British AUT getting 'down wiv the kidz'
By Julie Burchill
Prejudice is one of those things - like white shoes or Germans - for
which there are very few excuses made. If someone is stingy (stinginess being
the halitosis of the soul, as I always say) there's always some do-gooding
bystander who'll stand up for them and say 'Oh, but they're just scared of
being poor/they used to be poor!'
If someone's a child abuser, even, some jerk will pop up and pipe 'Ooo,
it's not their fault - it probably happened to them, too, when they were
children! The abused abuse!' Which is patently untrue to anyone with even the
flimsiest grasp on mathematics in general and fractions in particular; around
three quarters of child abuse victims are girls, but three quarters of child
abusers aren't women, are they? D'oh!
But you won't find many people trying to explain why a person is
prejudiced. 'Oh, they're just ignorant!' is the best you'll get. And it may
well be true. Which is why the sight of 'clever' people showing prejudice
seems singularly grotesque. What's THEIR excuse?
I'm asking this right now because a couple of weeks ago, on April 22nd,
Britain's Association of University Teachers - an organization representing
over 48,000 professional swots - voted to ban all contact with two Israeli
universities, and asked its executive committee to consider a boycott against
a third, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Israel was accused of being 'a colonial apartheid state' worse than
South Africa, a 'regime' worthy of 'removal', and its universities of
repressing academic freedom. Needless to say, this show of spite received
rapturous applause; well, Britain IS currently playing host to the biggest
ever annual number of violent anti-Semitic attacks, both on people and on
property, since the 1930s. Who can blame the teachers, so conscious of their
uncoolness, for wanting to get 'down wiv the kidz'? They're too respectable to
daub swastikas on a synagogue - but it sure feels good to band together and
bully them Israeli academics!
Just imagine; for once, the swots aren't having their books ripped up in
front of them by a gang of thugs - THEY'RE the ones doing the ripping. But if
we learnt nothing else from the Shoah, you'd think we'd have learned that the
seductive power of herd-mentality cruelty can suck in the most unlikely
people; it sucked in the Germans, for instance, almost all of them, a nation
thought by many to be the most cultured and civilized in Northern Europe. And
now, sixty years after the rough-necked Brits showed the cultured Krauts the
true meaning of civilization, we are going through our own dark night of the
In one way this turn of events is as unexpected as it is cruel - after
all, in this country it tends to be academics who react to anything from mild
censorship to book-burning with 'That's how Hitler started!' That they are now
doing something Hitler would thoroughly approve of, and did - barring contact
with Jews - seems to have escaped them. But in another way, it makes logical,
horrible sense. It's not so long since English academia saw nothing wrong with
having Jewish quotients as a matter of course, lest the 'best' universities be
over-run by those unnaturally smart Heebs. Far from flying in the face of
English academic freedom, maybe the latest haters are simply reverting to
I've always loved being English - but more and more these days, living
through this latest, almost post-modern plague of anti-Semitism with a
'caring' face, I wish it was a club that I could resign from, as opposed to a
flag I carry in my blood. Trust me, with all your trials and tribulations, you
lot don't know how lucky you are. Because you will never, ever be ashamed of
and embarrassed by your country the way I am increasingly ashamed of and
embarrassed by mine.
You're too damn good-looking for your own good, you're humourless and
you don't know the meaning of 'please' and 'thank you' - but you're not
bullies, and you never will be. It makes me sad to think that just a few years
ago, I thought that last thing about my people, too. I don't anymore.
Julie Burchill is a columnist for The Times of London.