VICTORY – Manchester University Backs Off From Sacking Alistair Hudson, Director of the Whitworth Gallery

VICTORY – Manchester University Backs Off From Sacking Alistair Hudson, Director of the Whitworth Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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VICTORY – Manchester University Backs Off From Sacking Alistair Hudson, Director of the Whitworth Gallery

 They Don’t Like It Up ‘Em – Dame Nancy Rothwell’s Complained About Me Calling Her A ‘Bastard’ But She Doesn’t Mind Being Called a Racist!

A month ago the Guardian reported Whitworth gallery director Alistair Hudson forced out over Palestinian statement. Manchester University did not deny the content of the article or dispute its accuracy. Their response:

We absolutely uphold academic freedom. Staffing matters are strictly internal to the university and we never comment on questions of this nature.”

which begged more questions than answers. One can only assume, since the University’s Vice Chancellor Dame Nancy Rothwell has repeatedly tried to suppress discussion about Zionism and Israel, on the anti-Semitic grounds that it may offend Jewish people, then she considers interfering with anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian meetings and the Forensic Architecture exhibition, to the extent of imposing her own chair on a meeting, consistent with academic freedom.

I posted a blog ‘Open Letter to Manchester University’s Racist Vice-Chancellor Dame Nancy Rothwell’ on March 7 describing what had happened recently at the Whitworth Galley but also pointing out that in 2017, war criminal Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev had had a secret meeting with Rothwell and on this basis the University had censored the title of a talk given by Jewish Holocaust survivor, Marika Sherwood.

The Information about Regev’s meeting with Rothwell hadn’t been disclosed voluntarily. It had had to be dragged out of the university via a Freedom of Information request. The University had refused to accede to the FOI request and the Information Commissioner had to issue an order that they comply.

Even the Jewish Chronicle, which is hardly a pro-Palestinian paper, led with a story University censors Holocaust survivor’s speech. The JC reported the  details of interference by the Israeli Embassy:

after the Information Commissioner ruled the university had to comply with a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by a student to disclose “all correspondence between the University of Manchester and the Israeli lobby”.

The title, described by university officials as “unduly provocative”, was banned and conditions were imposed by the university before the talk could go ahead, including that it had to be recorded, and that only students and staff could attend.

Michael Freeman, the Israeli embassy’s counsellor for civil society affairs, contacted the university about the talk.

He claimed the title “could be considered antisemitic”, saying it breached the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, and would make Jewish students feel uncomfortable on campus.

He also criticised two speakers booked for a separate event.

Ms Sherwood’s talk went ahead with the amended title. She denied the original title was antisemitic.

According to the Guardian, she told the audience she was saved from the Nazis by Hungarian Christians who baptised her and provided her with documents saying she was not Jewish.

She said: “I was just speaking of my experience of what the Nazis were doing to me as a Jewish child. I can’t say I’m a Palestinian, but my experiences as a child are not dissimilar to what Palestinian children are experiencing now.”

In what was irrefutable evidence of how the IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism chills free speech a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy told the JC:

Comparing Israel to the Nazi regime could reasonably be considered antisemitic, given the context, according to IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism, which is accepted by the British government, the Labour Party, the NUS, and most British universities.

Comparisons between Russia and Nazi Germany, Putin and Hitler are frequent at the moment. I’ve not heard anyone suggest that this is anti-Semitic, however stupid such comparisons may be, so why should comparisons with Israel be anti-Semitic? Is the Israeli state exempt from criticism or comparisons because it calls itself ‘Jewish’? Given that the Israeli state never hesitates to compare the Palestinians and its opponents with the Nazis it would appear that Israel has been given immunity by Rothwell.

In an email from Dianne Petcu, writing on behalf of Dame Rothwell, she writes that:

 The University has not suppressed artistic and academic freedoms. Nor has it bowed to external pressures as has been suggested

The email was written in respect of the latest controversy over the University’s attempted censorship at the Whitworth Gallery, where they ordered a statement in support of the Palestinians to be removed (later they were forced to retract their edict) but it applies equally to the affair of Marika Sherwood five years ago. Not only is Rothwell a racist she is a liar, or rather she gets others to lie on her behalf.

On what basis did Rothwell take it upon herself to censor the title of a meeting by a Jewish Holocaust survivor at the best of someone who defended the machine gunning of 4 boys playing on the Gaza beach? If Rothwell had any honesty or integrity she would have resigned in shame after the revelations of Israeli Embassy interference and her acquiescence in the demands of Israel’s Embassy.

Unfortunately, like Boris Johnson and the British Establishment, Rothwell doesn’t understand the meaning of the word shame. She is one of those desiccated managers who uses platitudes to avoid telling the truth.

As  readers of this blog know, I go out of my way not to offend anyone, but it would seem that some people are offended by the truth.

Following my blog a few readers emailed Manchester University. One such was Benjamin Treuhaft, who asked whether my open letter had been received. In reply Roz Dutton, the Executive Assistant to the President & Vice-Chancellor, made it clear that her boss didn’t appreciate my correspondence! Dutton wrote telling Ben that:

we should confront here that we object to being referred to as “bastards” and do not consider this to be an appropriate way to conduct an exchange

It should be noted that my blog was titled: ‘Open Letter to Manchester University’s Racist Vice-Chancellor Dame Nancy Rothwell’. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that her ladyship doesn’t mind being called a racist, indeed she seems quite flattered at the description, but calling into question her parentage ruffles her feathers. I guess that’s what comes of having joined the aristocracy.

Incidentally I cannot find any reference in my correspondence to calling those involved ‘bastards’ although I would accept that it’s a fitting description!

On 9 March Dutton wrote to me to informing me that my

‘email and blog include content which is grossly inaccurate with many and widespread misrepresentations including of a personal nature. The University disputes the assertions you make.’

Dutton referred me to an anodyne statement on the university’s website which stated that

We work tirelessly to ensure that these rights [academic freedom, freedom of speech and equality responsibilities], ‘are considered fully and carefully.

Despite accusing me of ‘many and widespread misrepresentations’ Dutton saved herself the trouble of telling me what these ‘misrepresentations’ were.

On 10 March, Dianne Petcu also wrote to Michael Shanahan in which she referred to ‘unhelpful speculations and false representations about the Whitworth Art Gallery’. However Petcu went on to say that ‘we hope the following confirmations are helpful’.

Most of the ‘confirmations’ were simply repetitions of previous assertions as to how Manchester University spends all its time working ‘tirelessly to ensure that these rights, and our duties, are considered fully and carefully.’ Certainly Petcu has been working tirelessly trying to repair the reputation of  Manchester University. However at the top of the list of confirmation was the following statement:

Missing from the statement is any repetition of its previous statement to the Guardian that ‘Staffing matters are strictly internal to the university and we never comment on questions of this nature.” Instead there was a bland statement that Alistair Hudson remains in post.

The only conclusion that I can draw is that once again, faced with a storm of pressure, Manchester University and racist Rothwell have thought twice about sacking Alistair Hudson. All that is now left to do, if the University really wants to convince us that it has turned over a new leaf, is to confirm that Rothwell has been sent on a long sabbatical to her favourite country Israel.

I imagine that there is post vacant at Ariel University in the occupied West Bank for this apologist for Israeli Apartheid. The correspondence is below

Tony Greenstein

President

Tue, 8 Mar, 11:32 (3 days ago)

Dear Ben,

We have indeed received the letter from Tony Greenstein and a response will follow to him, though we should confront here that we object to being referred to as “bastards” and do not consider this to be an appropriate way to conduct an exchange.

With regard to the point that you make below which addresses the recent unhelpful speculations and false representations in the media about the Whitworth Art Gallery, the facts are:

Alistair Hudson is the Director of the University of Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery. 

The University has not suppressed academic and artistic freedoms.  Nor has it bowed to external pressures from UKLFI, or other external bodies as has been suggested.

Indeed, the University went to great lengths to ensure that the exhibition in question proceeded uncensored and remained opened for the full period that had been planned.

The University’s position was clearly articulated in a statement that accompanied the exhibition and is attached here as a reminder.

Museums and galleries have traditionally been a space of experimentation and challenge and we believe that the Whitworth is a place where we can debate, discuss and disagree well.

As a University and gallery, there are various rights and duties which apply across our work, including the protection of academic freedom, freedom of speech and expression and duties under equality laws (including the public sector equality duty.)

We work tirelessly to ensure that these rights, and our duties, are considered fully and carefully.

Yours sincerely,

Roz Dutton (Mrs.)

Roz Dutton | Executive Assistant to the President & Vice-Chancellor | The University of Manchester | John Owens Building | Oxford Road | Manchester | M13 9PL | E: [email protected]

Benjamin Treuhaft

Tue, 8 Mar, 13:11 (3 days ago)

Dear Mrs. Dutton,

thanks for your comments on Tony’s accusations.  I’m sorry that you didn’t like “bastard” – although I fear you’ll find there’s much worse in his letter.  Did The Guardian and all the artists withdrawing their work from the museum get it completely wrong about Alistair Hudson’s future? That would be great!

Thanks,          

Ben  

>>Wed, 9 Mar, 10:09

Dear Mr Greenstein, 

We write further to your email dated 7 March 2022 addressed to the University’s President and Vice-Chancellor and in connection with the corresponding blog published on your website on the same date.  

The University recognises and embraces the rights of freedom of speech and expression. However, your email and blog include content which is grossly inaccurate with many and widespread misrepresentations including of a personal nature. The University disputes the assertions you make. 

A copy of the University’s statement issued following recent speculative and false representations in the media about the Whitworth Art Gallery is accessible via the following link: 

https://www.staffnet.manchester.ac.uk/news/display/?id=27770 

Yours sincerely, 

Roz Dutton (Mrs.)

 Roz Dutton | Executive Assistant to the President & Vice-Chancellor | The University of Manchester | John Owens Building | Oxford Road | Manchester | M13 9PL | E: [email protected]

To:       <[email protected]>

cc.       The Chancellor <[email protected]>, “Patrick Hackett (REGISTRAR)” <[email protected]>, UoM correspondence replies <[email protected]>, Nalin Thakkar <[email protected]>, Luke Georghiou <[email protected]>

Dear Ms Dutton,

Thank you for your email of 9 March.

You say that my email and blog were ‘grossly inaccurate’ but you carefully avoided taking the opportunity to enlighten me as to what those inaccuracies might be.

You also say that Manchester University ‘recognises and embraces the rights of freedom of speech and expression’. I can only say that if this is true then you have a strange way of demonstrating it.

If there was any truth in your statement then you would not have embraced the IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism whose sole purpose is to conflate anti-Zionism and support for the Palestinians with anti-Semitism. I doubt if even your distinguished Vice-Chancellor can tell us what the 38 word definition actually means:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

This definition has been heavily criticised by a range of legal and academic scholars. David Feldman, Director of the only academic institute in Britain for the Study of anti-Semitism, described it as ‘bewilderingly imprecise’. Sir Stephen Sedley, a Jewish former Court of Appeal judge stated that it’s not even a definition, being indefinite.  Geoffrey Robertson QC, a prominent human rights barrister’s opinion was that it was ‘unfit for purpose.’  Indeed the very person who drafted it, Kenneth Stern, in evidence to Congress, described how it was being used to ‘chill’ free speech. Manchester University proves this.

The IHRA is the quintessential example of anti-Palestinian racism. It defines the Palestinian experience of Zionism and Israeli racism through the prism of ‘anti-Semitism’. It presupposes that when Palestinians oppose the demolition of their homes and confiscation of their land that they do it out of hatred of Jews.

The IHRA says that calling the Israeli state racist is anti-Semitic. So the practice of confining Israeli Palestinians to 2% of Israel’s land and refusing them admission to hundreds of Jewish only communities is not racist? Why? If the same happened in reverse and an English National Fund denied Jews access to ‘Christian’ land would that not be anti-Semitic?

UK Lawers for Israel statement saying they wrote to Rothwell ‘suggesting that the University should consider appropriate disciplinary action’ against Hudson

To take another example I can go, at any time I choose, under the Law of Return to Israel and claim citizenship whereas Palestinians born there not only have no such right but those living there are having that right removed. Maybe the good Dame can explain why this is not racist?

Vice-Chancellor Dame Nancy Rothwell was responsible for the introduction and implementation of the IHRA at Manchester University. You chose the tender feeling of groups like the far-right UK Lawyers for Israel over those of Palestinian students.

Your decision to adopt a definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ that chills free speech was taken as a result of government pressure. You did not have the courage to resist. So your statement that you ‘embrace’ freedom of speech and expression is just hot air, devoid of any substance.

If you were serious about freedom of speech you would junk the IHRA and adopt the Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism which has been drawn up by Israeli and Jewish academics. It carefully avoids conflating support for Palestine with anti-Semitism.

Dame Rothwell was responsible for a Jewish holocaust survivor, Marika Sherwood, being forced to change the title of a speech she gave, ‘“You’re doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to me” because Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev, whose main job was to lie on behalf of his country, objected. How is this compatible with your lofty declarations?

Most reasonable people would say that Ms Sherwood was in a better position to know whether or not Israeli behaviour resembled Nazi behaviour.  Instead of indulging Regev you should have sent him away with a flea in his ear.

I have read the university statement and it is clearly inaccurate as you did try to prevent a statement on Palestine accompanying the Exhibition of Forensic Architecture and you only backed down when FA itself withdrew the exhibition.

If you dispute the claim that UKLFI asked for disciplinary action to be taken against Mr Hudson and you obliged them then why you don’t simply go on record and deny it? There is a long and shameful record of academic institutions in this country collaborating with apartheid, be it in South Africa or Israel.  You seem determined to continue that tradition.

It is clear that the Vice-Chancellor of Manchester University, Dame Nancy Rothwell, is an unashamed racist who, given the choice between Palestinian students and the Israel lobby prefers the latter. That is your misfortune. 

Dame Rothwell’s behaviour is also racist because she subscribes to the canard that criticism of Zionism or Israel’s behaviour will breach the university’s public sector equality duty. UKLFI said that support for  Palestinians “seems designed to provoke racial discord” but this only demonstrates that Zionism and anti-Semitism are two sides of the same coin. Support for the Palestinians and opposition to Zionism has nothing whatever to do with anti-Semitism and any attempt to connect the two is itself anti-Semitic.

It is clearly time that the good Dame moved on to greener pastures. Manchester University is surely, after 12 years, entitled to a Vice Chancellor who is an anti-racist?

Yours sincerely,

Tony Greenstein

From: Dianne Petcu <[email protected]> on behalf of The Chancellor <[email protected]>
Sent: 10 March 2022 14:27
To: Michael Shanahan
Subject: RE: The current status of your Whitworth Director , Alistair Hudson.

Dear Mr Shanahan,

Thank you for your further email.  I would like to refer you to our latest statement below which addresses your queries.

Following the recent unhelpful speculations and false representations about the Whitworth Art Gallery we hope the following confirmations are helpful:

Alistair Hudson is the Director of the University of Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery. 

The University has not suppressed artistic and academic freedoms. Nor has it bowed to external pressures as has been suggested.

Indeed, the University went to great lengths to ensure that the exhibition in question proceeded uncensored and remained opened for the full period that had been planned.

Museums and galleries have traditionally been a space of experimentation and challenge and we believe that the Whitworth is a place where we can debate, discuss and disagree well.

As a University and gallery, there are various rights and duties which apply across our work, including the protection of academic freedom, freedom of speech and expression and duties under equality laws (including the public sector equality duty).

We work tirelessly to ensure that these rights, and our duties, are considered fully and carefully.

In summary, we can assure you that, together with my colleagues in the University, we are committed to ensuring that the Gallery’s work and reputation goes from strength to strength.

Best wishes

Dianne

 

 

 

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