(January 30, 2021 / JNS) In 2018, fellow Leeds Jewish Society committee members recommended that the University of Leeds adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. It refused.
The consequences of this decision have never been more evident than over this past week. Ray Bush, a professor of African studies and development politics, has been found to have shared multiple anti-Semitic posts, and the university has no clear or binding checklist to use to investigate and discipline him accordingly, nor have they yet stated any intention to do so.
A scroll through Bush’s Twitter (@raymondobush) account quickly reveals a history of anti-Semitic tropes and remarks. Bush believes that there is a “Nazi-Zionist alliance,” has claimed that the “Zionist entity shapes U.S. Middle Eastern policy” and has stated how “the anti-Semitic campaign against former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is run by the Israeli embassy among others.” Can anyone really deny that this is anti-Semitism?
Well, apparently yes. Many students leaped to Bush’s defense after his comments were made public in a separate article for The Tab, claiming that he expressed anti-Zionism rather than anti-Semitism. But these people need to brush up on their definitions, as the two are quite clearly interchangeable. The definition of Zionism is simply the belief that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination and a homeland of their own. To oppose Zionism alone and not any other form of self-determination worldwide is anti-Semitism.
Nevertheless, Bush’s comments go far beyond criticism of Israeli policy. Under the IHRA definition, which the university claims to be “guided by,” they are deemed anti-Semitic.
Why has the University of Leeds not officially adopted this definition? The definition is already used by the British government, the Labour Party and more than 30 universities in the United Kingdom. With 1,000-plus Jewish students on campus, Leeds has a duty to make each and every one of those students feel safe and protected.
This situation reinforces the need for the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism on campus. Jewish students should not have to sacrifice their education because of the bigoted beliefs of academics such as Bush.
Nor is this latest incident an isolated one. Last semester, the university failed to publicly condemn an event hosted in conjunction with the Leeds Palestinian Solidarity Group in which terrorist Leila Khaled, was given a platform to express the need for “armed struggle” when campaigning for Palestinian rights. The student group’s leader, Adam Saeed, who has attempted to smear The Tab article exposing Bush’s history of hate as itself “anti-Semitic,” predictably nodded along to Khaled’s incitement of violence.
The university remained silent after student society leaders hosted a convicted terrorist and continued that silence after one of its employees was shown to have publicly espoused anti-Semitic ideals. It’s simply not right. And it needs to change.
There are previous examples of university lecturers in other areas of the country losing their jobs due to their anti-Semitic views being shared on social media. In 2019, the BBC reported that the University of Essex sacked a lecturer, Dr. Maaruf Ali, after he referred to the creation of a Jewish society on campus as “Zionists wanting to create a society there at our university” and sharing Holocaust-denial posts on social media.
If dismissal is the punishment for anti-Semitism at the University of Essex, then we should expect the same retribution from the University of Leeds in response to Professor Ray Bush. This is a man who believes the anti-Semitic conspiracy that Israel has influenced the racially motivated deaths of black Americans at the hands of U.S. police officers. He should not be given the opportunity to educate thousands of students with his discriminatory views, and he should not be holding such a high-profile position at such an esteemed university. Bush must be immediately penalized by the university, which should also issue an apology to Jewish, Israeli and Zionist students for having had to endure this educator’s continued harassment.
Elliot Bloom is a student at Leeds Beckett University and a CAMERA on Campus Fellow.
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