David Hirsh

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David Hirsh (born 29 September 1967) is a lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and co-founder of Engage, a campaign against the academic boycott of Israel.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Hirsh grew up in Highgate, London and attended Highgate School until he was 15, when he persuaded his parents to allow him to transfer to Woodhouse Grammar School.[2][3] For several years, he was a member of the Trotskyist Alliance for Workers' Liberty and, during the 1980s, a leading activist in the National Organisation of Labour Students.[2] He briefly studied Physics at Sheffield University, then worked as a driver for several years.[2] He is a graduate of City University, London and holds an M.A. in Philosophy and Social Theory and a PhD from University of Warwick, writing his dissertation on Crimes Against Humanity and International Law.[4]


Hirsh won the Philip Abrams Prize for the best first book in sociology for 2004, from the British Sociological Association, for his book Law Against Genocide: Cosmopolitan trials. The book, on the significance of "cosmopolitan law", contains an account of the 1999 British trial of Anthony Sawoniuk for Holocaust related crimes committed in Belarus in 1942.

In 2005, he co-founded the Engage website, a resource for those working to oppose the boycott of Israel.[4] Hirsh took a leading role during 2005-07 in opposing boycotts of Israeli universities proposed by British academics.[5][6] Hirsh told The Guardian, "It may not have anti-semitic motivations, but if you organise an academic boycott of Israeli Jewish academics but no-one else in the world, that is an anti-semitic policy".[7]

His book, Contemporary Left Antisemitism, which combined narrative and case study with sociological analysis and theory to understand the controversial and contested phenomenon of antisemitism on the left, was published in 2017.[3]

Livingstone Formulation[edit]

Hirsh originated the term "Livingstone Formulation", named after Ken Livingstone, as the claim made by those accused of antisemitism that the accusation is made in order to delegitimize their criticism of Israel;[8] he says it is accusing Jews of playing the race card. Alvin Hirsch Rosenfeld described the Livingstone Formulation as "a common trope of contemporary antisemitism in the United Kingdom."[9] The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), a pro-Israel group, has accused the BBC of using the Livingstone Formulation routinely, with statements such as "Others say the Israeli government and its supporters are deliberately confusing anti-Zionism with antisemitism to avoid criticism."[10]


  • Law against Genocide: Cosmopolitan trials, (2003) London: GlassHouse Press, Cavendish Publishing
  • Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: Cosmopolitan Reflections, The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA) Working Paper Series #1, New Haven CT (2007)
  • "Law against genocide" in Freeman, M, (ed) Law and sociology (2006), Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • "The trial of Andrei Sawoniuk: Holocaust testimony under cross-examination" in Social and Legal Studies, Vol 10, Issue 4, pp 531–545 (2001)
  • With Robert Fine, "The decision to commit a crime against humanity" in Archer, M and Tritter, J (eds), Rational Choice Theory: Resisting colonisation (2000) London: Routledge
  • "Accusations of malicious intent in debates about the Palestine-Israel conflict and about antisemitism. The "Livingstone Formulation",'playing the antisemitism card' and contesting the boundaries of antiracist discourse." in Transversal. Zeitschrift für Jüdische Studien. University of Graz, Centrum für Jüdische Studien. Graz: Studienverlag ISSN 1607-629X, Vol 11, Issue 1, (2010) pp 47 – 77
  • "Hostility to Israel and Antisemitism: Toward a Sociological Approach" in EngageOnline Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, (2013) JSA Vol 5#1
  • The Corbyn left: the politics of position and the politics of reason in fathom, Autumn (2015)
  • "How raising the issue of antisemitism puts you outside the community of the progressive: The Livingstone Formulation"Eunice G. Pollack, ed., Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: Past & Present (Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2016)
  • Book Review | Jews and the Left: the Rise and Fall of a Political Alliance, Fathom, Winter 2015
  • Contemporary Left Antisemitism, (2018) London: Routledge.[11]


  1. ^ Rocker, Simon (24 April 2008). "Union bans anti-boycott activist". The Jewish Chronicle. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 8 February 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Patrikarakos, David (4 September 2018). "An Expert on Anti-Semitism Fears for the Future in Britain". Tablet (magazine). Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  3. ^ a b Lipman, Jennifer (1 September 2017). "Ex-cabbie who took on the left". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  4. ^ a b David Hirsh, BSc MA PhD
  5. ^ Hodges, Lucy, "The rebellion begins.", The Independent, 5 May 2005.
  6. ^ Frankel, Glenn. "British Academics Repeal Israel Boycott", The Washington Post, 27 May 2005.
  7. ^ Joffe-Walt, Benjamin (30 May 2006). "Lecturers back boycott of Israeli academics". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  8. ^ Hirsh, David (n.d.). "Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: Cosmopolitan Reflections" (pdf). Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism Working Paper Series. pp. 54–61. ISSN 1940-6118. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  9. ^ Rosenfeld, Alvin (2019). Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: The Dynamics of Delegitimization. Indiana University Press. p. 207. ISBN 9780253038722. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  10. ^ Sela, Hadar (19 February 2019). "How the BBC proliferates antisemitism in the UK". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  11. ^ Miciks, David (27 October 2017). "Progressive Anti-Semitism and Putin In 'Contemporary Left Antisemitism,' David Hirsh compellingly traces a newly resurgent form of disinformation to its surprising enablers (book review)". Tablet. Retrieved 2 May 2019.