Jewish social workers left ‘scared’ over colleagues response to antisemitism

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Jewish social workers left ‘scared’ over colleagues response to antisemitism

EXCLUSIVE Dr Paul Shuttleworth, from UK Jewish Social Worker Group, says:'It's uncomfortable being a Jewish social worker .. non-Jews are deciding whether we are allowed to define antisemitism'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Jewish social workers have admitted they are being left “scared” and “uncomfortable” by the response of their colleagues to their attempts to combat antisemitism.

A motion tabled for debate at this week’s British Association of Social Workers (BASW) conference, backed by the Social Workers Union, (SWU) calls for the body to “suspend the decision to endorse the IHRA definition of antisemitism.”

Meanwhile, a podcast in which two Jewish social workers discussed their experiences of antisemitism, produced in conjunction with the Community Security Trust, was taken down by BASW officials, in response to a complaint from a Palestinian campaigner suggesting the recording “seeks to confuse criticism of apartheid Israel with antisemitism.”

In a response to last October’s podcast dispute, the newly former Social Worker Jewish Group, set up to represent those from the community who practice the profession, issued a statement saying:”Sadly, we expected these types of complaints because the podcast was the first to ever talk about antisemitism and social work, with two Jewish people talking about their experiences.

“We expected attempts to censor, silence, intimidate, and cancel Jewish voices and opinions.”

The podcast was eventually aired again, but a section in which Jewish voices explained how the chant “Free Palestine” could leave them concerned on occasions, was cut from the podcast.

Dr Paul Shuttleworth, a lecturer and tutor for Sussex University an an independent social work practitioner, tweeted on Wednesday: “It’s uncomfortable being a Jewish social worker at the moment.
“We are not being listened to and non-Jews are deciding whether we are allowed to define antisemitism. Yes this is real.”

Shuttleworth also referred to the motion at this week’s conference calling for the IHRA definition to be dropped.

He wrote: “It puts Jewish experience up for debate by non-Jews”, before adding that “when two Jews talk on a social work podcast, it is removed and edited/censored.”

Another social worker who asked to remain anonymous, told Jewish News:”The climate for those of us identifying as Jewish in the industry has never been worse.

“It started with the idea that because many Jews were not people of colour, they could not understand what racism was.

“From here it has just got worse.”

A CST spokesperson also confirmed:”CST stands by everything we said in the podcast. Last May was a frightening time for British Jews, and on far too many occasions the slogan ‘Free Palestine’ was used to harass and abuse Jewish people on the streets.

“This is the reality of how antisemitism played out at that time and rather than censoring Jewish voices, social workers would do better to listen and learn.”

Jewish News understands the motion calling for the IHRA definition to be dropped will be debated at the BASW AGM on Thursday.

It has been tabled by a social worker named Abyd Quinn-Aziz, based in Cardiff, Wales.

As well as calling for IHRA to be dropped it calls for discussion on “whether BASW needs to adopt a particular definition of antisemitism.”

Using familiar language, the motion also claims IHRA has had a “chilling effect” on free speech.

In their own statement in support of the motion, the SWU state:”SWU members have expressed concern about the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.”

While accepting IHRA can be “helpful” the SWU then claims “the examples added to guide this definition have been regularly used to conflate criticisms of Israel with antisemitism and to frame defending Palestinian rights as antisemitic.”

Jewish News has contacted the SWU for comment on their statement.

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