Last night, at the University of Warwick, Faculty arranged a public talk that accused Israel of eugenics. Let us digest a simple truth. Like with most medical or technological innovations, Israel is a global powerhouse in fertility treatment. Every Israeli citizen, regardless of race, religion or colour, receives equal treatment. If you are Muslim and in need of IVF then no citizenship in the world, guarantees you the sort of world-class treatment that being an Israeli does. If you have doubts, talk to Prof. Foad Azem, I am sure he would be happy to convince you.
Eugenics is defined as ‘a set of beliefs and practices that aims at improving the genetic quality of a human population‘. Eugenics were most famously used as a justification for the racial policies of Nazi Germany. They are clearly associated with the Holocaust. False accusations of eugenics against Israel, places an accusing finger on the biggest victims of 20th century eugenic experiments – the Jews. The Jews are a people who lost one third of their number to genocide. You cannot spread these type of lies, which clearly fall under the IHRA definition of antisemitism, and then ignore complaints about your failure to protect Jewish students. There is something rotten in Warwick.
Dr Siggie Vertommen
The event was a talk by Dr Siggie Vertommen. It was titled ‘Anti-colonial Resistance is Fertile: Sperm Smuggling and Birth Strikes in Palestine/Israel‘. Vertommen is Marie Curie Research Fellow at the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine at King’s College London. Like many activist academics, Vertommen places her pseudo-science atop a biased and twisted view of Zionism. As Vertommen specialises in ‘the political economy of global fertility chains’ then this is what she places on top of her twisted views of Zionism.
To understand the mindset, Vertommen wrote a piece on the social unrest in Israel in 2011 and 2012. It was published as a chapter in a book. The title was: ‘Help, de onderdrukkers worden onderdrukt! Sociaal protest in Israel‘. This translates as ‘Help, the oppressors are being oppressed‘.
Unpack the title. In Israel, people are oppressors. Not the government, not a political body, not an ideology, but the people. In every other nation, social protests such as this are viewed as being carried out by those fighting for change, as opposition to the status quo. In Israel, they were labelled ‘oppressors’ by Vertommen. It perfectly demonstrates, that for Vertommen, there seems to be no way out for the Israeli whatever their views. It suggests a highly racist mindset.
The University of Warwick event
This is how last night’s event at the University of Warwick was advertised:
It suggests that Israel is well known for its pronatalist stance, but goes on to say that ‘critical scholars have rightly argued that Israel’s pronatalism is a selective one, primarily to serve the reproductive rights of its Jewish population at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian population‘. It argues that ‘rather than understanding Israel’s fertility policies in terms of rights, choice, peace and reconciliation‘ Vertommen will propose a ‘reproductive sabotage framework‘ – or in other words – eugenics. She complains Israel is seeking to enhance the Jewish population, whilst she is herself actively promoting ‘reproductive sabotage’. Note the Causality Reversal. Not only is she falsely accusing Israel of eugenics, but her solution is a eugenic one.
How did Vertommen do it?
The advert alone should automatically be rejected as a vile antisemitic slur. The way modern pseudo-science works is clear. It begins with a bias, upon which an academic then constructs a theory. The question then becomes: Can the academic bring together enough linkage to make the argument look innovative enough to be swallowed and propagated by other academic activists? Truth is not part of the calculation.
In Israel this works because of the variables thrown up by the conflict and because every society has unique elements to it. If every aspect of every society is slightly unique, then there is space for academic research to investigate that uniqueness. Yet one of the variables in almost any study on Israel, is the Jewish majority. Now follow the logic, if every element of every society is slightly unique, and the Jewish majority is also a unique element of Israeli society, then *every* negative aspect of Israeli society will correlate with the Jewish majority. Through a strategy of omission (in Vertommen’s case ignoring the equal rights of Israel’s non Jewish citizens, and blurring the 1967 lines) you can academically create an argument to blame the Jews for just about everything. Even eugenics.
And look at this case. This isn’t even a ‘negative’. Israel’s innovation, strength in the medical field, and the freedom given to every one of its citizens, is twisted to become the most spiteful of slurs. Jews cannot want to strive for parenthood for natural reasons, there has to be a demonic reason for Israel to invest so heavily in fertility treatment. Jews as the devil.
The audience has no interest in what is true. They have bias, there are many Jew haters amongst them, and they are only interested in feeding the hate, not seeking genuine academic knowledge. It is antisemitic pseudo-science. Our universities have no place catering for this type of hate-speech, whether it is driven by students, financial support, or driven by Faculty.
Because boy is Vertommen pushing pseudo-science. Her entire argument could be placed onto any nation, which has majority and minority, wealth and poverty, prisoners and freemen, and any type of social stratification. So the core question of a researcher with integrity would be – does my example replicate itself even if I remove what I argue may be causal elements? With Vertommen, the answer is yes, they replicate everywhere, even in the total absence of Zionism, the Jewish State and the Palestinians.
There are for example, about 200,000 inmates in Federal prison in the United States – all denied conjugal rights. And sperm is smuggled there. Why is less sperm smuggled there? Perhaps because the security is tighter. Or perhaps, Israel turns a blind eye to sperm smuggling. Maybe there are not 100,000 cameras focusing on the wives of federal prisoners, so it simply isn’t reported. Or perhaps Palestinians seek to publicise it as a PR exercise, whilst federal prisoners do not. Maybe it is just that academic activists aren’t interested in sperm smuggling in Salford? Who knows. What we do know is that Israel’s citizens are all equal and the number of long-term Palestinian political prisoners is insignificant when discussing population growth.
Or in other words – she might have wrapped everything up in academic double speak to make it sound scientific, but the entire thesis is still bunkum. Or, back to the basic point, Vertommen seems to possess a ‘hate Israel’ bug and has simply placed her research on top of it. She has of course signed the academic boycott. Nothing that hundreds of other academics in UK universities are not already doing, except that Vertommen has pushed the antisemitic eugenics label onto the Jewish State.
University of Warwick Faculty
This wasn’t my first time at the University of Warwick. I went to a full-day conference there last year and have been in contact with several Jewish students who have found the university response to their special case – unhelpful. What is the special case at the University of Warwick? It is that the extremism isn’t a battle between students – the problem is with members of the Faculty.
If you want to understand academic anti-Israel activism, Warwick is one of the universities that you need to place under the microscope. There are two Palestine societies at Warwick. The regular student one, and the one created by the Faculty. In the first meeting of the Faculty driven society in late 2016, it was explained that they had created the new anti-Israel group, because the student group was not extreme enough. The beginners guide to the history of the conflict that evening was given by Teodora Todorova. It was nothing more than an error-laden rant, by a pseudo-academic with a fetish for Israel hate. How a university can allow a person to lie so blatantly to students, and still teach them in any discipline, is beyond understanding. Either accuracy and truth is important – or it is not. Clearly at the University of Warwick it is not a requirement.
Nicola Pratt is Todorova’s main supporting act. Pratt once supervised an Israeli student, Smadar Bakovic, who felt intimidated by the academic’s anti-Israel activism. The university ignored her complaints. When the student’s mark did not meet expectations, the student complained again. Eventually the work was re-marked and Bakovic obtained a distinction. In Pratt’s comments she had said that ‘Bakovic had a tendency to adopt Israeli/Zionist narratives as though they were uncontested facts’. Given Pratt’s ‘tendency’ to spread anti-Israel falsehoods amongst students, this is rank hypocrisy.
Another at last night’s event was Lisa Tilley. Others such as Sara Salem and Alice Panepinto have also been involved in the anti-Israel activism, but I am not sure if they were present last night. The Faculty at the University of Warwick contains an antisemitic vipers nest.
Last night, Warwick held back-to-back events, with a second ‘Palestine discussion event taking place. Two anti-Israel events in one university on the same day. Internal protests against them proved unsuccessful. Students had been clearly unsettled by the eugenics event, and following up, Jewish Human Rights Watch had also called to register their complaint against a ‘blatantly antisemitic eugenics event’. All this in turn has led to a third event being scheduled for early February, that wanted to see these ‘academics’ discuss ‘Prevent and the Misuse of Antisemitism‘. What they want students to believe, is that in a nation that delivers 176 anti-Israel events in a single month, their voices are being brutally suppressed.
The unpalatable truth, is that anti-Jewish hatred is spreading almost unabated, academia is proving to be fertile ground for the virus, and Jewish students and their parents are suffocating under the strain. When the victims of this racism complain, the antisemites feel their fetish is unfairly being stifled, and use free speech arguments to defend themselves. 176 events against 1 tiny state isn’t enough, they want more, they even want to accuse the Jews of practicing eugenics, and they will be damned if they have to pay any attention to Jewish sensitivities.
Let’s face it, when it comes to pushing antisemitism onto students and then denying it exists, the Faculty at the University of Warwick are pretty active.
Denying the Jews entry
I decided to travel the distance to support the students and to see how bad the speech actually would be. I did not travel alone, both Mandy Blumenthal and Yochy Davis were with me. We did not get in. This had been advertised as a public event:
It was advertised outside of the university forums, by local Palestinian groups:
And the organisers put out several calls for people to come:
It is important to note that they do know how to advertise a private event. Look at how the February event has been advertised:
In fact, the argument was not that it hadn’t been advertised as a public event, but rather that the organisers had changed their minds during the course of the day. When we arrived, we were spotted by Teodora Todorova, who was sitting next to Lisa Tilley in conversation. My own assumption is that this is when the decision was made. When we went to enter the lecture hall, it was Tilley who stood in our way:
Tilley asked us for ID, explaining that only Faculty and students would be allowed in. We pointed out that we had driven two hours to a public event. She shrugged. It’s the ‘Prevent strategy’ she said. There is irony here. These people hate Prevent, and yet they used it as an excuse to exclude us. It shows the hypocrisy of their arguments of free speech. We politely protested, and Todorova came to the door to stand alongside Tilley. Todorova asked us for ID, which she wanted to ‘photograph’, which seems like an outrageous invasion of privacy and a clear over-step of her position. It also contradicts the Prevent statement. If we could not come in, then what use were our ID’s? Never one to blink, I handed her my ID, she didn’t take it, shrugged and turned away. Bluff called.
Protecting hate speech
Yochy and Mandy refused to let go, but remained polite throughout. With the door now closed, and the three Jews outside, we tried to speak to another academic standing outside. He was also at the anti-Israel conference last year, and therefore is clearly part of the ‘clan’. He was abrupt, rude and visibly had a problem with our presence. I said to him that surely he can ‘understand that having driven two hours for a public event, we were disappointed at being refused entry’. He said ‘ there is nothing to talk about’, and he ‘was waiting for security’, obviously to escort us off the premises.
There is no point doing anything in this position but politely press the point and then accept the verdict. From the point of a denial of entry, right or wrong, any security system will side with Faculty. We are the aliens. Jewish aliens no less. Todorova reappeared, and I said to her this exclusion was unnecessary. Mandy attempted to speak to her as well. She brushed past all three of us, ignoring our presence and without saying a word.
Think about this for a minute. She had organised the event and she had made it public. Todorova was responsible for our wasted journey, and was the academic representative on site. As the face of the university, she at the very least should have given us polite apologies. But this isn’t about academia. This is an anti-Jewish movement, she is an anti-Israel activist, and with that hat firmly on her head, she completely blanked us. It exposes the unacceptable truth of our exclusion. Had it been genuine, she would have behaved differently.
Mandy and Yochy spoke for some time with the sympathetic and friendly security. We were supplied with the information necessary to lodge a formal complaint.
It is also important to note we were the only three people excluded. Apparently to an event that was public, not one other person turned up. At this point we have reason to believe local anti-Israel activists were allowed into the room, but we were excluded because of our identity. We are currently chasing that information.
It is difficult to describe the emotions we felt as we stood there. Excluded as Jews, we were not permitted to enter a room and defend Jewish rights, inside a place where antisemitism was being fomented. Not in some private Nazi’s living room, but inside a lecture theatre of a UK university. And the thugs responsible for all this, were not some shunned section of our society, but those gifted with teaching our children. And the university security, however polite, were there to reinforce the rules that discriminated against us. Institutionalised antisemitism.
Academics at the University of Warwick used Prevent as an excuse to ensure that their twisted antisemitic narrative would go unchallenged. They knew, that if they allowed us entry, then during the Q&A we would provide an alternative argument to the one they wanted students to believe. And the university allowed them to do it. To actually suggest Jews practice eugenics, whilst barring Jews from being able to put up a defence. That is the standard of academics at the University of Warwick. Something it is clearly worthwhile remembering.
A complaint is being drafted.
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