(A slightly edited version of this article was first published in the Algemeiner.)
Antisemitism on British campuses recently became entangled with the scandal of antisemitism in the Labour Party, to the extent that even the non-Jewish student chairman of the Oxford University Labour Club resigned his position in protest.
The problem was greatly exacerbated by the election of Malia Bouattia as the new President of the National Union of Students (NUS), who has a very questionable record on antisemitism and support for terrorism, as the ToI reports:
The new leader of Britain’s National Union of Students, who two years ago spoke out passionately in support of violent Palestinian “resistance,” insisted it should not be considered terrorism and criticized the notion that “Palestine” could be freed by nonviolent action alone, has penned an op-ed in which she claimed she is not a racist or an anti-Semite, but made no effort to address her defense of Palestinian violence.
For Jewish students in particular it is significant to note that Bouattia’s election has spurred an energetic campaign by student unions across Britain to disaffiliate from the NUS. These include student unions from the Universities of Newcastle, Lincoln and more:
These results are a damming indictment of NUS President-elect, Malia Bouattia, whose campaign last month was marred by allegations of antisemitism.There has been a sizeable backlash to Bouattia’s victory, with students’ unions at Oxford, Cambridge, Hull and Warwick universities set to hold referenda on disaffiliation this month.
Meanwhile, Student Rights understands that at least 15 other votes are planned at universities across the country.
Sadly however, these referenda and resolutions on disaffiliation from the NUS do not necessarily signal a decrease in antisemitism on campus. At Cambridge, for example, the referendum failed this week, as it did earlier at Warwick University. Adam Crafton at The Tab met Sophie Jackson, a Jewish student at Warwick, and asked her if the Jewish students had campaigned strongly enough and protested against antisemitism. He was shocked by her answer and slammed the NUS in his damning report, “With a track record this appalling, how can anyone trust the NUS to tackle antisemitism?”:
Sophie’s reply shocked me. “We have a very small Jewish community here at Warwick and frankly we have enough issues,” she explained. “There was a risk to politicising ourselves. There have been issues with people writing anti-Semitic comments in library books, to give one example.
“As a community, we felt it safer to avoid Malia and the anti-Semitism accusations because we didn’t think it would be well-received. Some of the Warwick Student Union’s sabbatical officers and our NUS delegates had voted for her at national conference and we just felt we would be shot down if we alleged Malia’s comments were anti-Semitic. We also had the instance of Aysegul Gurbuz here, the 20-year-old Labour Councillor who was standing for the SU’s Ethnic Minority Officer and has previously tweeted that Adolf Hitler is “the greatest man in history”. So you can see why we are wary.”
So, there we have it. In 2016, Jewish students at red brick universities are reluctant to highlight anti-Semitism for fear of retribution.
Crafton goes on to further investigate antisemitism in the NUS further, speaking to Jewish students around the country:
… Sadly, a damning picture has emerged of an organisation that is rotten to the core and in urgent need of a shock to its system.
Certainly, on the issue of anti-Semitism, the problems of the NUS are revealed to run far deeper than Malia.
… The NUS is the organisation where Jewish students are the only minority group not to be represented by any liberation campaigns.
… The NUS is the organisation whose conference cheered with howls of delight as a woman from Chester University spoke against the Commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day.
The NUS is the organisation who, when stating the ‘liberation case’ for remaining affiliated to the body on their website last week, failed to mention the words Judaism, Jewish or anti-Semitism even once.
His article then lists the many reasons why the NUS can’t be trusted to police itself when it comes to antisemitism, despite its self-serving claims.
Lest you think that it’s only the student unions which have an antisemitism problem, David Collier informs us that Antisemitism and terrorism are supported by the National Union of Teachers (NUT):
The first story to tell is that I had trouble getting in to an event and was eventually evicted. … I was a Jew who was simply thrown of the NUT HQ.
The event itself was organised by PSC, but according to the website, it was ‘supported by the NUT’ and the venue was Hamilton House, the Headquarters of the National Union of Teachers, near Euston in London.
The program involved a couple of panels, a few individual speakers and 4 workshops, on BDS, media, education and refugees. The workshop on education was my choice, given a clear PSC / NUT strategy to ‘poison the well’, and infest our curriculum with the antisemitic venom.
David goes on to list at length the many and various lies, propaganda and sheer slander of Israel, which make for sickening reading. He concludes:
So I say to the NUT directly. On Saturday 14th May, I was thrown out of your HQ. I was thrown out shortly after hearing antisemitic, terrorist supporting garbage loudly applauded inside your headquarters. I deserve both a response and an apology.
The British Left, including British academia, needs to take a long hard look at itself and its relationship with the Jews.