Since Pharaoh’s oppression of the Hebrews in Ancient Egypt, antisemitism has plagued the world’s history books. However, three and a half thousand years later, it can finally be said: Antisemitism is dead.
The evidence of this can be found not by a lack of Jews to persecute, as some of history’s worst antisemites had hoped for, but by the apathy that mires this generation of Jewish students when it comes to challenges such as BDS on campus. As of late, antisemitism has been redefined by others who claim, in their great wisdom, to understand Jewish experience on campus better than Jews themselves. The extent of this wisdom is evident, as it proved more pervasive amongst NUS’ National Executive Council than the first hand testimony offered by the Israeli President of Sheffield Jsoc, who (apparently disingenuously) suggested that BDS had made her feel uncomfortable leading the Jewish society on her campus.
That same year NUS voted against condemning ISIS, for fear that such an action could perpetuate Islamophobia in the UK. The failure to afford Jewish students this same courtesy when it came to BDS and the spread of antisemitism should not be surprising- after all, there were too few Jewish activists around to ask for it.
Whilst common ground can easily be found amongst delegates’ shared support of ISIS and BDS, there is a little more debate over whether or not NUS can be considered representative. Students are notoriously disinterested in anything that does not affect them directly, and the same holds true for Jewish students. In this respect, it is somewhat useful that there are so many BDS supporters willing to categorise Jewish experience on behalf of Jewish students, as so few can be bothered to do so themselves.
It is rather telling that at Nottingham University, with 33,500 students, just 1070 ballots were cast. This is equivalent to a turnout of just over 3% – hardly a sound democratic mandate. The unfortunate reality is that NUS is dominated by hardliners, frustrated youths with an inflated sense of self-importance and a burning need to express themselves. It is not a welcoming environment, and nor does it always feel safe, and it is because of this that the moderate voices have been kept out.
Whilst NUS NEC may have fooled you, the truth is that antisemitism is not dead, however it does desperately need people to start taking it seriously again. It is time for a resurgence in student engagement with Jewish issues on campus, and this cannot and will not happen until Jewish students themselves re-engage.