At the Edinburgh Festival in 2004 Ted Honderich gave a lecture that included moral support for the Palestinians in their struggle against neo-Zionism -- neo-Zionism being the enlarging of the state of Israel beyond its original borders, with what that has entailed and will entail for the Palestinians. This was objected to by the chairman and some other members of the undergraduate Jewish Society in University College London, and also by the Union of Jewish Students. A campaign was begun of which the aim of was to have the college take down the website at which you are looking.

The aim was pursued in the LondonStudent, the newspaper of the University of London Students Union, said to be Europe's largest student newspaper. Also, a motion was put on the agenda of the first meeting of the academic year of the University College London Students Union.

What follows below, first, are three articles from the newspaper, the third having to do with a lecturer at Kings College London. The articles about Ted Honderich contained falsehoods and false implications, and were in the opinion of his lawyers, Farrer & Co., and Mr. Julian Pike in particular, defamatory and inflammatory. One implication was of anti-Semitism.

As a result, London Student agreed to apologise, which it did, and to print a considerable reply, and to refrain from repeating various allegations. It has also agreed to pay Professor Honderich's considerable legal costs.

That he chose to incur them, against a university students union, had to do with resisting the final aim of any campaign of neo-Zionism, however juvenile and disregardable the campaign in itself, and however it came about, which final aim he describes as the continuing violation of Palestine.

The three articles appeared on the front page and other pages of  the newspaper on 20 September 2004, under the given headings. They were subsequently with qualification disavowed by the chairman of the Jewish Society, a student in the philosophy department at University College, Mr Samuel Lebens, who is quoted in them.

The articles are followed below by the agreed reply, which appeared in the next issue, that of 11 October.

The motion to the University College Students Union was rejected unanimously. It would have been decisively rejected, it seems, given attitudes to free speech in UCL, shared by the officers of the college's Association of University Teachers, even if the proposer of the motion and others had not been absent from the meeting, apparently on account of a Jewish holiday. The author of the second article below, Dex Barton, withdrew as a seconder of the motion in advance of the meeting.


University of London race relations suffer a series of blows
by Angharad Davies
(London Student, 20 September 2004, p. 1)

A summer of controversy has left race relations at the University of London in pieces.

      Despite being home to one of the most cosmopolitan and multi-cultural student bodies in the world, lecturers at the colleges have proved themselves to be far from racially tolerant after a series of incidents that have left students in shock.

Amid a torrent of protest, an internationally renowned University College London philosophy professor condoned terrorism in Israel during a speech at the Edinburgh Festival in August. UCL was again criticised after the professor was able to condone Palestinian terrorism again on a website hosted by college servers. At the other end of London, students at King's College are still reeling after a physiology lecturer walked out of a packed hall at the end of last term and refused to teach a class because it included a girl in Islamic dress.


In the face of mounting pressure, both lecturers will be back at the University of London this week teaching. With over 200 countries represented among the city's 350,000 home and international students, London has the most ethnically diverse student population of any region in the UK. This year the University Is set to welcome more international students than ever before: over 65,000 will be attracted by the city's academic excellence and cultural vibrancy.

    Students have been left outraged by the college authority's reaction to both events and many are asking who will come under fire next from university staff. All eyes will be on the lecturers involved in both scandals this week and some college insiders believe that a similar incident is inevitable.


Peter Leary, a spokesman for the Students Assembly Against Racism, said: 'The University of London has an obligation to all its students, particularly vulnerable students. If they are not going to respect their right to study it sends a very bad message. It is not for a lecturer to decide not to teach students because they object to what they wear."

After receiving a battering last year, race relations are set to go from bad to worse as students and lecturers start the new academic year under a dark cloud.

Racial Harm-ony Part One
UCL professor brands terrorism against Jews 'acceptable'
by Dex Barton
(London Student, 20 September 2004, p. 2)

A UCL professor has sparked outrage after claiming that Palestinian terrorism is an acceptable moral response to Israeli "ethnic cleansing" on a website hosted by UCL servers.

Ted Honderich, acclaimed philosopher and professor emeritus at UCL, delivered this startling message to a sell-out crowd at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, on 19 August. He later spoke in an exclusive interview with AI-Jazeera's website, where, he repeated his claims that Israel was carrying out "terrorism by a state" and an "ongoing rapacity of ethnic cleansing." A brief synopsis of the Professor's speech was also available from his UCL webpage at http://www.ucl. ac.ulv-uctytho/.

"This rape of a people and a homeland is in its wrongfulness a kind of moral datum and issues in a moral right on the part of the Palestinians to their terrorism," stated Honderich. He went on to attack Neo-Zionism as the principal cause of Palestinian terror, claiming that "it dishonours the great Jewish moral and political tradition of resolute compassion for the badly-off, a tradition now exemplified by Noam Chomsky".

Members of the Jewish student community have reacted furiously to the comments. "I am disgusted... my mind boggles" said David Renton, a Jewish student. Mr Renton served a written complaint against Professor Honderich to UCL Provost Malcolm Grant on Friday 20th August, following the appearance of the AI-Jazeera interview.

A particular point of criticism for student representatives is that Professor Honderich was able to promote his views via a personal webpage hosted by UCL servers. Although the page displays a disclaimer absolving UCL of liability for the site content, it is also bound by UCL Computing Regulations -- which warn that users must not "risk bringing UCL into disrepute" (Part 2.d) or producing material deemed "offensive" to others.

Danny Stone, Campigns Organiser for the Union of Jewish Students called Honderich's comments "an abuse of UCL resources, and desecration of the name of UCL". Stone added that "an apology may not be enough", instead suggesting that the professor receive further education "about the issues and the students he'll be dealing with."

"I think these comments will affect not just Jewish students, but Iraqi, American, Russian and all the other victims of terrorism."

The UCL Jewish Society has also joined UJS in calling for clearer guidelines to be published on the use of UCL personal webpages. Samuel Lebens, President of the Jsoc, stated: "UCL's website should not be allowed to air views that are so removed from fact and so likely to disrupt the good relations between different religious groups on campus. As chairman of the Jewish Society, I will be challenging the administration to create clear guidelines as to what can and cannot be said from the platform of UCL"

In a statement to London Student, UCL's Media Relations department wrote: "UCL is wholly committed to preserving the right of academics to speak freely in an informed way on all issues (naturally while staying within the law), and is equally wholly committed to the principles of individual and collective equity and of equality of opportunity in all fields...we believe the vast majority of the UCL community accept and value both our university's diversity and the range of opinions to be found within it, and that this is one of its major strengths."

It seems likely however that as this story breaks during freshers season, student passions will be running high. In the aftermath of what could potentially be a very embarassing development for both UCL's Philosophy department and its IT policy, it is unclear how far student leaders will go in demanding an apology -- or more -- from Professor Honderich.

by Alexi Duggins
(London Student, 20 September 2004, p. 3)

A King's College academic has been suspended after refusing to teach a pupil who was wearing an Islamic dress which covered her from head to toe, causing a number of official complaints from students.

Dr T. Simons, a physiology lecturer, was teaching around 50 second year Pharmacy students at Guy's Campus when he walked out of the lecture theatre into an adjacent office. It is alleged that he was unaware that his microphone was still connected to lecture theatre loudspeakers when he then said to a colleague "I cannot teach the girl with the veil and I don't know how to ask her to leave. I refuse to teach the class." Simons did not return to finish the class.

Simons' comments caused outrage amongst students and and led to a number of them making official complaints to King's. "This is not France, it is Britain" commented one student who was present at the time. "We pride ourselves on living in a multicultural society and are taught to respect others as individuals. We must not tolerate this behaviour."

Following the incident Simons was suspended while an internal investigation was conducted and he was advised to seek counseling. He was also made to give a public apology to the whole class later in the day.

Confusion still abounds as to the exact reason for his objection to the students' garb,  however. "He obviously wasnt happy that they were veiled." commented one student. "Maybe it's culturally motivated."

Others thought his actions to be motivated by racial prejudice. "His comments... were highly unprofessional and more importantly racist" said another student who was present at the incident.

Simons, who has since retired from full-time teaching and only teaches at King's on a part- time basis, commented "I have nothing to say. I am not confirming or denying anything. What goes on inside the doors of a university is a private event. The public is not admitted to classes in a university."

A college spokesman said: "There was an incident when an academic who was teaching walked out of the class when there was a student wearing the burkha. The reason was unclear."

(LondonStudent, 11 October 2004)

You have a human nature. Part of it, by way of a fast example, is that you do not want to be tortured and you are sure it would be wrong for you to be tortured regularly so that someone else can have a better house. It is also your human nature that you are rational -- you have reasons, like the reason that it would be wrong for you to be tortured for that purpose. Any reason against anything is also a reason against related things in related situations. So your rationality commits you to moral judgements about other things also being wrong.

      These personal truths enter into more general ones.

We all want to live -- have decently long lifetimes, say 75 years rather than 30. We also want bodily well-being, not a lot of pain. A third great desire is for freedom, privately and in a homeland. Respect and self-respect, a human standing, are another great good. So too are relationships with others, say a person and your people. There are also the goods of culture, including knowledge and religion.

You may arrange our fundamental needs a little differently. But we will not diverge much.

We will not diverge much, either, over what a bad life is and what a good one is. A bad life is one that does not have enough of the great goods in it.

The Principle of Humanity, the principle of rightness to which we are committed by our natures, is that we must take rational steps to get and keep people out of bad lives. This other rationality consists in taking actually effective means to the end, not pretences, and means that do not do more harm than they prevent. Bad lives have to be changed that only give still better lives to people who already have good ones.

The principle is related to common ones, indeed principles that litter our lives, some of them declared even by New Labour. Some are religious. One difference is in spirit, in the resoluteness of the Principle of Humanity.

Consider 4 million Africans now alive, the poorest tenth of population in a few countries. They are losing 20 million years of living time. In Palestine a people are losing more of what remains of their homeland. A wall is going up that takes their water. They may in the end not be free in any of their homeland.

How are we to judge our omissions and acts with respect to Africa or Palestine? Some judge by the political tradition of conservatism. This analysable tradition, which includes New Labour, is as self-interested as democratic socialism. It is different in that it lacks a moral principle to support its self-interest.

Some think we can decide what is right by going by democracy. They forget that the recommendation of democracy is that it is a decision-procedure where the participants have an approximately equal say. Talk of our hierarchic democracies as approximately equal is ludicrous. Think of talk of treating your children 'approximately equally', or women 'approximately equally' with men, where one share is thousands of times smaller than another.

Shall we decide about Africa and Palestine by means of a morality that does not make right actions a matter of their consequences, does not take some ends to justify some means? Well, would such a thing be a morality? Suppose I say my gift to somebody is right because she is my daughter, and that is not a consequence of my action. Am I not just being self-concerned, maybe too much, in my consideration of consequences? So with such actions on behalf of my people. To say 'Our lives come first' may not be morality.

Still, hierarchic democracy and maybe even conservatism and pretend-morality are not such that your disrespect for them should be absolute. What is indisputable is that these decision-methods can go wrong. Hitler was elected. So were others. Hierarchic democracies also go wrong persistently. How are they to be judged, then?

The answer to which we are all committed, I take it, is that we are to judge by way of humanity, by the Principle of Humanity.

That is not to say that it produces ready answers. The hard part of morality is not morality, but facts. With Palestine, to my mind, some overwhelm all others. After the Holocaust in 1948 when the state of Israel was founded in a part of Palestine, rightly, and partly by way of terrorism, that part had in it as many Palestinians as Jews. The other part of Palestine had in 80 times as many Palestinians as Jews. The rapacious violation of a people and their remaining homeland continues.

Do you say this is not a satisfactory response to stuff to the effect that defending a Palestinian moral right to terrorism against ethnic cleansing and state-terrorism is 'sick', harms race relations, gave rise to a torrent of protest, and is anti-Semitic? A student newspaper and a student union can lose sight of the fact that they are in a university. In one, it remains possible to think about important things.

    This response is a sketch. But universities have books in them. I take this opportunity to advertise some. After The Terror (revised edition 2003), Political Means and Social Ends (2003), Terrorism for Humanity: Inquiries in Political Philosophy (2003), Conservatism: Burke, Nozick, Bush, Blair? (2005).

    A postscript is needed. Ted Honderich's talks to the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign in Glasgow and Edinburgh in the following year, April 2005, in the wake of the visit of Noam Chomsky, did not go down at all well with some of his listeners. This was on account of his Zionism -- justification of the continued existence of Israel within its original borders. Nor did he please another listener or two. The following item subsequently appeared on the well-known and much-visited philosophical website, PHILOS-L.


PHILOS-L on behalf of Ezio Dinucci
23 April 2005
Subject: Honderich and the Holocaust

Thursday evening I went along to a talk by Ted Honderich about the Palestinian struggle. During the talk, Honderich said that the Holocaust had been exaggerated. He did not develop further on the matter because it wasn't central to his talk. In the discussion, when someone asked him to clarify and justify the claim that the Holocaust had been exaggerated, he reiterated the claim without giving any support to it, and then said that he did not intend to spend time on the relevant literature.

I just want to say that Honderich, as a person and a philosopher, ought not to make such claims without qualifying them.



A reply to the above item was as follows was then put on PHILOS-L.


PHILOS-L on behalf of Prof Ted Honderich
24 April 2005
Subject: Honderich and the Holocaust

Ezio Dinucci says I said in a talk that the Holocaust has been exaggerated,
and that I reiterated the claim in the discussion without giving any support
to it, and that I said I didn't intend to spend time on the relevant

This is to engage in the familiar libel by implication of anti-semitism. It
requires refutation only because its reality is more tacit support for
neo-Zionism, the violation of Palestine beyond Israel's original borders.

The talk was to a meeting of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign in
Edinburgh. The audience, like the one the previous evening in Glasgow, was
mainly hostile to Israel. As elsewhere, I took this into account and said
that even if the Holocaust figures had been exaggerated, which probably they
had been to some extent, this mattered not at all. On any reckoning
whatever, I said, the Holocaust was a unique historical horror, a monstrous
inhumanity, a unique manufacturing of suffering and death that made for a
justification of the founding of the state of Israel in Palestine, even if
the Palestinians had no part in the Holocaust. I said the Holocaust was a
categorical imperative. After it, nothing could morally happen but the
establishing of a Jewish homeland by the victorious powers.

Morever, when asked by someone in the discussion about my passing mention in
the talk of possible or probable exaggeration, I said number of Jews killed
in the Holocaust was no doubt close to 6,000,000.

I said additionally that I had no need to look into the exact figures since
it was obvious that the number killed made the Holocaust a tragedy for a
people of such dimensions that it could easily have the effect of
justification mentioned. As for my reasons for suspecting some exaggeration,
as I may have said, they have to do with exactly the sort of partiality and
looseness with evidence and facts of which Mr Dinucci's account of the
meeting is typical.

He leaves out that I gave a robust defence of Zionism -- the justified
founding of the state of Israel and its perpetual security within its
original borders -- against strong objections, not to mention outright abuse
from the other speaker on the platform, including his objection that there
was nothing of any unique historical importance about the Holocaust.

Mr Dinucci leaves out as well my defence of the continued and secure
existence of Israel on the separate ground that over half a century it has
become the homeland of the Jewish people. I said, as the video of the
meeting will prove, that Israel has in it the lives of Jewish people, their
past, their identity, their hopes, their desires, their expectations. Even
if the founding of the state from some perspective was wrong, time changes
things, I said. It did, I said.

Mr Dinucci leaves out too that it was I who responded to the stories of
horror about the murder etc. of Palestinian refugees and villagers by
Israelis. I said that selective horror was one of the things that has
dragged down discussion of this matter. It was also I who said that the
horror of the Holocaust absolutely and totally overwhelmned anything that
could be produced on the other side.

Mr Dinucci might have included that the meeting, except for a question or
two among dozens, consisted in attack or judgement on me in connection with
my proposition, among others, that it was a reasonable and informed
judgement in 1948 that the Palestinians were not fully a people, and so
could not suffer a particular great injury. In particular, they were not a
people of a self-consciousness defined by a state.

Mr Dinucci's sole concern may be with the ethics of doing philosophy or
something of the sort. I conjecture, however, that he has found it difficult
to deal with my argumentation generally, issuing in the proposition that the
Palestinians have had a moral right to their terrorism against the ethnic
cleansing of neo-Zionism. Thus he has chosen to misrepresent something where
there is the slight possibility of doing so.

I have got used to libel. There was libel in Germany that issued in the
banning of my book and the subsequent republication of it by a Jewish
publishing house. Recently there was a little libel originating in and
seemingly too much tolerated in my own past department of philosophy at
University College London, with the result that the University of London
paid my legal costs of £2000, there was an apology, etc.

However seemingly jejune, the libel of anti-semitism, open or by
implication, should not go undenied. All Jewish philosophers in particular
could state their condemnation of the tool without reservation, as they
could condemn without reservation the job in hand, the further violation of
the Palestinian people.

Ted Honderich


Subsequently, as a result of private communications from Prof. Jonathan Wolff, Head of the Philosophy Department at UCL, who had first brought Mr Lebens' concerns to the attention of Prof. Honderich, the following message was put on PHILOS-L.


PHILOS-L on behalf of Prof Ted Honderich
25 April 2005
Subject: Honderich and the Holocaust

At the end of my recent reply to an earlier statement by Ezio Dinucci, which
to my mind was an implication of anti-semitism on my part, I commented as
follows about a previous affair.

"Recently there was a little libel originating in and seemingly too much tolerated in
my own past department of philosophy at University College London, with the
result that the University of London paid my legal costs of £2000, there was an
apology, etc."

I have received the following comment about that comment.

"I believe that a reader who does not know the history of this issue will
read you as saying that the philosophy department at UCL, as a corporate body,
libelled you and that the University of London paid your legal fees in
recognition of this."

It seems to me impossible that any ordinary reader would so understand my
words. I am sorry if any reader did.

However, let me say that the philosophy department at UCL did no such thing
as libel me, and did not as a department originate anything whatever in
connection with the subsequent libel, which was carried in a student
newspaper. Nor, to my knowledge, did any but one of my ex-colleagues have
anything whatever to do with the matter, which was forwarded by a student in
the department. Further, the payment of legal costs had to do with what was
printed in the student paper, which has no connection with the department.

Ted Honderich


                                                                                        6 June 2005

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The Fall and Rise of a Book in Germany
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