Their letter of resignation says, "We are all members of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, the representative council for Scotland's Jewish communities. Now that UCU has adopted a racist policy towards Jews, these positions have become incompatible. We are resigning in consequence."
Their move was prompted by the decision of the Union's recent Congress to repudiate the definition of antisemitism proposed by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, on the grounds that it regards certain kinds of criticism of Israel, such as using traditional antisemitic stereotypes, as antisemitic. Their resignation letter points out that “antisemitism is often presented covertly – holocaust denial is an example – and it has become common for antisemitic comments to be masquerade as comments about Israel. The issues identified by the EUMC, such as ‘holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel’, have been at the root of intimidation and harassment of Jews in Britain, and by claiming that the effect of the EUMC definition is to ‘silence debate’”, they say, “UCU is claiming a licence to vilify Jews in service of its political aims”.
They also point out that the problems identified in the EUMC definition are all problems of which the Jewish community is acutely aware, so that the denial of those problems is a denial of our experience. That meets the test established by the Macpherson Report into the murder of Steven Lawrence, that "a racist incident is any incident that is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person". Because the UCU resolution singles out only one kind of racism – antisemitism – that they want to exempt from this principle, it is itself antisemitic.
SCoJeC does not take a position on matters relating to Israel unless they impinge on Jewish people in Scotland. The UCU decision does just that. Jewish students and the Jewish student Chaplain told the SCoJeC AGM about their experiences of clearly antisemitic incidents masquerading as anti-Zionism on a number of Scottish campuses, and reported that the hostility and stridency experienced by Jewish students are discouraging their participation and engagement in communal activity while at University. There was therefore concern that the UCU decision could deter academics from offering support to students when they are attacked. Consequently, a special meeting of the Council immediately following the AGM unanimously resolved that membership of UCU has now become incompatible with holding a representative position in the Community, and approved their resignation en bloc in the Council’s name.
It was also resolved to write to the Principals of all Scottish universities, alerting them to the problem, and asking them to consider whether their relationship with UCU is compatible with their Equality Duty under the 2010 Equality Act, which “requires public authorities to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity, and foster good relations”.
Click here to hear a BBC Radio Scotland interview with SCoJeC Chair Prof Paul Spicker.