Open Letter to Manchester University’s Racist Vice-Chancellor Dame Nancy Rothwell
From Allowing Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev to Censor a Public Meeting by a Holocaust Survivor to the Victimisation of Alistair Hudson, Rothwell has Shown Herself as an Enemy of Freedom of Speech
Dear Dame Rothwell,
In your statement on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine you said that it challenged:
The fundamental principles of freedom, democracy and self-determination which provide the basis for academic freedom and cooperation.
Yet when it comes to Palestine you are prepared to allow the Israeli Embassy and far-Right groups like UK Lawyers for Israel to interfere with the expression of views they don’t like on Manchester’s campus. Palestinian freedom, democracy and self-determination doesn’t seem to concern you.
Ambassadors are, as Henry Wotton noted, sent abroad to lie on behalf of their country. You are not a diplomat yet you act as one, despite your job being to protect the independence of the university.
Your double standards, when it comes to Ukraine and Palestine, are only explicable by your racist agenda. There are only two conclusions that can be drawn. Either you are suffering from cognitive dissonance or you are a liar and hypocrite (or possibly both).
In 2017 Manchester University bowed to the demands of the Israeli Embassy when it censored the title of a speech “You’re doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to me” by Marika Sherwood, a Jewish holocaust survivor.
It might be thought that the experiences of a historian, who was a child survivor of the last Jewish community to be destroyed by the Nazis in Europe, might be more interesting than the opinions of Mark Regev who is infamous for justifying Israel’s war crimes in Gaza, which in 2014 killed 2,200 people, including 551 children.
Marika compared life in the Budapest Ghetto to those of the Palestinians. There are many Jews, Holocaust survivors included, who make such a comparison. Who the hell are you to say that such a comparison cannot be made? Without comparisons there is no historiography or translation of the past into the present.
After a visit by Mark Regev your officials banned organisers from using the “unduly provocative” title. Perhaps it was provocative but so what? Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses was also provocative. Should it have been banned? If ‘provoking’ or giving offence is not allowed, then free speech is meaningless, a mere cliché. Of course the exhibition in the Whitworth offended Zionists. As Orwell wrote:
“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people things they do not want to hear.”
When Professor Ze’ev Sternhell of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, a child survivor of the Nazi Ghetto of Przemsylwrote ‘In Israel, Growing Fascism and a Racism Akin to Early Nazism’ it was because there are clear comparisons that can be made between the State of Israel’s treatment of non-Jews, Palestinians in particular, and the Nazi treatment of Jews between 1933 and 1939.
Hannah Arendt, herself a refugee from Nazi Germany, pointed out in Eichmann in Jerusalem, that the 1935 Nuremberg Laws which prevented marriage between Jews and ‘Aryans’, are similar to the laws in Israel which prevent marriage between Jews and non-Jews.
In Israel the favourite chant of the Zionist right is ‘Death to the Arabs’. In 1930s Europe anti-Semites chanted ‘Death to the Jews’. These are clear and obvious comparisons. Why is it forbidden to speak the truth on Manchester’s campus?
In 2017 your glove puppets spoke of your ‘commitment to principles of freedom of speech and expression’ but they didn’t mention the meeting with Regev. Why not? Why did it take a freedom of information request, which you resisted, to reveal the truth?
Even the Jewish Chronicle, got it right when its headline read ‘University censors Holocaust survivor’s speech’. That you were a party to a foreign embassy seeking to censor a talk on campus should have led to your dismissal. It is clear that you have neither learnt nor forgotten anything.
This is the background to your proposed dismissal of Alistair Hudson. What was Hudson’s offence? Putting on an exhibition by Forensic Architecture that included Israel’s starvation siege of Gaza, which has lasted 16 years. A blockade that has merited no comment from you, unlike the occupation of Ukraine.
It was Forensic Architecture that provided the evidence proving that when Israeli Police demolished the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in January 2017, to make way for a Jewish only town, they also murdered an Arab teacher Yacoub Abu Al-Qia’an. Even Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu accepted that there had been a police cover up.
The idea that UKLFI discovered flaws and errors in the exhibition meriting Hudson’s dismissal is absurd. UKLFI are exponents of lawfare. They are not fit to comment on a horse race.
You have been Vice-Chancellor/President of Manchester University since 2010. In that time you have consistently done your best to undermine freedom of speech. Far from defending academic freedom you have acted as the emissary for successive Tory governments as they attempted to destroy free speech.
Instead of telling UKLFI to mind their own business you have actively encouraged them. Jonathan Turner, their CEO, said they had
pointed out to the university that the director of the Whitworth Art Gallery had falsely assured the vice-chancellor that they had established the accuracy and legalities of the work presented in the Forensic Architecture exhibition.
Turner stated that “We suggested that the university should take appropriate disciplinary action”. And that is exactly what you did.
When Hudson was appointed Prof James Thompson, Vice-President for Social Responsibility, praised Hudson’s dedication “to the idea of cultural institutions as a force for promoting social change”, which, he said, “fits precisely with the mission of the Whitworth”. Except that it did not fit with your racist outlook.
You have deferred to the representatives of a state that at the present time refuses admission to Ukrainian refugees who are not Jewish. That is what a ‘Jewish’ state means. Perhaps you could tell us how you would describe a state that refused to accept refugees because they were Jewish? Even you should not find that too difficult.
But I have another question? Instead of it being dragged out of you, as it was last time by a FOI request, will you voluntarily disclose all of your dealings and correspondence with UKLFI?
In response to protests against the dismissal of Hudson your spokespersons stated that
We absolutely uphold academic freedom. Staffing matters are strictly internal to the university and we never comment on questions of this nature.
But this isn’t an ‘internal staffing matter’. You may not wish to comment but as UKLFI confirms, you acted on their request.
Had you bothered inquiring into who UKLFI are then you would have found, even by Zionist standards, that they are on the far-right. Or perhaps you didn’t care?
UKLFI provided a platform for Regavim, an NGO which refuses to even acknowledge that there are Palestinians.
The Jewish Chronicle described them as a ‘group (which) campaigns against the construction of Arab and Bedouin villages in the West Bank.’ Regavim works round the clock to secure the evictions of Palestinians and the demolition of their homes, not just on the West Bank but in Israel itself. It believes in ‘purifying’ Jewish cities (of Arabs). It describes Palestinians as ‘squatters’ who are occupying ‘Jewish land’.
In September 2019, because of protests from other Zionist organisations, UKLFI postponed a meeting that they were due to hold with Regavim. Vivian Wineman, a former Board of Deputies President criticised UKLFI asking:
“UKLFI is an Israel advocacy organisation. What are they doing bringing over the worst racist representatives of Israel politics?
UKLFI were determined to give a platform to Regavim and in December 2019 it held its meeting with Naomi Kahn of Regavim.
Regavim was founded in 2006 by Bezalel Smotrich, a far-right settler member of the Knesset who describes himself as a ‘proud homophobe’. In 2006 he organised a ‘Beast Parade’ in Jerusalem comparing gays to beasts (he said that unlike gays, the animals that took part were innocent). More recently he has said that Jerusalem’s Gay Pride demonstration triggered the COVID pandemic in Israel!
Amongst Smotrich’s contributions to racial harmony was advocating the separation of Arab and Jewish women giving birth tweeting that
“It’s only natural my wife would not want to lie next to someone who just gave birth to a baby that might murder her baby in another 20 years,”
Regavim also supports the openly fascist Lehava organisation in Israel which organises physical attacks on Israeli Palestinians who have friendships with Israeli Jews. Its leader Benzi Gopstein has called for the burning down of churches and mosques. Its campaign against miscegenation (sexual relations between Jews and Arabs) is reminiscent of the Nazis’ Nuremberg Laws.
One of UKLFI’s most prominent members and Director is Daniel Berke, an advisor and solicitor for that apostle of racial harmony, Tommy Robinson as well as Jonathan Hoffman, the linkman between far-Right Zionists and fascist groups like the EDL and Britain First.
Another member of UKLFI is Robert Festenheim, a far-right Zionist who is another ‘advisor’ to Tommy Robinson.
The time has come for an end to your platitudes and dissembling. What is your relationship to UKLFI and why do they seem to have a direct line to your office? These are not internal staffing matters but matters of public concern.
If you did not know who or what UKLFI is then that is reason enough for you to go. If you did know then that is also a reason for your departure. You have brought shame on Manchester University.
Your attempt to dismiss Alisdair Hudson at the behest of UKLFI is no different from seeking the dismissal of a Black member of your staff because of a complaint from the British National Party.
UKLFI took exception to the statement displayed with the Forensic Architecture exhibition
What possible objection could anyone but a White Supremacist have to this statement? Violence by Israeli settlers to Palestinians is well documented. As Eyal Weizman told The Guardian.
His (Alistair Hudson’s) sacking is the last in series of bullying actions by the University of Manchester, which initially aimed at silencing our solidarity with Palestinians, then at stifling open debate and taming political art more generally. This move will shrink the space for art and artists.
The suggestion by UKLFI that putting on the exhibition could have a ‘potential impact on Jewish people in Manchester’ presupposes that Jewish people in this country are responsible for or have an interest in the oppression of the Palestinians. To most people, but obviously not you, that in itself is anti-Semitic.
Your response to those who have written to you has been that
artistic freedom, freedom of speech and expression and academic freedom ‘must be considered alongside other rights and obligations, including those under equality laws.’
You make a false distinction between freedom of speech and freedom from discrimination. It is clear that you understand neither. It is not freedom of speech that threatens ethnic minorities in this country but its absence.
Your willingness to dance to the tune of the Israel lobby has gone on far too long. To quote Oliver Cromwell in his address to the Rump parliament in April 1653:
‘You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately… Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go’.
Or to paraphrase Malcolm, nothing would become your position as your leaving of it. It is time that Manchester University had an anti-racist Vice Chancellor.
Please Bombard the Following at Manchester University:
1. University Chancellor: Lemn Sissay MBE Tel: +44 (0) 161 306 6010
2. University President and Vice Chancellor:
Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell
3. Deputy President and Vice-Chancellor: Professor Luke Georghiou
4. Registrar, Secretary and Chief Operating Officer: Patrick Hackett
Tel: +44 (0) 161 275 2066
Email: [email protected]
5. [email protected]
6. Nalin Thakkar, Vice President for Social Responsibility [email protected]
7. Patrick Hackett, Registrar, Secretary and Chief Operating Officer patrick.hackett-7. [email protected]
8. Marianne Communications
Below – Pictures of Demonstration Against Rothwell’s Sacking of Alistair Hudson