Anti-Israel activists defaced the Union of Jewish Students stall at the National Union of Students annual conference in sheffield, England this week, covering the group’s Star of David logo with boycott Israel stickers.
UJS staff discovered the vandalism on Tuesday - alleged to have originated from the group Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Anti-Israel graffiti marred the Jewish group’s stall, posters and banners.
In a statement, UJS said it was “appalled” and labeled the incident as “anti-Semitic. The conference should be “a safe place for all students,” a UJS spokesman said, and “the singling out of Jewish students and the direct attack on Jewish religious symbols is anti-Semitism.” The group, which represents over 8,000 Jewish students across the UK, called for organizational intervention to ensure the incident was “swiftly” and “appropriately” tackled.
“UJS has already gained much support for and continues to call for further support in ensuring that there is no place for hate in NUS or against Jewish students,” the spokesman added.
At the conference on Wednesday - held in Sheffield and attended by over 1,000 students from across the UK - the newly re-elected National Union of Students president Liam Burns condemned the vandalism and promised a full investigation.
“NUS does not tolerate racism, fascism or anti-Semitism in any of its forms. Anti-Semitism is vile. It is hate and has no place in our movement,” Burns said.
“We will work day and night to drive hate out of our student movement, education system and society. We have of course launched a full investigation into this incident and will do all we can today to get to the bottom of it,” he said.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, a radical group that advocates a one-state solution and avidly supports the boycott and sanctions campaign against Israel, issued a statement on its website condemning the incident.
“As soon as the PSC was made aware of this unacceptable use of its stickers, the PSC immediately removed the stickers from its stall,” the group said. “PSC condemns the defacing of the UJS stall. The PSC opposes all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”
Britain’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who spoke at the conference earlier that day, commented on the vandalism.
“The deliberate defacing of the Star of David, a sacred symbol of Judaism and of the State of Israel, was an indication of the increasingly blurred line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism,” Sacks said.
“It is part of a long, slow, insidious process intended to undermine academic freedom and it must not be tolerated,” Sacks added.
Raheem Kassam, director of Student Rights, a group tackling extremism on campuses, said it was completely unacceptable that anti-Semitic activists targeted Jewish students through disrespecting property rights.
“No student, no matter what their background or religion, should have to tolerate intimidation and the defacing of private property like this, it speaks volumes about the academic rigor of the culprit’s arguments,” Kassam said.