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Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence


37.Memorandum submitted by the Union of Jewish Students

  The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) is the main representative body for Jewish students on campus in the UK and Ireland. It provides social, cultural, political and educational programming, training and resources as well as organising national events for students. It is a peer-led union, which elects its leadership and is held to account by an annual conference.

  The Campaigning function of UJS has been a core activity for 30 years. In 1974 the NUS (National Union of Students) passed a motion establishing a policy of "No Platform" for racists and fascists, in 1975, the UN voted to equate Zionism and Racism (which was recently revoked). These events together, inspired numerous attempts to ban Jewish Student societies all over the country. Some of these attempts were successful. The UJS campaigns department secured Jewish student welfare and safety during this time, and has done ever since.

  UJS Campaigns is designed to facilitate and support pro-active and re-active campaigns on campus, defend and promote Jewish student welfare, and to work for equal rights for all minorities at University. In recent times UJS has lead the way in the fight against Holocaust denial and the BNP, has exposed the evil in and behind the Islamist extremist groups Hizb-Ut Tahrir and Al-Muhajiroun, and has campaigned to ensure anonymous marking at university. UJS and its representatives have taken a lead in highlighting the problem of Islamophobia, and campaigning against it.

  The UJS campaigns team works with a number of other student and faith organisations to promote positive community relations on campus. This includes strong partnerships with the National Union of Students, the National Hindu Student Forum, The British Organisation of Sikh Students, Muslim Jewish Dialogue groups and others.

  The past few years in particular have proved very difficult for Jewish students, since the beginning of the current intifada, anti-Semitism has risen, and threats against Jewish students have increased. The problems can be broken down into a number of key areas: academics, websites, motions, extremist groups and miscellaneous threats.

  It should be made clear however, that while this material is evidence of anti-Semitism, there is a parallel rise in complications, misunderstanding and lack of balance as regards teaching the Middle East conflict. It is the view of UJS that criticism of particular policies of the Government of the State of Israel is legitimate and certainly not anti-Semitic. In fact, in the late 70s and early 80s, UJS was the first UK based Jewish organisation to adopt a policy of a two state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and to advocate a policy of mutual recognition between the State of Israel and the PLO. However, it is worthy of note that tension in classrooms and lecture theatres on, and surrounding this issue has led to demonisation and isolation of Jewish Students.

ACADEMICS

  There has been a noticeable rise in academic intolerance, misunderstanding, abuse and anti-Semitism. A few key examples outline the more general problem.

1.   Nat Queen—Birmingham

  A student surfing the web found that a Birmingham lecturer's personal University homepage included links (which were personally endorsed) to an anti-Semitic website. Dr. N M Queen, lecturer in applied mathematics from the School of Mathematics and Statistics has a section on his site entitled "Human Rights". From a link titled "American State Terrorism", one is taken to a site filled with Jewish conspiracy stories, a complimentary bibliography of David Irving and pages on Zionist power. The initial response from the University was slow and unhelpful: they supported the lecturer and tried to stop most discussion on the subject. In a media interview the academic defended his position. Following pressure from the Union, press and UJS, Birmingham changed their policy as regards web usage, and academics' personal sites in particular.

2.   Andrew Wilkie—Oxford

  Oxford University Professor Andrew Wilkie denied an Israeli student a PhD place based on his nationality, and the fact he had served in the Israeli army. This was considered an anti-Semitic case as the denial of admission was based on the particular nationality of the individual involved, and the question was raised and unanswered as to whether a former member of any other army would have been prohibited. Furthermore this was a clear case of discrimination in admissions, and caused tension on campus. The Students Union and UJS worked together to ensure positive lessons were learned. The University was very slow in investigating the case and publicising their findings. The Professor was eventually suspended for two months, resigned as a fellow of Pembroke College (denying him certain privileges) and was sent to compulsory equal opportunities training.

3.   Mona Baker, Sue Blackwell, Miscellaneous

  There has been particular tension caused by those academics that cross the line between personal interest and activism and academic abuse of power. A number of examples exist, most prominently Mona Baker, who fired two Israeli academics from her journal because of their nationality and has as yet remained without reprimand; Sue Blackwell, who had links from her personal Birmingham University page to www.whatreallyhappened.com, a website propagating conspiracy theories surrounding the 9/11 attacks, notably that Israel was their true perpetrator. This is a throwback to classic Jewish control and conspiracy theories. Finally, other random cases of lecturers who have provided lectures comparing Israelis to Nazis or Israel's actions to ethnic cleansing (for example at London Metropolitan University and LSE). Again, the dehumanisation and demonisation of Israel in this way leads to tension on campus and anti-Semitic incidents, and is beyond the line of legitimate political comment.

WEBSITES

  1.  One of the worst cases of web-based anti-Semitism was found on the Open University's website, the message board (the "first class conferencing system") included outrageous racist remarks. The message board is only accessible to students at the University. One student moderator resigned over the affair, admitting that she had not performed her duties as she should have. After much pressure and press involvement, the University moved the international affairs board to a "view first" system to stop offensive posts being put up. Their reaction was slow and generally unhelpful. The Jewish students involved no longer use the website through fear of attack.

  2.  Many universities have been found to have links to offensive websites, or unacceptable web content on their servers. An offensive site was found via a homepage at the University of Cork. Among other articles, the website contained material linking Israel to the 9/11 attacks. Furthermore, anti-Semitic passages appeared on the Essex University Islamic Society website: http://privatewww.essex.ac.uk/islamic/ilm/misconceptions/baz-trty.html

  3.  The most serious cases of web anti-Semitism regard death threats. At both Birmingham and Lancaster, Jewish students were sent messages through society websites threatening death and violence. Most often the comments were linked to Israel. One example is reproduced below.

  From: kill the jews@paki.com

  a: sharon

  b: ye right

  c: believe!

  d: 999

  e: Both (YC/Shalem)

  g: fuck u..ur all gona die! in this country..u wont survive

MOTIONS

  The clearest example of anti-Semitism on campus relates to anti-Zionist and Israel boycott motions, which were submitted in a co-ordinated campaign across the country in 2002-03 and continue today. They drew a linkage between Jewish student support for Israel, and the rights of Jewish students to organise themselves on campus.

  The motions followed a very similar word pattern, and it is believed that this was an orchestrated campaign from the extreme left campus groups, occasionally in collaboration with Islamist groups or individual activists.

  The cycle began in Manchester in 2002 with a motion that threatened to ban the Jewish Society. There was a huge demonstration against the motion, which failed to pass, but Jewish-Muslim relations on campus became extremely tense.

  Following this, there were a further 17 similar motions across the country, only six of which were passed. The motions compared Israel to apartheid-era South Africa and called for a boycott of Israeli goods (which in many places would have lead to a banning of many, if not all, kosher products). In most cases, tensions were stirred up around the motions, and a number of anti-Semitic incidents took place, mainly—but not exclusively—against the Jewish students who were involved in campaigns against the boycott motions.

  Incidents of anti-Semitism included: skullcaps being knocked from people's heads; screwdrivers through letterboxes and knives in doors; anti-Semitic graffiti; verbal abuse; incidents of students being followed. This again highlights the clear connection between tension in the Middle East, and anti-Semitic incidents on campus.

  Universities UK were helpful, and sent a memo out to all vice-chancellors and Universities providing guidelines and advice in order to ease tension on campus.

  Worthy of particular note is the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), University of London, where last year another motion was passed paralleling Zionism with Racism. As a consequence, Jewish students now feel very uncomfortable, and feel it necessary to minimise their Jewish presence on campus due to fear. The outcome of this motion has been that no official Jewish Society can be established and Zionist activity on campus is banned.

EXTREMISTS

  There is a constant presence of extremist groups on or around campus who are anti-Semitic, and have a history of anti-Semitic rhetoric and behaviour.

  The extremist Islamist group Hizb-ut Tahrir (HUT) are still prevalent on campus. UJS led the student movement in raising awareness about their attitudes and behaviour in the mid-1990s. They were banned by NUS, but have since reappeared under a number of aliases. A BBC Newsnight documentary exposed their activity at Kingston University, and they have also been active at UCE in Birmingham and QMW in London, amongst others. Their publications in the mid-1990s were highly racist, anti-Semitic and anti-democratic/Western; they still utilise the same symbols and speakers. They were banned again this year by NUS.

  Al-Muhajiroun, led by Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed remains active especially in the Manchester, Nottingham and London. Al-Muhajiroun remains highly anti-Semitic and inflames tensions on campus. They have held rallies in support of 9/11 and their members are suspected to have been involved in the anti-Semitic attacks surrounding motions.

  The Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) uses its website to promote anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial and homophobic rhetoric. Their student arm is the Islamic Public Affairs Society, which is present at the University of London Union. This group was also banned at NUS this year; however their website reaches many students, and has a markedly negative impact.

  The Young BNP claim to have posts all around the country, but were only visible at the NUS national demonstration against fees. Their aim is often to overturn No Platform policies in order that their leadership can speak on campus. This caused tension three years ago in Leeds, where Mark Collett, the disgraced Young BNP ex-leader, was studying and politically active.

  The extreme left are particularly vocal on campus, and in recent times have colluded with Islamist Extremist groups like the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB). Between the Socialist Workers' Student Society, Stop the War Coalition, MAB, Friends of Al-Aqsa, the International Solidarity Movement, the General Union of Palestinian Students and Friends of Palestine, there is often material, comments or publications where the line between anti-Israel comment and anti-Semitism/Zionism is crossed. Often, in public lectures in particular, the word Zionist is used interchangeably with Jew. Azam Tamimi, a spokesman for the MAB, and former spokesperson for the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, often speaks on campus where he consistently attempts to justify, and expresses support for, Palestinian suicide bombing against Israeli civilians. These groups collectively are behind much of the tension, unease and fear felt by Jewish students. Examples of their literature and comment are available from UJS.

MISCELLANEOUS

  A number of miscellaneous anti-Semitic incidents occurred on campus over the past year. These include:

    —  The London Metropolitan University Jewish Society was told it had to change its name in order to "shield it from society" following the merger of North London and Guildhall Universities to form the Metropolitan University.

    —  Various articles in the Birmingham student newspaper Redbrick inciting racial hatred, and insinuating a Jewish conspiracy in the union.

    —  An anti-Semitic article in the Sussex student newspaper was printed. The article played on Jewish support from American and Imperialist groups, furthering the idea of a conspiracy theory.

    —  The Russian Society at Oxford refused to take part in Holocaust Memorial Day activities as some of their members "may have strong anti-Semitic views".

    —  The Edinburgh student newspaper printed a picture supposedly poking fun at Holocaust denial, but which in fact caused shock and offence.

    —  A number of speakers, including Rev. Stephen Sizer from Oxford Brookes University, have been openly anti-Semitic and demonised or dehumanised Jews and Israelis.

  UJS are happy to provide evidence, examples and further details of any matters outlined above.

23 September 2004





 
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Prepared 7 January 2005