I read with real interest the article by Laura Kam about anti-Zionism on university campuses in the United States and in Britain. Based on my own experiences as a student, I’d like to paint a different picture – one of which many are just starting to become aware – of British universities becoming the home to vocal, uncompromising, and rapidly expanding groups of anti-Zionists and anti-Semites, who equate Israel and Jews worldwide, and detest both.
I am currently a student at the University of York in the United Kingdom; a peaceful and studious place, far from the anti-Zionist (and, indeed, anti-Semitic) subcultures of London universities like the University of Westminster and the LSE. It is well documented that institutions such as these have enabled extremist students to build networks and have even produced home-grown terrorists.
But not York, I thought to myself as I filled in my application. This small, prestigious institution away from the metropolis was the kind of place where I would never have to encounter such intolerant extremism.
How wrong I was.
In 2010, just a fortnight after unpacking my bags, I was helping a friend pick up shards of glass from the floor of his new room. Why? Soon after placing an Israeli flag in his ground-floor window, it had been smashed and the flag torn. The perpetrators could be heard shouting “Jew!” as they pelted rocks at my friend’s window. The University did little more than fix the glass, and the student union’s Racial Equalities Officer had nothing whatsoever to say on the matter. Needless to say, these were not auspicious beginnings for a Zionist student like myself.
Silence from the Racial Equalities Officer was better than what was to follow; his successor, Lawrence Binitie, was exposed as an anti-Semite, noting that he would be “ashamed to be Jewish.” A horrendous isolated incident, surely? You’d be forgiven for thinking so, yet it was the man who exposed him who was blasted in one of the two student newspapers, which demanded that the student union “protect one of its own from outside attacks.” In a subsequent election for the Racial Equality Committee, a candidate who had expressed support for Iran’s Holocaust-denying Press TV was elected.
During my time at York, I have seen unopposed talks by anti-Semitic hate preachers such as Yusuf Chambers, Hamza Tzortzis (believed to be the front man of extremist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir), and Muhammed Al-Kawthari (who advocates marital rape), at the invitation of the University’s Islamic Society. The society has in recent years exhibited some particularly worrying conduct; for example, openly advertising the fundamentalist Islamic Party of Britain, an organisation which has bizarrely attempting to piece together a history of conspiracy between the Jewish people, the Rothschild family, Hitler, and neo-Nazi movements. Whenever challenged, the society has been unrepentant, knowing full well that the University and the student union will remain silent.
It is not just societies on campus peddling anti-Jewish speakers, however; the University itself has been guilty of inviting extremists on to campus to speak unopposed. One such case was Jenny Tonge, who had only weeks before singled out Jewish students for abuse during a talk at Middlesex University. Tonge, a Hamas supporter, was asked to talk about – of all things – free speech. You really couldn’t make it up.
But why on earth should any of this have surprised me, when so many of the staff at the University of York are so deeply involved with anti-Israel movements? A recent report by StandforPeace details in embarrassing totality the
strong link between University staﬀ and the local branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, an organisation described by the BBC as ‘radical’ and supportive of terrorism. The York PSC’s newsletter is sent out by Professor David Pegg, a lecturer within the Biology department. A staﬀ member of the mathematics department, John Bibby, is an active member of ‘Viva Palestina’, an organisation noted for its support for Syria’s murderous dictator Bashar Al-Assad as well as its ﬁnancial support for the terror group Hamas.
It was this organisation, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, which has been at the centre of religious hate at York – and campuses around the UK – in recent months. Only last week did the University have to endure students, staff and locals violently protesting a visit by Israeli Deputy Ambassador Roth-Snir. During their protest, police had to be called and the building in which Mr. Roth-Snir was speaking locked to prevent the group from storming the lecture hall in which the talk was being given. After the event, the group continued with their protest, chanting pro-Hamas slogans and using anti-Semitic language; calling myself and others “Jewish pigs” amongst other things not fit to be repeated.
It would be surprising to hear this if York was the exception; unfortunately it seems to be the rule. The British National Union of Students recently published a report revealing that 31 percent of Jewish respondents said they had been victimised for their religion, making them the most persecuted religious minority on British university campuses. When I began my time at York, the level of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism shocked me. Yet, for pro-Israel and Jewish students across the Western world, this is merely part and parcel of the university experience.