David Hirsh

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

Hirsh, who grew up in Highgate, London,[2] is a graduate of City University, London. He holds an M.A. in Philosophy and Social Theory and a PhD from University of Warwick. He wrote his dissertation on Crimes Against Humanity and International Law.[3]

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

As a researcher of contemporary antisemitism, Hirsh is known for coining the term "Livingstone Formulation", after the (former) mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. Hirsh's term is intended to describe an individual, such as Livingstone who, when faced with allegations of antisemitic attitudes, immediately reverses the charge, accusing his accuser of "playing the antisemitic card" to stifle debate.[4][5]

Hirsh is the founding editor of the Engage website, a resource for those working to understand and to oppose contemporary antisemitism.[3] Along with several other Engage editors, he was a leading activist in the National Organisation of Labour Students during the 1980s.

In 2017, Hirsh's book Contemporary Left Antisemitism was published by Routledge.[2] It brought together much of his previous writing and thinking on the relationship between hostility to Israel and antisemitism. The book presents narrative and case study of left antisemitism and it also offers analysis of how it may be understood.

Opposition to boycotts of Israel[edit]

Hirsh has taken a leading role in opposing the proposed boycott of Israeli universities by British academics.[6][7] 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".[8]

In a debate in 2010 with Tom Hickey of the University of Brighton, who is a leader in the campaign to boycott Israel, Hirsh claimed (after professor Mary Davis of London Metropolitan University stated she had been subject to intimidation due to her opposition to boycotts of Israel):

Tom Hickey subsequently denounced Hirsh, arguing that Hirsh's claims were in fact "a traducement of the truth and it's a straightforward lie and the author knows it. There has been no intimidation – the union and the chief executive would not allow it". Hirsh responded by stating:



  1. ^ Rocker, Simon (24 April 2008). "Union bans anti-boycott activist". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 8 February 2009. 
  2. ^ a b Lipman, Jennifer (1 September 2017). "Ex-cabbie who took on the left". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 3 September 2017. 
  3. ^ a b David Hirsh, BSc MA PhD
  4. ^ Hirsh, David (n.d.). "Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: Cosmopolitan Reflections" (pdf). Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism Working Paper Series. ISSN 1940-6118. Retrieved 4 September 2017. 
  5. ^ Markovits, Andrei (2008). "Book Review". democratiya.com. Retrieved 8 February 2009. 
  6. ^ Hodges, Lucy, "The rebellion begins.", The Independent, 5 May 2005.
  7. ^ Glenn Frankel, "British Academics Repeal Israel Boycott", The Washington Post, 27 May 2005.
  8. ^ Joffe-Walt, Benjamin (30 May 2006). "Lecturers back boycott of Israeli academics". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 September 2017. 
  9. ^ a b Symons, Leon (21 January 2010). "UCU under fire for 'institutional racism'". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 4 September 2017.