Many students at UK universities have rightly responded to the escalation of violence in Israel-Palestine by mobilising in support of the Palestinians. In some places there are campaigns to get universities to stop investing in companies that financially back Israeli military industries.
We hope Palestinian solidarity campaigning continues beyond the ceasefire, and that university divestment campaigns succeed. At the same time we continue to criticise the blanket boycott policies which dominate on campuses (including academic boycotts), with their implicit backing for a “one state” outcome in Israel-Palestine. In coming issues we’ll write more about this and our positive ideas for solidarity campaigning.
In the last two weeks Jewish students and Jewish student societies have become targets for explicit antisemitic abuse on social media. Such abuse probably does not come, in the main, from other students. But there have been “real-life” issues and harassment from other students.
For example, at Royal Holloway University a sticker of the Israel flag with a swastika replacing the star of David in the middle was placed near the library (pictured above). And University College London reports physical threats against Jewish students as well as harassment of Muslim and Palestinian students.
As politics moves right, many forms of racism — antisemitism, anti-Asian racism, and Islamophobia — are on the rise. Student unions must be very clear that no Jewish student is responsible for the actions of the Israeli government and should condemn any rhetoric and abuse which makes Jews responsible. They need to show how it is possible to oppose the Israeli government without being antisemitic — without, for example, drawing equivalences between that government and the Nazis, or saying Zionists (meaning Jews) are creating a Holocaust.