Israel debate inflamed by web link to racist site

September 4, 2008

Tensions between supporters and opponents of an academic boycott of Israel were heightened last week after a lecturer recommended fellow trade union members visit a former Ku Klux Klan leader's website, which voices vehement anti-Zionist views.

Jenna Delich, a lecturer at Sheffield College, posted a link to David Duke's website on the University and College Union (UCU) activist list, an online discussion forum.

The list is dominated by debate about the union's approach to Israel and Palestine, with writers frequently accusing each other of anti-Semitism and of hampering legitimate criticism of the state of Israel. But Ms Delich's posting, which linked to an article on Mr Duke's site on Palestine and said "the facts are speaking for themselves", sparked a louder-than-usual furore.

Mr Duke, who advocates white separatism, has written a book, Jewish Supremacism, which is advertised on his website. He has suggested there should be a "separate homeland" for African-Americans and has been described as America's most famous racist.

The article linked to by Ms Delich ends: "To the Israeli oligarchs, the death of Palestinian civilians is 'superb', and they feel nothing when they kill women and children ... - either someone does something about these sick psychopaths, or they, and their kind in Washington and around the world, will destroy us all."

Ms Delich has now been suspended from the activist list. A UCU spokesman said the David Duke website contained "highly offensive, racist material". "UCU acted to suspend the posting rights of the list member as soon as the union became aware of the link," he added.

Meanwhile, a popular political blog that criticised Ms Delich's posting was temporarily shut down after a complaint it had libelled her. The Harry's Place blog was closed by its domain name host after it reproduced Ms Delich's posting and said she had written other "poisonous and nasty" emails. The site has now moved to a different host.

In May, Ms Delich posted a link on the UCU list to a website criticising a "Zionist-inspired war on terror", which quoted a former Italian president as saying the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York were "actually committed by the US CIA and Israeli Mossad in the interests of US and Zionist hegemony".

A list member complained to the UCU but no action was taken. In the same month David Hirsh, a leading campaigner against an academic boycott of Israel, was barred from the online forum for breaching its confidentiality rules.

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