Middle East Monitor / September 4, 2020
In the ongoing campaign by pro-Israel groups to police academic discussion on the Zionist state, a British university has become the centre of an anti-Semitism row following a decision not to take action against a lecturer on the grounds of “free speech”.
In its ruling against Associate Professor Goldie Osuri on the back of allegations by a pro-Israel Jewish student group that the sociology lecturer had made anti-Sematic remarks, the University of Warwick judged that that there was insufficient grounds to take their complaint forward and that the process for doing so had been exhausted.
The judgment has left the Jewish Israeli Society (JISoc) and Warwick and Union of Jewish Students (UJS) “extremely disappointed”, according to the Jerusalem Post, which reported on the story at length. Despite their effort in what seems to be an attempt to have the lecturer reprimanded, Warwick university ruled this week that comments made by Osuri during a lecture constituted “free speech”.
Complaints against Osuri first appeared back in November when she made comments concerning the anti-Semitism row within the Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. “The idea that the Labour Party is antisemitic is very much an Israeli lobby kind of idea, the idea that you want to discredit the Labour Party because there is support for Palestine among some members of the Labour Party,” Osuri is reported saying in the Post.
It’s also reported that notes accompanying Osuri’s lecture read:
Palestinians are entirely entitled to resist and oppose the occupation and theft of their homeland by any means they deem necessary
with examples of resistance cited including: “poems/songs/art/organised activism or militancy.”
Following complaints that Osuri was peddling a common anti-Semitism trope, the lecturer clarified to a student newspaper that her statement regarding the claims of rampant anti-Semitism in the Labour Party as an “Israeli lobby kind of idea” is a reference to Israeli attempts to infiltrate British politics documented by Al Jazeera.
This was in reference to the bombshell four-part film, The Lobby which was broadcast in 2017. The undercover documentary shone a light on how the pro-Israel lobby operates in Britain, providing viewers with insights into some of its most underhanded methods. In one famous scene a senior Israeli embassy staff member is seen on video saying that he wished to “take down” senior foreign office minister Sir Alan Duncan, as well as other MPs deemed critical of Israeli policy.
More than 10,000 British people signed a petition calling on the government to investigate the Israeli embassy the staffer’s plot to “take down” senior member of the government opposed to illegal settlement building in the occupied territories.
Osuri explained further what she meant by the Israeli lobby adding that “this ‘Israeli lobby kind of idea’ is a reference to the attempt to smear any debate or discussion regarding Palestinian self-determination and human rights or criticism of the state of Israel as ‘antisemitism’.”
These clarifications did nothing to dissuade pro-Israel Jewish groups from filing a complaint against Osuri saying that they were “appalled” by the “classic antisemitism” that was being peddled by the lecturer. They also accused Osuri of giving “support for acts of violence against civilians perpetrated by terrorist organisations.”
Osuri’s remarks about Palestinians having the right to resist occupation, are however enshrined in international law. United Nations Resolution 37/43, for example “reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle.”
In a statement posted to Facebook, JISoc Warwick presented their defeat as another instance of their victimisation saying that the university had “fail[ed] to support Jewish students yet again”.
The two societies are calling on the university to adopt the controversial IHRA definition of anti-Semitism which conflates criticism of Israel with racism towards Jews and are said to be seeking to escalate the matter to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.