Anti- Zionist Expression on the UK Campus:Free Speech or Hate Speech :Part One/ Lesley Klaff

The last few years have witnessed an explosion of anti-Zionist rhetoric on university campuses across the United Kingdom. Encouraged by the University and College Union's annual calls for discriminatory measures against Israeli institutions and academics, the rhetoric has become even more strident since Operation Cast Lead. A recent boycott-divestment-sanctions campus tour explicitly invoked anti-Semitic tropes. The consequently hostile environment for Jewish students has jeopardized their educational opportunities. The justification for tolerating anti-Zionist expression on campus is always "academic freedom" and the response of the universities has been one of inaction. This justification is without merit. University codes of conduct and UK law recognize that an important university goal is the promotion of equality of opportunity for minority students and their protection from discrimination, including harassment. Given the growing consensus that anti-Zionism is in fact anti-Semitism in a new guise, this goal is flouted with respect to Jewish students every time that anti-Zionist expression takes place on a university campus.

There has been a proliferation of anti-Zionist expression[1] on UK university campuses since 2002 when, on 6 April, 125 British academics published an open letter in The Guardian calling for an EU moratorium on funding for grants and research contracts for Israeli universities in order "to condemn [Israel's] policy of violent repression against the Palestinian people in the occupied territories."[2] This letter marked the official start of the British "academic boycott of Israel" and acted as a catalyst for the use of the British university campus as a platform for the expression of anti-Zionist views.

Since then, on-campus anti-Zionist expression has been led by the academic unions - the University and College Union (UCU) and its predecessor unions, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) and the Association of University Teachers (AUT) - and by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP). It has predominantly taken the form of calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. A recent example was the combined UCU-BRICUP organized campus tour entitled "Israel, the Palestinians and Apartheid: The Case for Sanctions and Boycott," which took place at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and the Universities of Leeds, Manchester, and Glasgow in December 2009.[3]

In addition to the calls for BDS on university campuses, there has been an extensive use of anti-Zionist iconography, such as the erection of "apartheid" walls during numerous Israel Apartheid Weeks; organized anti-Zionist protest, such as thirty "Free Gaza" Student Occupations during Operation Cast Lead; and several courses at which representatives of political Islam have been invited to speak. For example, in 2008, Hizballah representative Ibrahim Mousawi conducted extensive campus tours at the invitation of the UCU; in March 2009, Kamal Helbawy of the Muslim Brotherhood gave a series of seminars at the invitation of SOAS; and on 9 February 2010, invited by the student Islamic Society, Hamas supporter Dr. Azzam Tamimi told an audience at SOAS that "if fighting for your homeland is terrorism, I take pride in being a terrorist," and "Israel does not belong to my homeland and must come to an end."[4]

The use of the university campus as a forum for the expression of anti-Zionist views is by no means unique to the United Kingdom. The United States and Canada have had similar experiences on their campuses. Just two recent examples are an anti-Zionist conference at Toronto's York University on 29 June 2009, and an anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist speech by Amir Abdel Malik Ali at the University of California, Irvine, on 13 May 2010 during which he referred to the Jewish students present as the "new Nazis."[5] Within Europe, anti-Zionist expression has been found in both German[6] and Norwegian academia; in the autumn of 2009 the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) hosted a series of anti-Israeli seminars and proposed an official boycott of Israeli academia.[7]

Nevertheless, the mood of hostility toward Israel is thought to be at its most prevalent on British university campuses, a situation presumed to be encouraged by the persistent calls from BRICUP and the UCU, and its predecessor academic unions, for discriminatory measures against Israel. As antiboycott activist Prof. David Hirsh has noted, "the campaign to boycott Israeli universities, but no others in the world, has dominated academic Congresses in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009."[8]

A few proboycott activists justify the use of the campus to express their anti-Zionist views by claiming that Israeli academics are "complicit in the occupation."[9] For most, however, the justification is the right to academic freedom. It is because of a broad understanding of the nature of academic freedom that university authorities in the UK, while rejecting outright the call for an academic boycott,[10] have permitted anti-Zionist expression to take place on their premises. This has unfortunately resulted in a situation where anti-Semitism is flourishing on UK campuses, causing direct harm to Jewish students and confirming their "outsider" status.[11]

The situation on campus has become a lot worse since Operation Cast Lead, with the anti-Zionist effort seemingly growing in confidence and strength. The abovementioned, four-day campus tour, "Israel, the Palestinians and Apartheid: The Case for Sanctions and Boycott,"[12] included among its speakers Bongani Masuku, international secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), who, only days before the campus tour began, was accused by the South African Human Rights Commission of hate speech against South Africa's Jews.[13] The other speakers were Omar Barghouti, founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel (PACBI), whose hostility to Israel is legendary; Ronnie Kasrils of the African National Congress, who publicly said of Israel after the 2006 Second Lebanon War: "We must call baby killers ‘baby killers' and declare that those using methods reminiscent of the Nazis be told that they are behaving like Nazis";[14] Prof. Steven Rose, initiator of the 6 April 2002 letter to The Guardian and founding member of BRICUP; Tom Hickey, national executive member of the UCU and architect of its recurring proboycott motions; and Yasmin Khan, senior campaigns officer with the charity War on Want, whose charitable status is under threat because of its one-sided political campaign against Israel.[15]

Predictably, their on-campus speeches during the December 2009 tour invoked the traditional anti-Semitic tropes of the "blood libel" ("slaughter of Palestinians," "ethnic cleansing of Palestinians," "contamination of Palestinian water supplies,") and "Jewish criminality" ("theft of Palestinian water supplies," "Israeli crimes"), as well as the newer anti-Semitic tropes of "Zionism-equals-Nazism" ("attempt to wipe Palestinians from the face of history," "would you have collaborated with Nazi Germany?") and "Israel-equals-apartheid South Africa" ("Palestine reminds us of the nightmare we went through in South Africa").[16] Bongani Masuku even justified Palestinian terrorism.[17] All this caused great distress to the Jewish students who attended the lectures in order to debate the issues.[18] Their distress was exacerbated when the speakers refused to take any of their questions and they were jeered by other members of the audience for even trying to ask.[19] They felt "marked out as Jews."[20]

It is clearly time for UK university authorities to address the issue of anti-Zionist expression on campus. The university has a special duty to foster student growth and wellbeing[21] and it must honor its duty with respect to Jewish students no less than to any other group.

In allowing anti-Zionist expression to continue on campus, UK university authorities are in breach of their own Equality and Diversity as well as Anti-Harassment policies in relation to Jewish staff and students. These policies are required by law[22] to promote equality of opportunity for minorities and to protect them from harassment and ethnic hostility. They place strict limitations on "free speech" in the university environment, thereby making the "academic freedom" justification for anti-Zionist expression nonviable.

Furthermore, UK universities are under a legal duty to prohibit anti-Zionist expression on campus on the grounds that it constitutes anti-Semitic hate speech (1) which can "reasonably" be perceived as creating a "hostile environment" for Jewish staff and students contrary to s. 26 Equality Act 2010; and (2) which causes tangible "harm" to Jewish students in breach of the university's common-law duty of care.

The Equality Act was given the Royal Assent on 8 April 2010, and its s. 26 "hostile-environment harassment" provision comes into force in October 2010,[23] replacing the "hostile-environment harassment" provision in s. 3A Race Relations Act (Amendment) Regulations 2003. The act consolidates and streamlines existing antidiscrimination legislation and from April 2011 will impose an affirmative public-sector "equality duty" on educational establishments and places of work to provide a harassment-free environment for racial minorities[24] in order to promote equality of opportunity. Until then, UK universities are subject to the existing "equality duty" enshrined in the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 and the Equality Act 2006.

To address the question of whether anti-Zionist expression on the UK campus constitutes free speech or hate speech, anti-Zionist expression will first be considered within the wide free-speech debate. This will include an analysis of the academic-freedom justification and a consideration of the Equality and Diversity and Anti-Harassment policies of a typical UK university.

The focus will then turn to the reasons for categorizing anti-Zionist expression as anti-Semitic hate speech. This will include authoritative definitions of "anti-Zionist expression," "hate speech," and "anti-Semitism," as well as the difference between anti-Zionist expression as hate speech and legitimate criticism of Israel.

Finally, the arguments for prohibiting anti-Zionist expression on the UK campus will be considered. This will include a discussion of anti-Zionist expression in the legislative context, with particular reference to "hostile environment," and the documented harms of hate speech for minority university students, with particular reference to the university's duty of care and its Equality and Diversity and Anti-Harassment policies.

Free Speech and Hate Speech
Anti-Zionist Expression: The Free-Speech Justification

In the UK, anti-Zionist expression is a protected form of speech in society at large. This is because of the general recognition that freedom of speech represents an important moral, political, and legal value that can only be curtailed when the rights of others are at stake. These rights are prescribed by law.[25] There are currently no laws in the UK that specifically proscribe anti-Zionist expression, whether by word, conduct, or symbol. However, there soon may be.

The so-called "Nazification" of Israel,[26] a favorite ploy of anti-Zionists, may shortly be legally proscribed in the UK on the ground that it incites hatred against Jews. A 2009 joint report of the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism (EISCA) and the Department for Communities and Local Government has recommended that the Home Office, the Association of Chief Police Officers, and the Crown Prosecution Service prepare new guidance for the police on whether the use of Holocaust imagery to refer to contemporary Israeli policy amounts to incitement against Jews.[27] The report's proposals are currently being overseen by a cross-government working group that was set up as a result of the 2006 All-Party Inquiry into Anti-Semitism.

Anti-Zionist Expression: The Academic-Freedom Justification

The academic-freedom justification derives from the free-speech justification. The presumption in favor of free speech in the UK is based both on the nonconsequentialist view that freedom of speech is essential for individual autonomy[28] and on the consequentialist view that it is essential for democracy[29] because it contributes to the discovery of truth, or to put it another way, to the "market place of ideas."[30]

Many believe that the university campus should exhibit even greater freedom of expression than prevails in society at large.[31] The issue is viewed in terms of academic freedom: the campus is a special marketplace of ideas in society, and its mission is to promote knowledge and seek the truth. This requires the freedom to disseminate all views on campus, even those that are offensive.

As the "market place" metaphor is the traditional understanding of speech on campus,[32] the academic-freedom justification for the use of British universities to disseminate anti-Zionist views has been accepted without question by the university authorities. This is so even where Jewish students have deemed the anti-Israeli activism to be physically threatening.[33] As a consequence, the mood of anti-Israeli hostility on campus has readily spread from the activities of the UCU and BRICUP to the activities of student unions.

For example, in November 2009 the University of Sussex Student Union voted to boycott Israeli goods[34] and the London School of Economics (LSE) voted to twin its union with the Islamic University of Gaza.[35] More recently, on 28 April 2010, the deputy Israeli ambassador was attacked by around forty "Action Palestine" student demonstrators at the University of Manchester.[36] She was there to give a talk to the student Politics Society, entitled "Hopes and Challenges in the Middle East."[37] She was "shocked" by the attack, saying, "I genuinely believed [the demonstrators] wanted to hurt me physically."[38] The university authorities were blamed for failing to prevent anti-Zionist activity on campus.[39] This was the third time since November 2008 that an Israeli government official was abused by students when trying to speak at a British university.[40]

Notwithstanding the status afforded to free speech and inquiry by British universities,[41] the academic-freedom justification for the use of the campus to express anti-Zionist views is without merit. This is because it is recognized that if the aims of a university are harmed by particular forms of expression, then control of expression on campus is justified. The marketplace metaphor regards the only goal of the university as the enlightenment of mankind. This view is outdated. The university has other important aims that include promoting racial, sexual, and disability equality, ensuring equal opportunity, and protecting individuals from discrimination. Such goals are enshrined in the Equality Act 2010, as well as its predecessor legislation,[42] and will be implemented in the form of an affirmative "equality duty" on universities from April 2011. As a result of the law, all UK universities are required to have Equality and Diversity and broad Anti-Harassment policies that seek to protect minority interests.

For example, Sheffield Hallam University is representative of all UK universities with respect to the content of its Equality and Diversity and Anti-Harassment policies. It states the following in its "Race Equality" and "Religious Equality" policy documents:

The University values the principles of equal treatment and respect for individual differences and is committed to understanding, respecting and using diversity. It is determined to ensure that:

It provides a supportive and inclusive learning, working and social environment in which everyone feels valued and can work to their potential
All students and staff experience fairness and equity of treatment, and are treated with dignity and respect
The opportunities it provides are open to all.[43]
In addition, its "Race Equality" policy document specifically states as its aims "the elimination of unlawful discrimination"; "the promotion of equality of opportunity"; and "the promotion of good relations between people of different racial groups."[44]

These policies are "hate-speech codes" that sanction on-campus speech that compromises the dignity, the work environment, the educational environment, or the various equality rights of minority staff and students. They make nonsense of the "academic freedom" claim that offensive views may be expressed on campus. They are flouted with respect to Jewish staff and students on each occasion that anti-Zionist activity takes place on a university campus.

Causing offense to staff and students is also sanctioned by the "Student Anti-Harassment Policy" document, which states:

Students and staff of Sheffield Hallam University...have the right to be treated with dignity and respect and to operate in an environment free from harassment and bullying. Such a right derives from the ethos of the university itself as an institution which welcomes people from all backgrounds, respects individual differences, upholds equal treatment and seeks to create a culture in which everyone feels valued and able to fulfil their potential.
Harassment is defined as unwanted behaviour which is intended to, or which creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person.

It is important to realise that behaviour may still be harassment even if that was not the intention. What matters is how the recipient experiences the behaviour.

It is impossible to give a comprehensive list of behaviours which may constitute harassment. The following are examples:

Display of...racist or otherwise offensive...material or the transmitting of any such messages or images via electronic mail...[45]
This "speech code" sanctions uninvited behavior that causes offense to an individual or group, and specifically proscribes the use of the university email system to circulate offensive material. There is no "academic freedom" justification for expressing views on campus that reasonably cause offense to the recipient.

Indeed, the September 2007 Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) publication, "Promoting good campus relations - an institutional imperative," penned by representatives of Universities UK, states that the core values of higher education are the promotion of equality and diversity among students and staff, and the protection of students and staff from a hostile, degrading, intimidating, or offensive educational and work environment.[46] Accordingly, the document stresses the need to eradicate anti-Semitism from the UK university campus.[47]

Anti-Zionist Expression as Hate Speech

UK universities' anti-harassment policies follow the law[48] in that the question of whether racial harassment has taken place is, in the first instance, a subjective one. What matters is how the recipient experiences the behavior. However, also like the legislation, the university must take into account the reasonableness of the recipient's perception in deciding whether to discipline the alleged harasser.

In the case of a Jewish student or staff member complaining of harassment as a result of anti-Zionist expression on campus, the tendency of the university may be to consider her perception as "unreasonable." This is because anti-Zionist expression is regarded by many, particularly the educational elite in Britain, as legitimate criticism of Israel.

However, if anti-Zionist expression can be categorized as hate speech, as expression that is very different from legitimate criticism of Israel, then the university would be obliged to regard the recipient's subjective perception of harassment as "reasonable." It may even be the case that universities across the UK would be prepared to give examples of anti-Zionist expression as "prohibited behaviors" in their anti-harassment policy documents.

Definition of Anti-Zionism

The extent to which anti-Zionism differs from legitimate criticism of Israel is evident from the former's definition in the 2002 Report of the Berlin Technical University's Centre for Research on Anti-Semitism, "Manifestations of Anti-Semitism in the European Union." This was drafted for the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). The report defines anti-Zionism as "the portrayal of Israel as a state that is fundamentally negatively distinct from all others, which therefore has no right to exist."

Unlike legitimate criticism of Israel that is not anti-Semitic, this definition indicates that anti-Zionism is an anti-Semitic project in two significant respects: its purpose and its methodology.

Taking the second clause of the definition first, which relates to its purpose, anti-Zionism aims for the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. This is anti-Semitic because (1) it denies to Jews the right to self-determination, a right that it freely grants to other peoples of the world, including Palestinians. This is discrimination against Jews as Jews for no other reason than that they are Jews.[49] (2) It denies to Jews their most cherished symbol of Jewish identity. Jews experience a profoundly innate historical, spiritual, and geographical connection with the Land of Israel.[50] Israel is thus integral to Jews' self-understanding. (3) It denies to Diaspora Jews their security. The removal of Israel as a Jewish state would make Jews in the Diaspora vulnerable to outbreaks of anti-Jewish racism.[51] Indeed, Israel acts as a real and psychological refuge for Jews who experience anti-Semitism in the Diaspora. It is widely reported that increases in aliyah (emigration to Israel) correspond with increases in attacks on Jews.[52] (4) The removal of Israel as a Jewish state would necessarily entail the annihilation of the several million Israeli Jews who live there.[53] This means that advocating the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state is tantamount to Holocaust promotion.[54] At the very least, it would cancel the last surviving Jewish political project of the twentieth century without any regard for the needs or wishes of the Israeli Jews who currently live there.[55]

For all these reasons the anti-Zionist agenda to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state is increasingly referred to as the "new anti-Semitism": whereas the old anti-Semite wanted to rid the world of the Jew - Judenrein - the "new" anti-Semite wants to rid the world of the Jewish state - Judenstaatrein.[56] Israel is not seen as simply another country but as an external aspect of the Jewish conspiracy.[57]

The first clause of the definition, the portrayal of Israel as a state that is fundamentally negatively distinct from all others, indicates that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic in its methodology. To realize the anti-Zionist goal of ridding the world of the Jewish state, anti-Zionists have to justify its elimination from the world stage. This requires the demonization of Israel in order to delegitimize it. Anti-Zionists do this by employing the same defamatory methods to refer to Israel as those that traditional anti-Semites use to refer to the Jew.[58]

Moreover, anti-Zionist hostility to Israel relies heavily on the anti-Semitic tropes of "conspiracy," "Jewish criminality," "Zionism as Nazism," and "Zionism as racism," and it practices the anti-Semitic tradition of using Jewish admission of wickedness to incriminate other Jews.[59] Anti-Zionists are accordingly the "new" anti-Semites.[60] They use the same stratagems and tropes as the old anti-Semites.[61] Their call to boycott Israel both resonates with the history of anti-Semitism, whose project was to repudiate and exclude Jews, and draws on the language of anti-Semitic polemic.[62]

Also unlike legitimate criticism of Israel, anti-Zionism is an anti-Semitic project because it singles out Israel for elimination and demonization from among all the nations of the world. It also apologizes for, excuses, and in some instances condones terrorism against Israeli civilians: "Israel is the only state in the world whose legitimacy is widely denied and whose destruction is publicly advocated and threatened; Israelis are the only citizens of a state whose indiscriminate murder is widely considered justifiable."[63] It is thought that anti-Semites target Israel because it is perceived - albeit at a subconscious level - as the "Jewish collectivity"[64] or as the "Uber-Jew"[65] or as the "Jew among nations."[66] For this reason, the irrational hatred for the Jewish individual is transferred to the Jewish state.[67] Certainly, hatred of Israel is more acceptable in today's society than hatred of the Jew.

Anti-Zionists say that they have nothing against Jews, only Israel. They seek to separate the two and to make them distinct entities. For example, Omar Barghouti said in response to an accusation that the boycott of Israel is anti-Semitic:

I think that accusation is itself anti-Semitic. Why? Because it assumes that Israel and the Jews are one and the same thing. It assumes that all Jews are monolithic and they are all Zionists and all support Israel and worse - that any attack on Israel is by necessity an attack on Jews, so they bear collective responsibility for Israel's actions. That definition of monolithic Jews bearing collective responsibility is the dictionary definition of anti-Semitism.[68]
This is either a naïve claim or a disingenuous one. It is apparent that, quite apart from Jews' own historical and spiritual identification with the Land of Israel,[69] non-Jews also identify Jews with Israel, and Israel with Jews. It has been found that anti-Israeli sentiment "consistently predicts the probability that an individual is anti-Semitic, with the likelihood of measured anti-Semitism increasing with the extent of anti-Israel sentiment observed."[70] "The prevalence of those harbouring (self-reported) anti-Semitic views consistently increases with the respondents' degree of anti-Israel sentiment, even after controlling for other factors."[71]

The power of the identification of Israel and Jew is evident in the words of a senior diplomat with Britain's Foreign Office who, upon watching a news report about Operation Cast Lead, involuntarily and publicly exclaimed, "f---- Israelis, f---- Jews."[72] The power of the identification is so strong that each incident in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict results in a wave of anti-Semitic incidents in the Diaspora[73]. In Britain, the Gaza War sparked the worst wave of Jew-hatred ever recorded by the Community Security Trust (CST), with more anti-Semitic incidents in the first six months of 2009 than in any previous year.[74] It is clear that anti-Zionism both fuels, and is fueled by, anti-Semitism.

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