Reports of anti-Semitism at one of the UK’s most prestigious universities have emerged after a leader of the Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) resigned after he saw that members of the club, and the student Left in general, “have some kind of problem with Jews.”
After the OULC voted 18-16 to support Israel Apartheid Week on campus, club co-chair Alex Chalmers wrote a Facebook post explaining his resignation, noting that the school’s atmosphere had become increasingly “poisonous.”
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 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 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 when it comes to liberation.
Eylon Aslan-Levy reported Tuesday in The Times of Israel that a number of students have come forward with more stories of anti-Semitism.
Several committee members have been known to sing a song called “Rockets over Tel Aviv” and have expressed support for Hamas’s use of indiscriminate attacks against Israelis;
Another has argued that it is not anti-Semitic to allege the existence of an “international Jewish conspiracy” or “New York-Tel Aviv axis” that allegedly rigs elections. Others have alleged that US foreign policy is under the control of a “Zionist Lobby”; when asked whether by “Zionist” they meant “Jewish,” these students are reported to have gone “very silent”; …
In a discussion on the OULC Facebook group, one member argued in favour of Hamas’s policy of killing Jewish civilians and even claimed that all Jews constituted legitimate targets. Two former co-chairs, among others, defended the member as making “a legitimate point clumsily expressed”.
Aslan-Levy also reported that a group of students made a point of harassing a Jewish student by yelling “filthy Zionist” at her. Another club member reportedly said that Jews had an obligation to denounce Israel and Zionism.
One of the suggested themes of Israel Apartheid Week this year was “solidarity with Palestinian popular resistance,” a euphemism for terror. Israelis have been subjected to hundreds of terror attacks since the current wave of violence began in October.
In a statement released expressing her regret over Chalmers’ resignation, Noni Csogor, the remaining chair of the OULC, defended the decision to support Israel Apartheid Week “as part of the club’s historic opposition to “racism and oppression in all its forms,” while at the same time noting that it is “horrifying that Jewish students feel unsafe on campuses.” When Aslan-Levy asked how she could deplore the intimidation of Jewish students while endorsing an event that often does just that, Csogor responded that the closeness of the vote to support Israel Apartheid Week showed that “the safety and comfort of Jewish students was a compelling consideration.”
The Oxford University Jewish Society hailed Chalmers’ resignation for bringing “the issue of anti-semitism to the fore in a way that Jewish students have so far been denied.” The Society observed that, in the past, charges of anti-Semitism were dismissed as a means “to discredit Palestinian solidarity politics” and added that this charges had the effect of “[silencing] Jewish students.” The statement ended with the hope that “Alex’s resignation triggers a broader awakening amongst student political movements, and that anti-semitism, particularly on the student left, is finally taken seriously.”
The OULC issued a statement on Wednesday calling the anti-Semitic acts allegedly perpetrated by its members “horrifying” and said that it would be launching an investigation into the allegations. The national Labour Party announced that supports the investigation, and a spokeswoman told The Guardian that “the party will take robust action to deal with any antisemitic behaviour.”
The charges of anti-Semitism at Oxford come just a few weeks after an event at Kings College London featuring Israeli peace activist and former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon was disrupted by protesters who threw chairs, smashed windows, and set off fire alarms, leading to a call to police and the evacuation of the building in which the event was held.
Concerns about anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in the Labour Party have risen since Jeremy Corbyn was elected as party leader last year. In Western Europe’s Most Powerful Anti-Zionist, which was published in the October 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine, Liam Hoare examined Corbyn’s ideological convictions.
Jeremy Corbyn’s victory is deeply disturbing. It speaks to the ideological corruption of the Labour Party—traditionally an engine for the economic, social, and cultural betterment of the British people—and the collapse of its political center. The party has now been taken hostage by a tendency on the British Left that claims to be committed to free political and personal expression, while it ignores the concerns of Jews at home and abroad, and pledges alliance to every person, organization, and nation whose raison d’être is anti-American and anti-Israel. This includes everyone from Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez to Vladimir Putin and, of course, the aforementioned Hezbollah and Hamas.
Philosophically juvenile and unserious, this tendency—with Corbyn as its public face—nevertheless has the potential to do a great deal of damage, especially to the Labour Party and its relationship with Israel and the British Jewish community.
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