This week, students attending an event about Israeli interactions with the Palestinian Authority have reported being surrounded, harassed and even assaulted. The students had to be escorted from the event by police for their own safety. This is the second time that we have received a flood of videos from our supporters of predominantly Jewish students being barricaded inside a room whilst those outside threaten and even attack them.
Campaign Against Antisemitism is concerned with antisemitism, as our name suggests, so when we hear about incidents like this, we look at whether the incident was antisemitic. We use the international definition of antisemitism which states that “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”
The fact is that almost half of the world’s Jews live in Israel, which is the physical centre of the Jewish religion. There are very few strands of Judaism which renounce all connection with Israel, yet universities are quite happy for violent bullies to protest anything short of Jewish students in Britain fully severing their ties with Israel.
Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic, but these protests are not criticism, they are a deliberate campaign of harassment and bullying, and their targets are overwhelmingly Jewish students.
A phenomenon that we have come across on social media in particular, is when antisemitism becomes so disguised, that we find people engaging in antisemitism without even realising that what they are doing is antisemitic. In other cases, we find antisemites very deliberately targeting Jews and pretending that they are simply protesting against Israel. The motive is important to us, but more important than the motive is the antisemitic act itself.
When campus protests against Israel repeatedly become violent and overwhelmingly target Jewish students, the motive scarcely matters. We simply do not care what the protesters say they are protesting against, they have become thugs whose targets are Jews.
The perpetrators who committed crimes or breached university rules must be investigated and punished. Additionally, universities must get their act together and provide proper security on campus, seeking the assistance of police forces when necessary. Whilst enforcing penalties for this kind of behaviour is essential, the problem must also be fought through education, which is the very purpose for which universities exist; the rhetoric which leads to expressions of hatred such as we saw this week must be counteracted, and universities should fill that role.
Campaign Against Antisemitism will be in touch with the university and police to satisfy ourselves that they are doing everything possible to bring to justice those who committed criminal acts or breached university rules. This work will be undertaken by the volunteers of our Regulatory Enforcement Unit and our Demonstration and Event Monitoring Unit.