Jewish students disappointed over lack of action on ‘Israel lobby’ comment…

Associate Professor Goldie Osuri at the University of Warwick, 30 October 2017: RaftoFoundation/Facebook

JVL Introduction

The campaign to deter criticism of Israel is being ratcheted up, in Britain as well as in the US. It is a serious assault on free speech.

The Jerusalem Post reports here on attempts to get Warwick University to reprimand Associate Professor Goldie Osuri for peddling a “common antisemitic trope” when she referred to the “Israel lobby” and Palestinians having a right to resist occupation.

Accused of spreading “conspiracy theories” for referring to the Israel Lobby’s interference in politics, she made it clear that this was based on the evidence contained in the Al Jazeera programme The Lobby.

And the right to resist occupation is of course enshrined it international law.

This relentless grinding away at the right to free speech is extremely dangerous and we are delighted that Warwick University would have no truck with it.

For a report of how the IHRA definition is being weaponised in the States, the recent webinar moderated by Peter Beinart in conversation with Lara Friedman (Foundation for Middle East Peace) and Liz Jackson (Palestine Legal) is well worth listening to: Social media in the crosshairs: the effort to redefine antisemitism to quash criticism of Israel.

This article was originally published by Jerusalem Post on Fri 4 Sep 2020. Read the original here.

Jewish students disappointed over lack of action on 'Israel lobby' comment

The University of Warwick has ruled that a lecturer who taught students that accusations of antisemitism within the Labour Party were perpetrated by the ‘Israel lobby’ was not being antisemitic.

Jewish students were left “extremely disappointed” this week after the University of Warwick, UK, ruled that comments by a lecturer engaging a well-known antisemitic trope during a lecture constituted “free speech.” Calls have been made for the university to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism.

The comments came last November in a lecture by Dr Goldie Osuri titled “Viral and Transnational (Palestine),” in which she said: “the idea that the Labour Party is antisemitic is very much an Israeli lobby kind of idea, the idea that you want to discredit the Labour Party because there is support for Palestine among some members of the Labour Party.”

Notes accompanying the lecture read: “Palestinians are entirely entitled to resist and oppose the occupation and theft of their homeland by any means they deem necessary,” with examples of resistance cited including: “poems/songs/art/organised activism or militancy.” Other slides appeared to suggest that Israel had influenced the media outlets including the BBC to construct a narrative conflating all Palestinians with Hamas.

Dr Osuri later clarified to student newspaper The Warwick Tab: “My statement in the lecture regarding the claims of rampant antisemitism in the Labour party as an ‘Israeli lobby kind of idea’ is a reference to Israeli attempts to infiltrate British politics documented by Al Jazeera.

“This ‘Israeli lobby kind of idea’ is a reference to the attempt to smear any debate or discussion regarding Palestinian self-determination and human rights or criticism of the state of Israel as ‘antisemitism'”

She added that she believed antisemitism is “absolutely wrong in any form” and that she had “explicitly explained the distinction between antisemitism and anti-Zionism in the lecture.”

The Jewish Israeli Society (JISoc) Warwick and Union of Jewish Students (UJS) responded to the lecture by filing a complaint, saying at the time: “There can be no excuse from an academic at such a prestigious university to spread conspiracy theories associated with classic antisemitism … We are also appalled to hear Dr Osuri share support for acts of violence against civilians perpetrated by terrorist organisations.”

The matter has prompted calls for the University to adopt the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism, which explicitly states that “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” is an example of antisemitism.

In a debate at the Houses of Parliament in March, Jonathan Gullis MP highlighted the case, telling fellow members of Parliament that the university’s failure to adopt the IHRA’s definition was an “absolute abomination.”

A formal investigation by the head of the department in January found that Osuri’s comments “opened up the space for dialogue and discussion as would be expected in an academic environment and that the statement made in the lecture holds within the principles and values of tolerance and free speech” – a decision labelled “immensely disappointing” by Warwick JISoc president Angus Taylor, who appealed the decision.

However, in a letter received by Taylor this week, the University’s Provost, Professor Christine Ennew, wrote that there were “insufficient grounds to progress the complaint,” and that the process for doing so was now exhausted.

In a statement posted to Facebook, JISoc Warwick wrote: “We’re incredibly disappointed to see the University of Warwick failing to support Jewish students yet again.

“Despite clear evidence of problems in the disciplinary proceedings, the University has decided that they know better than Jewish students and communal leaders on what is antisemitic, and come to a conclusion which does nothing to reduce the worries of Jewish students on campus.”

“It’s only become clearer how important it is for minority students to be able to define their own oppression, and for the university to adopt specific definitions of racism like IHRA.

JISoc officer Toby Kunin told Jewish News: “Goldie Osuri’s suggestion that allegations of anti-Jewish racism in the Labour Party are ‘an Israeli lobby kind of idea’ is a deeply antisemitic trope.

“The University’s refusal to investigate this, never mind the clear conflict of interest at Stage Two, adds further insult to injury for Jewish students at Warwick. It is becoming undoubtedly clear that the University is institutionally antisemitic.”

UJS campaigns officer Bradley Langer said the university had “failed to deal with accusations of antisemitism on their campus,” adding: “This shows the importance of why all universities need to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, in order to protect Jewish students on their campus from anti-Jewish racism.”

The two societies plan to escalate the matter to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.

Comments (23)

  • Roshan Pedder says:

    Even though we should take heart that the University did not capitulate to the pressure, it is an ongoing process of intimidation by stealth. Anyone who thinks that the Israeli hasbara groups and their supporters have given up the battle now that they got rid of Corbyn, are living in hope and not reality.

  • As a graduate of Warwick, I’m very proud of my alma mater – delighted to see them stand up to this nonsense.

  • Illinois Cook says:

    Absolutely correct, Roshan.

  • Janet Watson says:

    Thank you, JVL, for keeping us up to date. We are living in terrifying times

  • Allan Howard says:

    It’s ironic, but these people who are so quick to shout ‘anti-semitic’ and ‘institutionally anti-semitic’, are undoubtedly causing and creating a lot of ill feeling towards the Jewish population, both here, and in the States.

    At this rate, it won’t be long before they’ve got practically the whole world ‘designated’ as anti-semitic!.

  • Abe Hayeem says:

    To describe talking about the ‘Israel lobby’ as a ‘deeply antisemitic trope’ is taking the IHRA definition to the most absurd and ridiculous limits. It will soon be deemed antisemitic and a blasphemy to even mention the words-
    Israel, lobby, Zionist, or question even the tamest criticism of Israel.
    The howls of condemnation from so many quarters in fact prove there is a strong and ever present Israel lobby. It is literally everywhere. The Al Jazeera documentaries in both the UK and the US shows its all pervasiveness and its close collaboration with the Israeli Embassies.
    AIPAC proudly calls itself a lobby for Israel. Trump sneeringly provoked American Jews as not being as supportive of Israel as the Evangelicals. Everyone knows that it is an accepted term to denote the wide circle of organisations, Jewish and non-Jewish, including vast swathes of the political, social and cultural elites who unswervingly back Israel to the hilt, perpetuating its myths and hasbara. 80% of Conservative MPs belong to Conservative Friends of Israel, and now a large number of the shadow cabinet of Labour have become Vice-Chairs of LFI. In fact, it may soon well be deemed antisemitic if you do NOT belong to such groups.
    What is clear, is that the Jewish Students at universities, who have been well trained in Israel advocacy, are determined to shut down all discussion and descriptions of the dire political situation and brutal occupation of Palestine as antisemitic. What are called tropes are actual facts that have been confirmed by the UN and human rights organisations and historians and political commentators. Israel IS a racist state by its nation State laws and discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens let alone in the OPTs. It does practice apartheid that is comparable if not more severe than it was in South Africa as confirmed by most political leaders of that era. The Palestinians have a right to resist the occupation and oppression under international law and the UN Charter.If Israel deploys extreme military means to oppress and terrorise them, they have a right to resist in whatever means they consider necessary to obtain their freedom and justice. It is usually non-violent, as is BDS, but they are pushed to using violence some times in extremis.
    This is truly Orwellian and must be faced with determination and collective will.

  • Alan Stanton says:

    It is frightening that the proponents of these attempts to attack Academic Freedom and to gag and chill free speech don’t seem to realise the dangerous undemocratic path they are treading.

  • Hazel Seidel says:

    If Dr Osuri referred to the ‘Israel lobby’ without explaining the rather thin evidence in ‘The Lobby’ film, and without balancing with other views and actual evidence of antisemitism in Labour, she is a poor teacher and certainly could be suspected of spreading conspiracy theory.

  • DJ says:

    Hazel Seidel. You refer to, “actual evidence of antisemitism in Labour” Do you honestly believe there is evidence of much antisemitism in the Labour Party?

  • Anthony Baldwin says:

    I note that Hazel Seidel of Socialists against Anti-Semitism is attacking this event on the same grounds that she has recently attacked my posts on Facebook.
    Others gave also tried to belittle the 100% honest reporting of how ‘The Lobby’ works throughout the Western World.
    The evidence of anti-semitism in Labour that she espouses is down not to expressed ‘hatred of Jews because they are Jews’ but because there are so many of us who will call out the hypocrisy and bigotry of those like Hazel who rely on the latter clauses of the IHRA extensions.
    Thee have only one purpose and that is to close down free speech and the ability to hold the Apartheid State, as defined by its Nation State Law, to account when it so obviously commits racist attacks on a daily basis against the Palestinian people.
    Such actions are an appalling political act in defence of a political entity the Apartheid State of Israel.

  • Peter White says:

    These students need to understand that the IHRA doesn’t eliminate the nigh on 50 year academic debate around the ‘New Antisemitism’ as much as they would like it to. Full respect to the University for standing their ground.

  • George Porter says:

    “actual evidence of antisemitism in Labour” is even thinner.

  • Allan Howard says:

    Alan, they know EXACTLY what they are doing. Most people don’t realise or understand that ALL Elites the world over are inherently fascistic, even though – by their actions – it is staring us in the face (needless to say I’m referring to so-called democracies). During the past five years (in this country) they ‘transformed’ Jeremy Corbyn into an anti-semite, and the left membership into bullies and thugs and homophobes, as well as anti-semites of course. And in the 1980s, for example, they carried out a campaign of virulent and poisonous black propaganda against Ken Livingstone and his GLC administration, and then finally abolished the GLC, along with the six Metropolitan County Council which just happened to ALSO be under the control of left-wing administrations at the time. And THAT, and what they did to Jeremy (and the left membership) tells you ALL you need to know about what ‘they’ think of democracy.

  • Martin Read says:

    Hazel, I’m hoping you’ve actually watched ‘The Lobby.’ Some of the incidents documented seemed quite damming of the Israeli Lobby. Much of what was done was blatant, almost blaze. If one watches the whole 4 part documentary it seems to suggest that there is a great deal of confidence amongst the protagonists, almost as if they realise that a wide swathe of the MSM will be turning a blind eye, regardless of the clumsiness of any scheming.
    With regards to ‘balance,’ that’s rather the point of ‘The Lobby,’ to attempt to balance the UK’s right-wing media.

  • Chris Proffitt says:

    I too am so disappointed to find that young student minds are already so closed…what chance does humanity have? Perhaps on their reading lists there should be books such as ‘On Palestine’ by Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe. Not until you walk in another man’s shoes can you understand him. I hope all Universities hold their ground otherwise free speech definitely has died

  • Steve Abbott says:

    Thank goodness sanity at Warwick prevailed. I applaud their steadfastness in the face of forces of darkness. I only hope other institutions of learning, free thought, and free speech are as determined to resist this garbage. The Israel Lobby is doing terrible damage, to UK democracy, free speech, and of course the Jewish community here and in the US. It constantly reinforces the right wing trope that shadowy Jewish groups use dark methods to achieve dark ends that are inconsistent with the interests of the nations they live in. It also horribly alienates the left, who have always been the first at the barricades when the Jewish community have faced real threats, as opposed to confected ones. What was done to the Labour Party by these charlatans was nothing short of depraved. They helped to saddle us all with an atrocious right wing Govt, and put the Jewish community here at risk, all in the service of a murderous foreign Govt. The previous contributors reply is beyond risible. a) 0.05% of Labour Party membership accused of ‘actual’ antisemitism is almost statistically insignificant (though of course every accusation must be taken seriously, and result in severe sanction if proved), and falls so far short of a ‘crisis’ that those making such claims prove only that their own chutzpah knows no limits. b) We didn’t need the Al Jazeera film to show us the reality of the Israel Lobby. They operate pretty much in plain sight. BOD, LFI, CFI, JLM, CAA, Jewish Chronicle et al. We know who they are, we know what they do, and we know why they do it.

  • RH says:

    Like Catherine Belsey (above), I am relieved that my university has resisted the Israel Lobby.

    Have the students involved in making a complaint not clocked that they have just proved that the Lobby is no ‘antisemitic’ fiction or trope, but a real repressive entity?

  • Les Hartop says:

    Hazel Seidel is being disingenuous when she says The Lobby provides ‘thin evidence’ of conspiracy.

    Few things are likely to fuel theories about Jewish conspiracies than real conspiracies involving personel from the Israeli embassy. Such a dangerous tactic.

    Is it time to take the offensive a start a campaign to designate the Israeli army as a terrorist organisation ?

  • James Dickins says:

    “the rather thin evidence in ‘The Lobby’ film” – Helen Seidel (comment above)
    In fact, the evidence in the Lobby is absolutely damning. People can watch the four episodes – and therefore judge for themselves – here:

    The so-called ‘Campaign Against Antisemitism’ (oh no, it doesn’t!: took Aljazeera to court for the Lobby, alleging antisemitism – and lost:

  • steve mitchell says:

    I believe “the Lobby” reveals conclusive proof of an ongoing plan to prevent criticism of the State of Israel in any form.

  • steve mitchell says:

    If the evidence in the “Lobby” was thin what about the BBC documentary which smeared the Labour Party on antisemitism…

  • Jo Beatrice Laverson says:

    Dear JVL,

    Thank you for highlighting this case. It is astonishing that Dr Goldie Osuri should have endured this. Sadly, Israel’s current government does not believe in the right for Palestine to exist, Prime Minister Netanyahu objects to 100s of UN Resolutions and the two-state solution. For Prime Minister Netanyahu to still believe in the illegal annexation of the West Bank, is appalling.

    Palestinians do not live as equals in the Holy Land. The population of the two people in the Holy Land is on a par, between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean, but the Palestinians are subjected to siege, cruel house demolitions, land confiscation, incitement and price tag killings, as well as seeing illegal settler only roads and settler only settlements mushrooming on West Bank land.

    Both the Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in peace and security, and with dignity. However Prime Minister Netanyahu does not accept Palestinian rights and it is correct for those opposed to Israel’s government and terrible policies towards the Palestinians.

    Thank you.

    Best wishes
    Jo Betty

  • DJ says:

    It’s interesting to read about so called”cancel culture”on student campuses. The Tories make a point about the need for free speech and debate at universities. Unfortunately they are rather selective about this. They are trying to bully universities to adopt the IHRA misdefinition of antisemitism. Free speech on Israel is not OK then. Victimising and sacking staff who exercise this right presumably is acceptable to them for speaking “out of terms” on Israel. Cancelling pro Palestinian events is also perfectly reasonable if it might offend some pro Israeli students. How ridiculous!

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