Social worker conference skips vote on ‘uncomfortable’ antisemitism motion
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Social worker conference skips vote on ‘uncomfortable’ antisemitism motion

British Association of Social Workers (BASW) conference cancels Friday's vote as Jewish professional admits; 'Today caused untold stress and worry'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

J27E44 Liverpool, UK. 25th Apr 2017.
Social workers 100 mile anti-austerity march reaches Liverpool. 

 
Social workers have reached Liverpools Pier Head following a seven day, 100 mile walk from Birmingham to protest against austerity. Film director Ken Loach has endorsed the Boot Out Austerity campaign, saying: Austerity is causing chaos in the lives of so many, and this needs to be confronted. Credit: Simon Hadley/Alamy Live News
J27E44 Liverpool, UK. 25th Apr 2017. Social workers 100 mile anti-austerity march reaches Liverpool. Social workers have reached Liverpools Pier Head following a seven day, 100 mile walk from Birmingham to protest against austerity. Film director Ken Loach has endorsed the Boot Out Austerity campaign, saying: Austerity is causing chaos in the lives of so many, and this needs to be confronted. Credit: Simon Hadley/Alamy Live News

A motion on antisemitism that sparked anger and fear amongst many Jewish social workers was not voted on at the annual conference of the British Association of Social Workers. (BASW) on Friday.

Jewish News revealed on Wednesday how a motion tabled for the AGM of the largest professional membership organisation for social work had called for the body to “suspend the decision to endorse the IHRA definition of antisemitism.”

The motion was backed by the Social Workers Union who claimed the examples of possible antisemtic conduct listed by IHRA ” have been regularly used to conflate criticisms of Israel with antisemitism and to frame defending Palestinian rights as antisemitic.”

Jewish social workers had also stressed the problems were not just about the rejection of IHRA, but also the refusal to listen to concerns they raised about their voices being overlooked.

In a surprise move, delegates attending the BASW conference, both in person and online, were informed on Friday that there was Point of Order to move on from voting on motion number 8.

One delegate was heard saying there was a real need “to listen to Jewish voices” over their concerns about the anti-IHRA motion.

It is understood that the call to move on from the motion without those watching events online voting on it was seconded by someone else at the conference.

Dr Paul Shuttleworth, a lecturer and tutor for Sussex University an an independent social work practitioner, told Jewish News on Friday:”Many Jewish social workers are extremely relieved that the motion was moved on and not voted on.

“Today caused untold stress and worry, not just to Jewish social workers, but also, as my inbox will attest to, many UK Jews.

“To repeat what the Jewish Social Workers group have said all along, this was NOT just about the IHRA definition or the right and need to criticise specific Israeli policies or support the rights of Palestinians.

“This was also about listening to Jewish experiences of antisemitism. It was about Jewish people, once again, not being believed, being censored, and being silenced.

“As social workers we must always place lived experience at the heart of everything we do. We feel that Jewish lived experience should be at the centre of discussion, debates, and definitions on antisemitism. ”

Although the motion still stands, it will now be sent back to BASW’s policy and ethics committee, who will have to also consider the issues raised by Jewish social workers.

Jewish News had revealed how 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.”

Dr Shuttleworth had 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.”

He added on Friday:”Whilst debate on matters on the historical and current complexities of anti-Zionism and antisemitism must be discussed, a limited forum where both ‘sides’ do not feel properly heard, was not the place to do it.

“We are grateful that are more nuanced, informed, collaborative, and ethical discussion can now take place at BASW on this matter, with Jewish voices at the centre. We also hope that the Social Work Union will work with us so that they can better understand Jewish experiences and not deter Jews from joining them.”

Commenting on the podcast dispute, the Community Security Trust said:”“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.”

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