‘The stench of murderous antisemitism clings to it’

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‘The stench of murderous antisemitism clings to it’

Senior academic condemns statement on Israel from the Goldsmiths branch of the University Colleges Union that specifically omits any mention of Hamas

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Pic: Goldsmiths University
Pic: Goldsmiths University

A Jewish senior academic at Goldsmiths, part of London University, has denounced a statement issued by the Goldsmiths branch of the University and College Union (GUCU) on the situation in Israel and Gaza, saying “the stench of murderous antisemitism clings to it”.

David Hirsh, a senior lecturer in sociology at Goldsmiths, has called for the college’s senior management to suspend contact with the GUCU executive in the wake of its statement, saying “it is not appropriate for the college to legitimise the GUCU executive and to do quotidian business with it, while the stench of murderous antisemitism clings to it as it does right now”.

The GUCU statement specifically omits any mention of Hamas in what it describes as “the violence in Palestine/Israel”. Instead it prefaces its comments with the observation that “international Humanitarian Law upholds that the category of ‘civilians’ is opposable to that of ‘combatants’ and the deliberate killing, imprisonment and collective punishment meted out to civilians amounts to war crimes. We are committed to a future where every life is sacred and all people live in freedom and safety.”

Goldsmiths lecturer David Hirsh

But the statement continues: “The offensive launched from Gaza must be understood within the context of 16 years of Israel’s draconian land, sea, and air military blockade of the Gaza Strip that has restricted over two million civilians and their access to food, fuel and medical aid, alongside the intensification of attacks by both Israeli forces and armed Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank since the beginning of 2023”.

Dr Hirsh, in a lengthy rebuttal of the GUCU statement, says: “The statement naturalises the October 7 pogrom (“the offensive launched from Gaza”) as a response to the alleged Zionist crimes of settler colonialism, apartheid and occupation. These phrases, in this context, do not shed any light, but function to designate Israel as criminal in its essence. In this way, any kind of violence against any Israelis is justified and de facto supported as self-defence. We have seen many versions of “they got what was coming to them”. We have also seen: “This is what the liberation will look like” and “Victory to Palestine”.

The GUCU statement was issued on Friday October 13 and included a poster for the following day’s rally in central London, exhorting people to “march for Palestine, end the violence, end apartheid”. Dr Hirsh observed: “GUCU teaches that last Saturday’s genocidal massacre should be condemned only in the most abstract and formal terms, that it should be generally supported as Palestinian self-defence, and that it should be regarded as trivial compared to Israeli responses to it”.

He said that the GUCU statement should not be allowed to represent the beliefs of Goldsmiths academics. And, noting that the college was already holding an independent inquiry into antisemitism at Goldsmiths, Dr Hirsh added: “Even as the KC examines the evidence already submitted to him, more and clearer evidence has emerged”.

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