UNIVERSITY COLLEGE of London was home to a violent student protest in 2016 against an event featuring Israeli activist Hen Mazzig.
(photo credit: TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS)
Antisemitism has pervaded British universities. An aggressive anti-Zionist minority on campuses across the country is targeting Jewish students who publicly support Israel.
Jewish students have faced numerous incidents of intimidation and harassment on UK campuses since 2016. In October of that year, students from University College of London Friends of Palestine violently protested a “CAMERA on Campus” event with Israeli activist Hen Mazzig. Barricaded into a small room, fellow attendees and I were forced to call the police in order to ensure our physical safety. As we left, we were taunted with cries of “Shame!” and fingers pointed in our faces.
The aggressive protesters accused Mazzig of being complicit in war crimes and used this false allegation as grounds for their intimidation of him and pro-Israel students. Earlier in the same year, a violent mob disrupted an event with Ami Ayalon, the former head of the Shin Bet – recognized within Israel as a champion of the peace process. The anti-Zionist protesters at King’s College London set off fire alarms, broke a window, physically intimidated students and ultimately prevented the event from continuing.
Students on British campuses who protest Israel typically do so not out of an opposition to specific government policies or anger toward a recent spate of violence. The level of hostility displayed indicates a fundamental rejection of the principle of Jewish self-determination. A case in point was a student filmed at the Mazzig protest proclaiming, “We don’t need no Jewish-majority state” in the 21st century.
How do such abhorrent actions arise amongst British students?
With the BBC’s prominence as a breaking news source on social media, British students have been inculcated with a highly distorted vision of Israel. On campus, students of my age grew up reading extensive reporting on Operation Protective Edge in 2014, characterized by stark omission of the facts on the ground. Coverage of the conflict was marred by the BBC’s repeated failure to showcase the barrage of rockets fired at Israeli homes and city centers – a total of 4,897 rockets in 2014. Trusted news source The Guardian frequently prints opinion pieces rationalizing Palestinian terrorism and portraying Israelis as violent. Ill-informed students in Britain go into university with the impression that Israel is an inherently evil aggressor in a one-sided conflict. With such unchallenged media coverage, who should blame them?
But there are more sinister political elements at play.
Organizations in the UK, including charities and political advocacy groups, are often funded by networks linked to Palestinian terrorist entities. These include Friends of Al-Aqsa and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. On campus, these organizations play a prominent role in both isolating pro-Israel students, and indoctrinating well-meaning but uninformed individuals into blind support for anti-Zionism.
Opposition to Israel is engendered into the very fabric of several prominent British universities. At King’s College London and University College London, employees of the student unions organized aggressive protests against Israeli Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev and former Israeli deputy prime minister Dan Meridor respectively. At King’s College London most recently, CAMERA’s Arabic research team revealed the student union’s support and mourning for 19 Hamas, Fatah, PFLP and Islamic Jihad terrorists killed during Gaza border riots over the summer.
Despite noble efforts from organizations such as UK Lawyers for Israel, British administrators are too often cowardly in their dealings with anti-Israel aggression on campus. While they should be swayed by the moral imperative to protect freedom of speech and secure their campuses against violence and breaches of the law, in reality, this is far from the case. Anti-Zionist organizations have successfully gained the upper hand by holding universities hostage with constant threats of disruptive protests and negative media coverage.
The result is that Jewish students are left at an unjust disadvantage when attempting to host events to celebrate Israel and their own Jewish identities.
It is imperative for British Jews – those who remain in Britain, and those who now live in Israel – to continue their involvement in the fight against antisemitism in the UK.
While we are by no means at fault for the predicament we find ourselves in, we do have a responsibility to challenge it.
With whatever tools we can use, we should take the initiative to proudly stand up for the right of students in the UK to host events with Israelis, without fear of violence or restrictions from administrators. On campus, we have organized a number of events in the UK to combat misinformation on Israel.
Most recently, IDF veteran and TV personality Shai DeLuca Tamasi spoke face-to-face with anti-Zionist students at Nottingham University. It was a resounding success, with Jewish students who attended the event leaving with a stronger sense of their own identities, and those who came in with a hatred of Israel leaving with a profoundly changed understanding of the Jewish state. As long as Jews live in the UK, there is much that can and should be done to combat the scourge of antisemitism on British campuses.
The writer, a campus associate for CAMERA on Campus UK, will speak in Tel Aviv on February 10 on “British Antisemitism – It’s Personal: In Politics, on Campus, in Media” (ukantisemitism.eventbrite.com).
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