Smear, sneer and snide innuendo

JVL Introduction


Jon Berry is an academic at the University of Hertfordshire and with long membership of and activism in the teachers’ union, now the NEU.

A friend drew his attention to a web discussion for members of the NEU who were “concerned about the NEU’s anti-Israel stance and their failure to take Jewish members’ complaints seriously”.

He attempted to take part in the meeting but was sent no details as to how to register. When he pursued the matter he was told he had been rejected because ‘the content of your blog suggested you weren’t supportive of the aims of the group.’

Galvanised by this bizarre response he wrote to the sponsoring groups: We Believe in Israel, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, British Israel Trade Union Dialogue, and PaJes: Partnerships for Jewish Schools (a division of the Jewish Leadership Council).

Here he takes up the story…

This article was originally published by radicalreadblog on Sun 20 Jun 2021. Read the original here.

Smear, sneer and snide innuendo: the stock in trade of the Deputies and their allies

I’ve never bought into the false notion that the personal is political, but the following post does cross the boundary between the two.

This is an unedifying tale and an illuminating one. It tells of the reckless way in which half-baked accusations of anti-Semitism are now the stock-in-trade of some organisations.

On Sunday 5 June, a friend of mine forwarded the flyer above. During my 45 years of very active membership of the NUT, now the NEU, I have endured many periods of concern about a whole range of union-related issues. I’d venture to say that in, literally, thousands of hours of meetings with members, interminable consultations and negotiations with employers and inestimable conversations with individuals, there’s not much in the world of schools, teachers and teaching that I haven’t come across. Some of it would make your eyes water: I might write a book about it one day.

What I’ve never heard, though, is concern expressed about the union’s ‘anti-Israel stance’. What’s more, I’ve never come across a single instance of a member suggesting that any complaint about anything was not being taken seriously. So, as instructed by the flyer, I emailed rachelk to find out what I was missing and asked to join the meeting. I thought it prudent to let her know of my Jewish heritage and of the fact that I am a life-member of the NEU in recognition of my service to the union.

I received no details of how to join the meeting. On the morning of Tuesday 8 June, I emailed rachelk to ask why and was told that I hadn’t been given the link because ‘the content of your blog suggested you weren’t supportive of the aims of the group.’ I’d been vetted: who knew I was worth taking so much trouble over? And since when was potential dissent the reason for exclusion from discussion?

Who, precisely, are the people in rachelk’s ‘group’? There are four organisations, three of whom I’ve never heard of – although that may be by way of admission on my part. I know about the Board of Deputies; it has its own dishonourable profile. Purporting, somewhat vaingloriously, to speak for all Jewish people in the UK, it also revels in its inglorious history of having been absent from every active mobilisation against organised fascists in this country for the best part of a century. A squint at the websites of the other three reveals ‘organisations’ that look like they’re run from someone’s spare bedroom: outdated information, clunky graphics, thin stories from unaccredited sources.

As I’d been barred from the meeting, I wrote to the ‘group’ as a collective to ask two simple questions: what had led them to believe that the NEU had adopted ‘an anti-Israel stance’ and how many recorded complaints did they believe had been mishandled by the union? I also wanted to know whether anyone responsible for calling the meeting was an NEU member. I’ll do some real slashing of a long story from this point.

The only person to respond was Rabbi David Meyer of the Partnership for Jewish Schools. He didn’t answer the questions or provide any evidence but was nevertheless confident enough to assert that he did ‘not find it surprising that many teachers are uncomfortable with the approach the NEU has taken.’ I repeat, I’m cutting it all short and, to his credit, at least Rabbi Meyer made some sort of fist of standing by his organisation’s claims. However, our correspondence terminated with him telling me that as I was ‘not an official representative of NEU’ he would not be responding further. He told me that should the joint leaders of the union contact him, he would be happy to meet them. I then chanced one further question: if either of these people asked the same questions, would he give them the direct answers which he had chosen not to give me? The rest is silence.

In a final attempt to squeeze any credible evidence from the parties who had called this meeting, I wrote to them again with the undertaking that I would not put this story into the public domain if they were to respond within the next three days. Again, resolute silence.

So, this blog post is for you – The Board of Deputies of British Jews, Britain Israel Trade Union Dialogue, We Believe in Israel and, with a faint nod of appreciation for showing a modicum of courtesy, The Partnership for Jewish Schools. Like so many before you in recent years, you have carelessly lobbed the grenade of innuendo and implied accusation to further your own political ends and to discredit those who oppose your views. In this case, you’ve thrown it at a body which works tirelessly to protect teachers and, most importantly, simply has no competitor in terms of actively campaigning for equality and against discrimination and injustice. When asked to substantiate your accusations you have remained dumbly silent. And if that’s not a matter of concern to you, then I suggest your moral compass is irretrievably broken.

(This article was corrected on 1 July 2021 to address the inaccuracy about elections to the Board of Deputies)

Three emails from Jon Berry, 13th, 16th and 20th June to the meeting organisers

From: Jon Berry
Sent: 20 June 2021 09:01
To: [email protected]; Rachel Kaye <[email protected]>; [email protected]; [email protected]
Subject: RE: Meeting for NEU members: 7 June 2021

Dear colleagues,

As you have chosen not to respond to my mail of 16 June, I have now published this blog post on those platforms to which I have access.

I have done so in the hope – probably entirely misplaced – that it may make you think twice before recklessly spraying around unsubstantiated innuendo about any left-leaning organisations or individuals. Those who support Palestinian rights are not, by definition, anti-Semitic.

My grandparents escaped Russian pogroms, my father the Nazi invasion of Austria. The lesson I learnt from that was to stand up, verbally, physically and organisationally against anti-Semites. The support of the NUT/NEU in doing so has been unwavering.

Your observation that I am not an official representative is risible. I was a senior lay official of NUT/NEU for 25 years and since leaving school teaching have served the union as an adviser and independent arbiter as well as writing several publications for it. I count many of its senior officials as friends and highly valued colleagues. This service is recognised in my gift of life-membership from the union.

Your cowardly refusal to enter into dialogue should be a matter of shame for you.

Yours faithfully

Jon Berry

From: Jon Berry
Sent: 16 June 2021 14:11
To:[email protected]‘ <[email protected]>; ‘Rachel Kaye’ <[email protected]>; ‘[email protected]‘ <[email protected]>; ‘[email protected]‘ <[email protected]>
Subject: RE: Meeting for NEU members: 7 June 2021

Dear colleagues,

Further to my correspondence with you which began on 13 June, I have been afforded a response from Rabbi Meyer with whom I have since entered into correspondence, albeit not in a particularly illuminating way.

I am hoping to hear from you before the end of business on Friday of this week – 18 June. I will not make any statement that goes into the public domain before that time.

Yours faithfully

Jon Berry

From: Jon Berry
Sent: 13 June 2021 09:32
To: [email protected]; Rachel Kaye <[email protected]>; [email protected]; [email protected]
Subject: Meeting for NEU members: 7 June 2021

Dear colleagues,

I was sent notice of the meeting on 7 June – flyer attached – by an NEU colleague. As  a Jewish teacher, a member of NEU/NUT since 1976  and, indeed, a life-member in recognition of my service to the union, I was intrigued by its content.

To cut a long story short, I asked Rachel Kaye for admittance to the meeting, received no response and, when I pursued this, was told that the contents of my politics blog (link below) indicated that I was inimical to the purpose of the meeting and was so refused entry.  I have to observe that I find that an extraordinary response on a number of levels, possibly to be pursed, dependent on the nature of your response to this correspondence.

I went on to ask, perfectly properly, whether Rachel Kaye was an NEU member and, as yet, have received no response. Given that notice of this meeting went out over her name, I do not consider this an unreasonable request.

Given that I was unable to attend the meeting, I would be grateful for your responses to these two questions:

  1. What has led your organisations to draw the conclusion that the NEU has adopted an ‘anti-Israel stance’?
  2. How many recorded – or even anecdotal – instances do you believe to have occurred where the complaints of Jewish members have not been taken seriously by the union?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully

Jon Berry

Dr Jon Berry

Don’t go back to normal: normal was the problem

University of Hertfordshire

See my blog here:

Visit my author profile here


Comments (8)

  • Kuhnberg says:

    It is understandable why a group of supporters of apartheid/ethnic cleansing who have dropped a shameful episode of Zionist history in a memory hole should be reluctant to see their narrative subjected to critical scrutiny. The facts of what s currently going on in I/P is another area they will wish to shield from view. But facts these days are recorded and shared by too many people to be buried with any succss.

    Those who refuse to debate a contentious issue have always got something dishonorable to hide.

  • Mary M Dwyer says:

    Well said Jon Berry. Solidarity – Mary x

  • Fran Heron says:

    Another illuminating narrative of the workings of the BoD and other Jewish Groupings. I wish Dr Jon Berry every success with his endeavours to uncover the facts underlying the smears and innuendos referred to in the flyer for the meeting.

    Academics in the cross-hairs and now the NEU bereft of any open clear democratic debate.

    All of my Jewish friends and colleagues are deeply troubled by organisations who claim to speak on behalf of all Jews when that is patently ridiculous. Like any other cohort of people there are a wide range of views and opinions among Jews.

    I repeat my support for all those being unjustly targetted and branded as antisemetic for political purposes in an extremely chilling manner.

    Fran Heron

  • Linda says:

    Thanks Jon for taking up the cudgels and trying to get reasonable answers to reasonable questions.

    I’m wondering what on earth CAN be done to stop what seems like the socially effective “5 Minute Hate” campaigns in Orwell’s “1984”?

    Would NEU be prepared to sue, do you think? When “education” and reasonableness fail, often aggressors carry on with bullying if it serves their needs and there are no adverse consequences for them.

  • Rodney Watts says:

    This piece reads like a sequel to the earlier drama in which the UKLFI, the BoD and certain individuals of the ‘Jewish defence Forces’, whilst having persuaded Pearson to revise GCSE Middle East Conflict textbooks to convert them to Israeli Hasbara, were then uncovered by Professors Chalcraft and Dickins’ report for BRICUP.

    I am not surprised at all when Jon got no response from three of the parties, including We Believe in Israel and the BoD. Neither of their websites currently has a word to say about this endeavour with the NEU. Interestingly Marie van der Zyl wrote a letter to the gen. secs. of NEU on 9th June complaining of the NEU member who has organised ‘understanding antisemitism’ workshops being an antisemite. It is a very large link but anyone interested just google ‘board of deputies neu’. Doesn’t look as though she got a reply. It is also noteworthy that whilst the appeal on Twitter for NEU Jewish members to report their antisemitic experiences, seems to have had little or no response, a JC tweet, a few days ago, complaining that the train drivers union published an article saying ‘Zionism is racism’ had few supporters but many agreed with the union.
    Times they are a changin!

    Please could I also add an appeal for people to sign the petition by prof. James Dickins to Pearson to reissue corrected versions of the GCSE textbooks?

  • Linda says:

    A sideways-on take to the present discussion …

    I noticed in a back copy of “The Friend” (the Quakers’ newsletter) a small, objective feature on the Jerusalem Declaration defining what antisemitism is and is not. It struck me that there are many “faith” newsletters in the UK, they reach people serious about their own faith and interested in others’. Would JVL be prepared to undertake the work of sending the JVL article on the Jerusalem Declaration to credible and respectful faith newsletters with permission to use it in their own media? It would be one way of getting the message out and evading the censorship of the “Guardian”!

  • Sara says:

    Solidarity and much Respect. The vile smears and lies from these awful organisations and Zionist supporters against really good people on the left is horrific and insidious. Their silence on the real right wing racists is deafening and shameful.

  • Graeme Atky says:

    The Labour Party under Keir and his Starmtroopers is rapidly turning into a gangster organisation.

Comments are now closed.