Birmingham Post Saturday October 26th 2002


By Paul Dale
Chief Reporter

A Birmingham University lecturer who runs a website supporting Palestinian human rights has denied allegations of anti-Semitism and support for terrorism.

Sue Blackwell hit back after being severely criticised by the Jewish Board of Deputies, which accused her of being a "mouthpiece" for anti-Israel groups.

The allegation was reported in the Jewish Chronicle, which claimed Ms. Blackwell's site contained links to radical Islamic organisations.

The article also criticised organisers of Birmingham University's Freshers' Fair for allegedly permitting anti-Jewish sentiments to be expressed.

Jewish student Adam Golding said: "Some lecturers were standing with the Friends of Palestine Society wearing badges saying 'Victory to the Intifada'. It doesn't give Jewish students encouragement."

Ms. Blackwell is Birmingham branch vice-president of the Association of University Teachers. She teaches in the English Department.

Ms. Blackwell said she had received abusive e-mails and phone messages as a result of the story.

She added, "I unreservedly condemn racism and terrorism of all kinds and would never knowingly provide a link to any site which promotes anti-semitism or terrorism.

"I have repeatedly challenged my detractors to provide me with the precise URLs (web addresses) of the sites supporting suicide bombers to which they allege I am linking. They have failed to come up with the evidence."

Ms. Blackwell said the website represented her personal work. She had removed a link to official Birmingham University websites. She added, "It contains numerous links to sites supporting Palestinian human rights, including some run by Jewish peace groups.

"I have been an active anti-racist all my adult life and whenever the BNP stand for election in Birmingham you will find me campaigning against them on the streets and reminding voters of the horrors of the Holocaust.

"While I support the right of my colleagues at the Palestine Society stall to wear Victory to the Intifada badges if they wish, for the record I was not present at the Freshers' Fair this year."

Ms. Blackwell said in ten years at the university she had never been the subject of a complaint by a student on the grounds of discrimination.

"I take pride in treating all my students with equal respect whatever their ethnicity or religion and I find allegations of anti-Semitism as offensive as they are ridiculous."

The website's contents drew support from Michael Cohen of Swansea University, a prominent Jewish academic.

Mr. Cohen said: "I am a Jew and I have not been in the slightest offended by anything I saw. Nor have the students making the complaints. What they are doing is using a pretext to silence any criticism of Israel."

A university spokeswoman said: "Birmingham University is taking this very seriously and has received both complaints and letters of support from the Jewish community.

"It is important for the university to remain entirely objective in such cases.

"We are now making further investigations looking at the whole policy relating to personal websites hosted by the university - in common with many other universities we originally hosted a number of personal sites.

"Now advancing technology means people can easily do this themselves. It may be time to review our approach."

This site is owned and maintained by Sue Blackwell.
Its contents are in no way endorsed by the University of Birmingham.
It was last updated on 5th November 2002.