Muslim public affairs committee believes Holocaust-denial material to be “acceptable” – though a cursory search of MPAC”s website demonstrates otherwise: “If anyone denies the Holocaust they are very wrong – Holocaust denial is an evil that must be opposed.”

The inquiry report took the allegations of the UJS that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-semitism at face value, without seeking the opinion even of its Jewish critics, with the sole exception of Brian Klug. The idea of looking for conflicting opinions and confirmatory evidence must have seemed like an alien practice. The result is that MacShane”s report makes Tony Blair”s dodgy dossier look like a model of good practice.

The UJS is an organisation whose primary purpose is defence of Israel, right or wrong. It has consistently sought to portray opponents, especially Jewish anti-Zionists, as anti-semites. That is why it receives, according to the Jewish Chronicle (May 11) hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Silencing opponents of Zionism and supporters of the Palestinians is its stock-in-trade. I have personally spoken on most major university campuses in Britain and I cannot remember an occasion when the UJS didn”t try to prevent the meeting going ahead.

On one occasion I was invited to speak at the London School of Economics by the Palestine Society. A sustained campaign of disinformation by the UJS followed. Unlike Dennis MacShane”s committee, the LSE Labour Club decided to investigate the allegations and found them wanting. What happened next was surreal. Members of the Labour Club”s executive were also accused of anti-semitism.

The only effect of making such unfounded allegations of anti-semitism is, as Antony Lerman of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research has said, to drain anti-semitism of all meaning. If you cry wolf long and loud enough, when anti-semitism does raise its head no one will bat an eyelid.

The UJS portrays itself as the representative of Jewish students. But this is only true in respect of Jewish students who are Zionist. It receives, by student standards, massive amounts of money in order to wage a battle against any expression of support for the Palestinians or opposition to Zionism. It sloganises about “mutual recognition” but has never opposed, for example, the settlements in the Occupied Territories, the use of torture on Palestinian detainees or house demolitions.

The UJS is the student wing of the Jewish establishment. It clearly has very close connections with the Israeli state. Taking advice from the UJS on anti-semitism, as McShane”s parliamentary inquiry has done is akin to taking advice from Dracula on the merits of a balanced diet.

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