November 1st-7th 2002

Lecturer anti-Semitism claim

English lecturer accused of linking to "Radical Islamic organisations"

Carinya Sharples, News Editor

"I find the allegations of anti-semitism offensive as they are ridiculous" - Sue Blackwell

"It is sad that she has allowed herself to become a mouthpiece for recognised anti-Israel groups" - Board of Deputies

University of Birmingham lecturer, Sue Blackwell, has received abusive e-mails and phone messages after The Board of Deputies of British Jews accused her of becoming "a mouthpiece for recognised anti-Israel groups."

The furore escalated from links on Ms. Blackwell's personal website which apparently lead to what the Jewish Chronicle called "radical Islamic organisations".

Furthermore, the website is said to have links to the University's homepage: a claim which Michael Philips, campaign director for Union of Jewish Students called "quite irresponsible".

The accusations come at a time of high sensitivity on matters of war on Iraq and the worries of Jewish students who, a spokesperson for the Board of Deputies [said], "have felt increasingly threatened by anti-Israel and anti-semitic propaganda on campus." In fact even at this year's Freshers' Fair, criticisms have been made of some lecturers who stood at the Friends of Palestine Society wearing badges saying "Victory to the Intifada."

On the other side of the argument, the Jewish Society face accusations of racial discrimination from a member of the Islamic Society and Christian Union who was declined membership allegedly on the grounds of "racial background".

Charlie Sundt, Vice President of Student Activities, told us that societies do not have the right to refuse admission unless with Guild authorisation, which the Jewish Society does not currently have.

The Jewish Society was unavailable for comment.

Sue Blackwell has responded to these allegations in a letter for publication to The Jewish Chronicle, in which she shows her support for her colleagues' wishes in wearing the badges. Regarding her websites she explaines how she "repeatedly challenged [her] detractors to provide [her] with the precise web addresses of the sites supporting suicide bombers which they allege [she is] linking to: to date they have failed to come up with evidence."

Her defensive responses are backed up by prominent Jewish academic Michael Cohen of Swansea University who says he "has not been in the slightest offended by anything [he] saw" and accuses those making the complaints of "using a pretext to silence any criticism of Israel."

However, although Sue Blackwell brands the Chronicle's criticism of the web site being "under the crest of the university" as "untrue ... never has there ever been a direct link to it from any official University page", it does seem to be accessible from exactly this means, simply by typing "Sue Blackwell" into the university's search engine.

Sue Blackwell was unavailable for comment since she is currently out of the country.

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 13th November 2002.