Antisemitism at Oxford University leads to resignation of student leader

Barely a month ago I reported on the anti-Israel riot that took place at Kings College in London when Israeli peace activist Ami Ayalon came to deliver a talk . Sadly, despite the good news in my previous post about both the US and the UK banning boycotts of Israel by taxpayer-funded bodies, there is still plenty more anti-Semitism at work on college campuses in Britain.  Such anti-Semitism cloaks itself in a self-righteous veneer of “only” anti-Zionism, or rather “anti-Israeli Apartheid” or “anti-Israeli racism” etc. but this is a thin cover for what is in effect vile racism.

A new story which is getting widespread coverage in the UK and elsewhere centers on the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel activism taking place in the Oxford University Labour Club in prestigious Oxford University, which led to the resignation of the Oxford University Labour Club Co-Chairman: (h/t HDK)

In a Facebook post explaining his resignation Chalmers wrote the following:

“It is with the greatest regret that I have decided to resign as Co-Chair of the Oxford University Labour Club (OULC). This comes in the light of OULC’s decision at this evening’s general meeting to endorse Israel Apartheid Week.”

Chalmers notes that the reason he ran for the position was to try to save the club from fragmenting into factions and adopting radical policies, in essence to save it from itself, a mission that he did not succeed at accomplishing. “I originally ran for the position of Co-Chair back in Trinity, after our crushing defeat at the general election, because I was increasingly worried about the state of OULC,” Chalmers wrote.

“The club I had invested an extraordinary amount of time, energy, and emotion in during my first two terms at Oxford, which had given me a network of close friends, was becoming increasingly riven by factional splits, and despite its avowed commitment to liberation, the attitudes of certain members of the club towards certain disadvantaged groups was becoming poisonous.”

Harry’s Place has more in Racism and the left:

The left is becoming increasingly associated with hypersensitivity towards anything which might conceivably be considered offensive, or just hurtful.   But when it comes to one form of bigotry whole swathes of the left are tin-eared – and that’s putting it generously.  Alex Chalmers, co-Chair of the Oxford University Labour Union, has resigned following the decision to endorse ‘Israel Apartheid Week’.  Here he describes the climate within which that decision was taken (transcript via Guido):

“Whether it be members of the Executive throwing around the term ‘Zio’ (a term for Jews usually confined to websites run by the Ku Klux Klan) with casual abandon, senior members of the club expressing their ‘solidarity’ with Hamas and explitictly [sic] defending their tactics of indiscriminately murdering civilians, or a former Co-Chair claiming that ‘most accusations of antisemitism are just the Zionists crying wolf’, a large proportion of both OULC and the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews. The decision of the club to endorse a movement with a history of targetting [sic] and harassing Jewish students and inviting antisemitic speakers to campuses, despite the concerns of Jewish students, illustrates how uneven and insincere much of the active membership is”

Harry’s Place refers us to the Cherwell website which reported on Chalmers’ resignation and also brings us the reaction of Chalmers’ OULC co-chair Noni Csogor – a reaction which shows how utterly unaware the average student or academic is when it comes to anti-Israel activity and anti-Semitism.

Intimidation of Jewish students on campus

They seem impervious to the idea that anti-Israel activity inexorably leads to anti-Semitism and they react to such accusations with horror: (emphases are added):

We did not vote on a blanket position on the Israel-Palestine conflict; we voted to support Oxford’s Israeli Apartheid Week. At Oxford, IAW has hosted a wide variety of Israeli, Palestinian, and South African speakers, such as Denis Goldberg, who fought against apartheid in South Africa, and Oxford professors like Avi Shlaim, Karma Nabulsi, Sudhir Hazareesingh, and David Priestland. As the motion notes, OULC and the Labour Party have always been against racism and oppression in all its forms; this must include the policies of the current Israeli government.

Firstly, the above-mentioned academics are all well-known for their extreme anti-Israel (not to say antisemitic on occasion) views. There is no balance with Israeli or pro-Israeli speakers being brought in to defend Israel’s standpoint.

But more importantly, the focus is always and only on Israel, not on any other country. No other country is singled out for such microscopic attention to its alleged “crimes”, its domestic policies, or its security and military actions. No other country, no matter how heinous its actions (e.g. Russia in Syria) is the target of boycotts or the subject of endless committees and discussions.

This singling out fulfills the 3D standard of anti-Semitism as defined by Israeli human rights activist and former Soviet prisoner of conscience Natan Sharansky: Demonization, Double Standards, Delegitimization.

Despite the condemnation of antisemitism from Co-Chair Csogor, the Oxford University Jewish Society and other Jewish students backed up the description  by Chalmers of the antisemitic atmosphere in the OULC: (emphases added):

Oxford University Jewish Society also issued a statement, saying, “Oxford University Jewish Society is saddened by the anti-semitic reports coming out of Oxford University Labour Club, and stands fully in support of Alex Chalmers’ decision to resign.

“Oxford JSoc strongly rejects any accusation that Jewish students are inventing claims of anti-semitism to discredit Palestinian solidarity politics. This is a repeated trope that has been used to silence Jewish students and it will carry weight no longer. When anti-semitism intersects with Palestinian solidarity politics, it is not the job of Jewish students to be quiet, but the job of Palestinian solidarity activists to rid their movement of anti-Jewish prejudice.

The highlighted words above are spot-on.  They demonstrate how Jews are not permitted to complain about antisemitism, and if they do they are accused of acting in bad faith. This phenomenon has been named the “Livingstone Formulation”, as described by David Hirsh from the Jewish academic website Engage Online:

It is possible to relate seriously and rationally to charges of antisemitism but it is interesting how often people refuse to take the charges seriously and instead resort to this counter-accusation of malicious ‘Zionist’ intent.This mirrors the operation against which the Livingstone Formulation originally sets itself – which is the raising of the issue of antisemitism maliciously in order to de-legitimise criticism of Israeli human rights abuses.

… those who employ the Livingstone Formulation accuse those who raise the issue of antisemitism of doing so with malicious intent and of knowing that their concerns are not justified, and of doing so for instrumental reasons.

It seems to follow that the use of the Livingstone Formulation is intended to make sure that the raising of the issue of antisemitism, when related to ‘criticism of Israel’ remains or becomes a commonsense indicator of ‘Zionist’ bad faith and a faux pas in polite antiracist company.

Or as this Tweeter put it:

Back in Oxford, the JSoc continues:

“Many of Oxford’s Jewish students who hold progressive views have long felt excluded from left-wing political spaces. Jewish students who raised the issue of anti-semitism at the OULC meeting were laughed at and mocked.

The emphasis by the JSoc of the Jewish students’ progressive views, and how these are not enough to protect them from the antagonism of the leftists, simply reinforces the view that this anti-Israelism is in fact anti-Semitism.

Former Co-Chair David-Cesar Heymann endorsed Chalmers’ stance, telling Cherwell, “Alex has contributed a great deal to OULC, and recently took a courageous and principled decision. In doing so, he raised pressing concerns about anti-Semitism in the Oxford Hard Left. As his statement explains, anti-Semitism is a common ocurrence among the hard left, with slurs such as ‘Zio’, apologism of Hamas and other terrorist organizations, and casual dismissals of anti-Semitism as ‘crying wolf’ being common. The decision of the hard left within OULC to suport the one sided demonization of Israel that is Israeli Apartheid Week is only the most recent example of a long, troubling pattern; and I can fully understand, and sympathize with Alex not wanting to have anything to do with this disgraceful decision. “

Tablet Magazine brings us more shocking incidents of antisemitism on the campus as reported by the Oxford JSoc:

…the Oxford University Jewish Society published a list of these incidents. A sampling:

• One member stated specifically that it was ‘not anti-Semitic’ to allege the existence of a ‘New York-Tel Aviv axis’ that rigs elections, and said that ‘we should be aware of the influence wielded over elections by high net-worth Jewish individuals’. He also stated that it was ‘not anti-Semitic’ to allege the existence of an international Jewish conspiracy, even though he did not endorse the idea himself.

• One member, then on committee, stated that all Jews should be expected to publicly denounce Zionism and the state of Israel, and that we should not associate with any Jew who fails to do so.

• One member of OULC was formally disciplined by their College for organising a group of students to harass a Jewish student and to shout ‘filthy Zionist’ whenever they saw her.

• In a public discussion on the OULC Facebook group one member argued that Hamas was justified in its policy of killing Jewish civilians and claimed that all Jews were legitimate targets. Several other members, including two former co-chairs and one then on committee, defended the member as making ‘a legitimate point clumsily expressed’.

Here is some commentary on Twitter:

And if anyone is wondering whether there is a connection between the antisemitism on display at this student Labour Union and the outraged reaction in the Labour Party to the new UK anti-boycott legislation as I posted yesterday, look no further than the Tablet article above:

Chalmers’ dramatic move comes amidst immense upheaval in the British left, whose flagship Labour party was recently taken over by the radical MP Jeremy Corbyn, who is infamous for his associations with Holocaust deniers, blood libel promoters, and other anti-Semites. In August 2015, shortly before Corbyn’s election to the party leadership, Scottish columnist Stephen Daisley warned that his ascension reflected the fact that “the Left, and not just the fringes, has an anti-Semitism problem.” (Earlier in the year, Amnesty International had rejected a motion to combat anti-Semitism in the U.K., despite it being at record-high levels.)

The students are simply taking their lead from the Labour Party itself. Pro-forma condemnations from politicians are not enough. The Labour Party has to be seen to be taking action against the anti-Israel atmosphere which leads to anti-Semitism, and this message has then to be passed on to their student societies.

Otherwise the future for Jewish students in Britain does not look happy.

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6 Responses to Antisemitism at Oxford University leads to resignation of student leader

  1. Reality says:

    How shocking this all is.I feel so sorry for the Jewish students.How come one is even ALLOWED to run an Israel Apartheid week?Does anyone run an Palestinian/Egypt/Syria/Iran racist week?And if not,why not? They all claim “Free speech” and democracy,except when it goes against their views.I really respect Alex Chalmers for keeping to his principles.He is almost an extinct breed

    • anneinpt says:

      Very good question about Israel Apartheid Week. I never thought to ask it. Perhaps it’s ‘protected free speech’ or something. It’s about time the Jewish societies organized a Muslim apartheid week – only they’d get arrested for hate speech.

      Hate speech only works one way, don’t you know? Against the Jews.

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