King’s College London’s (KCL) branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has passed a motion calling on the University to revoke its adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism two years ago.
The motion noted the call by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on universities to adopt the Definition and said that the branch was “gravely concerned” that KCL allegedly adopted the Definition “without concern for its grave implications on critical education and the college’s declared commitment to diversity and inclusion”. It described the Government’s policy (and other Government positions) as “detrimental to academic autonomy, academic freedom” and claimed that they “intimidate and suppress speech of union members and college faculty who work on…Palestine and Israel”.
The motion resolved “to defend and protect academic freedom and reject any attempt at adopting and enforcing the deeply flawed [Definition] and its ‘illustrative examples’. Some of these examples require us to deny or suppress matters of historical record and contemporary reality, which is a breach of the UK’s Equality Act and Human Rights Act.”
The motion also resolved to “defend and protect academics…who teach on Palestine and Israel from any attacks on their academic freedom” and to “urge KCL management” to “reaffirm KCL’s commitment to academic freedom, including freedom of speech…critical of Zionism and Israel” and to “coordinate with other [Higher Education Institutions] in the UK to defend academic freedom and student activism from external and politically motivated attacks, including anti-democratic and top-down directives from Government.”
Finally, the motion resolved to urge KCL to “revoke its adoption” of the Definition and “to submit to the national UCU a motion along the same line as this motion.”
The motion was tabled and passed on Friday.
One Jewish member of the branch reportedly said that “I am so exhausted with having to emotionally respond to people questioning what constitutes antisemitism,” and “that members of my union would go to the trouble of putting forward a motion to reject [the Definition is] quite confronting.” The member added that the motion made them “uncomfortable”.
The member in question had previously left UCU almost twenty years ago over matters relating to Israel and antisemitism but had re-joined since then in order to be represented by the union during pension strikes. It is regrettable that a union, whose primary purpose is to ensure that its members receive equitable treatment at work, has repeatedly found itself making campuses unpleasant for Jewish academics, workers and students.
UCU has a long history of controversy in relation to antisemitism, and has a very poor reputation in the Jewish community.
Binyomin Gilbert, Programme Manager at Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “UCU strikes again. For the umpteenth time, this union has found itself at the centre of an antisemitism controversy. Its reputation in the Jewish community is in the gutter, and this latest motion by one of its branches will do nothing but confirm it as a unwelcoming place for Jews.”
If any students are concerned about antisemitism on campus or need assistance, they can call us on 0330 822 0321, or e-mail [email protected].