ASW Major Investigation – State of the ‘Student’ Union, concerned by what it has been picking up through its perhaps unique global coverage, has conducted a major investigation into the level of Antisemitism being faced by Jewish students on University and College campuses. As ASW has always made clear, we firmly believe that only by understanding the global context of Antisemitism, not merely focusing on our own ‘back yard’, can this evil be understood, faced up to and defeated.

ASW does not hide away from telling the truth.  Recent campus Antisemitism has not only been of the overt kind (best described as linked to ethnic hatred). It has also been generated directly in some instances by the anti-Zionist, anti-Israel, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

ASW20On 1st March 2015, ASW posted about a Jewish student, Rachel Beyda, being quizzed by members of UCLA’s (University of California, Los Angeles) student government about whether her Jewish identity presented a ‘conflict of interest’ in her application to join. They questioned her ability to make unbiased decisions on cases in which the Jewish community had a vested interest while being active in Jewish organisations on campus.

The debate, captured on video, roiled the campus and sparked a national discussion about discrimination against Jews.

Meanwhile, just a few days ago members of the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee in the US became the latest target of campus Antisemitism after discovering swastika’s spray-painted in the elevator of their fraternity house. Another swastika was painted on a basement door.

Similarly, in New York City last week, John Jay College of Criminal Justice was the scene of swastikas and Antisemitic slurs, accompanied by racist and homophobic graffiti.

Perhaps not surprising then the findings from the National Demographic Survey of American Jewish College Students, issued by Trinity College and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. The survey indicated more than half – 54 percent – of 1,157 college students surveyed at 55 U.S. campuses had either experienced or witnessed Antisemitic incidents.

In the UK both the University of Westminster and the University of Kent initially invited and then swiftly banned the extremist Islamic preacher Haitham al-Haddad  from speaking on campus. Al-Haddad has been accused of promoting Antisemitic views such as Jews being, “the descendants of apes and pigs.”

Interestingly, however, the bans only occurred after it emerged Mohammad Emwazi, or “Jihadi John”, was radicalised at the Westminster university.

In January this year The Independent described how an openly racist neo-Nazi group – National Action – was seeking to recruit on UK university campuses. While in the same month swastikas were daubed on walls of the University of Birmingham.

Yet it is perhaps through links with the BDS movement that some of the most vehement Antisemitism has been witnessed. A link so often dismissed its supporters.

On the 15th February 2015, ASW posted that the Students Representative Council (SRC) and Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) at Durban University of Technology in South Africa had stirred outrage after they had demanded that Jewish students, especially those who “do not support the Palestinian struggle,” leave the school.

On 24th February 2015, ASW further posted about a list of the top ten most Antisemitic US campuses produced by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a conservative think-tank based in California.

The think-tank report described how Jewish students at the University of California at Davis awoke earlier this year to swastikas spray-painted on their fraternity house. This event occurred less than 48 hours after the school student government passed an anti-Israel resolution to boycott targeted companies who do business with the Jewish state.

SONY DSCIn Brussels earlier this month, Jewish students at the Brussels Free University were targeted by anti-Israel activists from the BDS who shouted Antisemitic slogans. As the Jewish students were observing the set up of a symbolic so-called ‘’Wall of Occupation’’ in the middle of the campus, the BDS students started shouting “Zionists, fascists, you’re terrorists” at them.

In 2011, a pro-Palestinian campaigner was convicted of a racially motivated attack on a St Andrews student after he put his hands down his trousers before wiping them on an Israeli flag hanging in his room.

ASW22Anti-Israel incidents at Scottish universities have previously contributed to Jewish students quitting their courses in despair. Attacks were said to have created a “toxic atmosphere” in which Jewish students no longer felt comfortable. Among those who felt the need to leave was a former Edinburgh Jewish Society chair who dropped out of his course to study abroad. 

Just a little under two weeks ago a Sydney University academic, Jake Lynch, was reportedly faced with an investigation over an incident born out of his support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel. A fracas had broken out when students stormed a public meeting on campus and disrupted an address by former British army colonel Richard Kemp. Mr Kemp wrote to the vice-chancellor claiming that he observed Professor Lynch, “waving money in the face of a Jewish student, a clearly aggressive and insulting act that seemed to invoke the stereotype of the ‘greedy Jew’,” Mr Kemp wrote.

ASW comment: The links between the BDS movement and Antisemitism is a reality that cannot be ignored. Too often Jewish community institutions have shied away from speaking on this issue. To do so only emboldens those that seek to use BDS for such purposes and prevents Jewish students from being adequately supported in confronting the consequences of it.

ASW also believes that armed with this evidence it is incumbent on the University authorities to take intrusive action to prevent all forms of Antisemitism including that disguised under the BDS banner. urges all British Jewish student groups to undertake and circulate its current survey into Antisemitism in the UK.

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