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HomeNewsBrewing on campus, a perfect storm of anti-Semitism

Brewing on campus, a perfect storm of anti-Semitism


EVERY day heralds a new anti-Semitic scandal in the Labour party. The election of a Labour councillor with a penchant for neo-Nazi material and abysmal displays of anti-Semitism by Labour stalwarts at a pro-Palestinian rally last Sunday can be added to the long list. 

Following in these infamous footsteps are British university students. Anti-Semitism on campus is well known and documented. With the recent election of an anti-Semitic Islamist, Zamzam Ibrahim, as president of the National Union of Students (NUS) it’s about to get far worse.

At the age of 16 Ibrahim wanted to ‘oppress white people’ and called for an ‘Islamic takeover‘.  She proudly supports the Boycott Disinvest Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, proclaiming that it is the only boycott she is interested in. BDS advocates for the destruction of Israel, the only democracy in a part of the world dominated by Islamic theocracies and dictatorships. Nevertheless Ibrahim calls Israel an ‘illegal regime’ – words designed to delegitimise the country’s existence.

Ibrahim’s election is a reflection of the mood on campus where hatred against Jews is the only form of racism which is perfectly acceptable and actively encouraged. That she was elected with the full knowledge of this shows how Islamist propaganda on Israel has gripped students, who have made shilling for Islamist terrorists such as Hamas a priority.

The NUS is composed of 600 student unions – that’s a lot of reach. At least Ibrahim’s predecessor, Shakira Martin, had the decency to apologise to Jewish students when their religion was twice left off official NUS forms, and assured them they formed an integral part of the NUS.

But with the election of Ibrahim, the days of the NUS being even remotely nice to Jews are over.

In April, shortly before its national elections, the NUS suspended Jack Morewood, who was running for student director. Morewood’s ‘crime’ was publicly congratulating Benjamin Netanyahu on his re-election. Not only does the mention of Israel’s prime minister enrage these students but so does the celebration of the Jewish state’s independence day, Yom Ha’azmaut.

At the beginning of May, Leeds University Union issued a trigger warning about an on-campus event to celebrate Yom Ha’azmaut. The students were not as traumatised as anticipated, finding the strength to shout ‘5, 6, 7, 8, Israel is a terrorist state’ at Jews attending this event. 

Shortly after the NUS elections in April, Omar Chowdhury, the new BAME officer at Bristol University’s students’ union, told a Jewish student to ‘be like Israel and cease to exist’. Chowdhury ran on a zero tolerance for racism platform but he seems to have forgotten that racism applies to Jews too.

On May 8, the NUS Disabled Students’ Campaign passed a BDS policy at their conference. That these students are proud to boycott the Jewish state is indicative of how entrenched the false binary concept of ‘Israel bad, Palestine good’ is among them. They have unthinkingly swallowed the Islamist propaganda on Israel, believing the lies that Israel is a ‘fascist state’ even though there is evidence to the contrary.

That these students seek to censor anyone or any idea which does not conform with their very narrow understanding of the world is deeply worrying. Their tyrannical preferences for safe spaces over vigorous academic debate is not only narcissistic but intersects with anti-Semitism.

I experienced far more freedom of speech attending university during the dark days of Apartheid South Africa. Government-mandated censorship was rife in every area of our lives, yet we students fought for the freedom of speech to protest and debate, even with those we didn’t agree with. How astonishing that British students are so keen to discard freedoms denied to so many.

The louder NUS students cheer for the destruction of Israel, the more apparent the necessity of Israel as a safety net for Jews becomes. These examples of anti-Semitism are appalling enough in isolation. Taken together they show a perfect storm of anti-Semitism brewing on campus. With this NUS election, I fear for the safety of Jewish students far more now than I ever did before.

The Palestinians receive billons of pounds in aid and are the only group of people in the world to have their own designated UN agency, UNRWA. The Palestinian leadership in Gaza and the West Bank live in luxury on stolen donations while their people struggle in poverty – a fact ignored by these students in favour of Israel-bashing. Palestinians are oppressed only by their own leaders.

If student societies feel motivated to virtue-signal, why do they remain silent on the suffering of those elsewhere in the world?

Where are their protests against the global persecution of Christians?

Up to three millions Uighur Muslims are imprisoned in what are effectively concentration camps in China. Muslim leaders in countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia have brushed aside concerns – evidently China’s economic aid trumps standing up for their fellow Muslims. Nobody speaks out for Uighur Muslims, except the US state department, despite their urgent and precarious situation. So why didn’t students pass motions protesting against this heinous injustice at their last NUS conference?

Even the ongoing abuse in the Gulf States of foreign maids, who are treated as slaves, abused and sometimes tortured, seems to have escaped their notice. Why haven’t they arranged a rally for Domboshava in Zimbabwe, where a Chinese mining company is attempting to evict 20,000 residents? The community stands to be devastated financially and culturally if this happens. China’s creeping colonialism in Southern Africa should be of major concern for students who profess to be traumatised by any references to colonialism. That it’s not highlights their obtuse hypocrisy.

Theresa May’s bungling of Brexit could hand power to Jeremy Corbyn and his anti-Semitic cult. This fear is compounded by fact that future leaders in government, teaching and business are being schooled in anti-Semitism while they attend university. The outlook for British Jews seems irreparably bleak.

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Karen Harradine
Karen Harradine
Karen is an anthropologist and freelance journalist. She writes on anti-Semitism, Israel and spirituality. She is @KarenH777on Twitter.

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