Smear, sneer and snide innuendo: the stock in trade of the Deputies and their allies.
Posted on June 20, 2021
I’ve never bought into the false notion that the personal is political, but the following post does cross the boundary between the two.
This is an unedifying tale and an illuminating one. It tells of the reckless way in which half-baked accusations of anti-Semitism are now the stock-in-trade of some organisations.
On Sunday 5 June, a friend of mine forwarded the flyer above. During my 45 years of very active membership of the NUT, now the NEU, I have endured many periods of concern about a whole range of union-related issues. I’d venture to say that in, literally, thousands of hours of meetings with members, interminable consultations and negotiations with employers and inestimable conversations with individuals, there’s not much in the world of schools, teachers and teaching that I haven’t come across. Some of it would make your eyes water: I might write a book about it one day.
What I’ve never heard, though, is concern expressed about the union’s ‘anti-Israel stance’. What’s more, I’ve never come across a single instance of a member suggesting that any complaint about anything was not being taken seriously. So, as instructed by the flyer, I emailed rachelk to find out what I was missing and asked to join the meeting. I thought it prudent to let her know of my Jewish heritage and of the fact that I am a life-member of the NEU in recognition of my service to the union.
I received no details of how to join the meeting. On the morning of Tuesday 8 June, I emailed rachelk to ask why and was told that I hadn’t been given the link because ‘the content of your blog suggested you weren’t supportive of the aims of the group.’ I’d been vetted: who knew I was worth taking so much trouble over? And since when was potential dissent the reason for exclusion from discussion?
Who, precisely, are the people in rachelk’s ‘group’? There are four organisations, three of whom I’ve never heard of – although that may be by way of admission on my part. I know about the Board of Deputies; it has its own dishonourable profile. Purporting, somewhat vaingloriously, to speak for all Jewish people in the UK, it also revels in its inglorious history of having been absent from every active mobilisation against organised fascists in this country for the best part of a century. A squint at the websites of the other three reveals ‘organisations’ that look like they’re run from someone’s spare bedroom: outdated information, clunky graphics, thin stories from unaccredited sources.
As I’d been barred from the meeting, I wrote to the ‘group’ as a collective to ask two simple questions: what had led them to believe that the NEU had adopted ‘an anti-Israel stance’ and how many recorded complaints did they believe had been mishandled by the union? I also wanted to know whether anyone responsible for calling the meeting was an NEU member. I’ll do some real slashing of a long story from this point.
The only person to respond was Rabbi David Meyer of the Partnership for Jewish Schools. He didn’t answer the questions or provide any evidence but was nevertheless confident enough to assert that he did ‘not find it surprising that many teachers are uncomfortable with the approach the NEU has taken.’ I repeat, I’m cutting it all short and, to his credit, at least Rabbi Meyer made some sort of fist of standing by his organisation’s claims. However, our correspondence terminated with him telling me that as I was ‘not an official representative of NEU’ he would not be responding further. He told me that should the joint leaders of the union contact him, he would be happy to meet them. I then chanced one further question: if either of these people asked the same questions, would he give them the direct answers which he had chosen not to give me? The rest is silence.
In a final attempt to squeeze any credible evidence from the parties who had called this meeting, I wrote to them again with the undertaking that I would not put this story into the public domain if they were to respond within the next three days. Again, resolute silence.
So, this blog post is for you – The Board of Deputies of British Jews, Britain Israel Trade Union Dialogue, We Believe in Israel and, with a faint nod of appreciation for showing a modicum of courtesy, The Partnership for Jewish Schools. Like so many before you in recent years, you have carelessly lobbed the grenade of innuendo and implied accusation to further your own political ends and to discredit those who oppose your views. In this case, you’ve thrown it at a body which works tirelessly to protect teachers and, most importantly, simply has no competitor in terms of actively campaigning for equality and against discrimination and injustice. When asked to substantiate your accusations you have remained dumbly silent. And if that’s not a matter of concern to you, then I suggest your moral compass is irretrievably broken.
(This article was corrected on 1 July 2021 to address the inaccuracy about elections to the Board of Deputies)
If you enjoyed this blog post – or even if it just got under your skin – you can find more of my writing on politics, education and, of course, football here. My new book, Brutish Necessity, an account of the life and times of the last man to be hanged in Birmingham, will be out later this year.