Jewish Students Charge Left Groups With Anti-Semitism

David Rose,
The Guardian,
June 3, 1986

Jewish students are increasingly becoming the targets of anti-Semitism from far-left organisations and political groups within the National Union of Students (NUS), it was claimed yesterday.

Mr Adrian Cohen, chairman of the Union of Jewish Students, cited a series of recent incidents at colleges and universities where Jews have been subjected to “overt prejudice and hostility.”

He said anti-Semitism had become a common feature of campus politics and originated from far-left groups and the National Organisation of Labour Students (NOLS), the dominant political group within the NUS.

Yesterday Jewish students at the Institute of Education in London wrote to their college authorities asking to be allowed to leave their compulsory student union following outbursts at a meeting on Friday.

The protest follows a series of incidents in the National Union of Students and at several universities and colleges.

The debate at Friday’s meeting centred on a motion by members of the Socialist Workers Student Society (SWSS) seeking to overturn a decision made at the NUS conference in April to ban a badge equating Zionism with fascism, racism and apartheid.

The motion’s proposer, Ms Jane Marriott, said that Zionism was “fundamentally racist,” claiming that “the right-wing death squads of Rabbi Meir Kahane represent the true tradition of Zionism.”

She was opposed by Mr Cohen, who was introduced is a guest speaker from the UJS to jeers and hisses.

One speaker supporting the motion pointed to a group of Jewish students sitting together and said: “We are not anti-Semitic. But those people are believing in some kind of better than thou human beings.”

Angry scenes followed when Jewish students were prevented from making a closing speech. One woman rose to protest, saying that as a Jew she felt intimidated. The SWSS group responded with a loud, ironic “ahhhh.”

Mr Cohen said later that behaviour which would never be tolerated towards black students was being directed against Jews with increasing frequency.

In several campuses, the equation of Zionism with racism has led to attempts to ban Jewish societies, and Jewish students have repeatedly been prevented from speaking in Middle East debates.

Mr Justin Trenner described an experience at Swansea University: “I wanted to speak because this was a subject of Jewish interest. I was stopped by a large majority because I might be Zionist, and therefore racist.”

At Leeds University, an exhibition last term about the holocaust was defaced by slogans claiming that Jews were concentration camp “kapos” in Israel.

During the exhibition, two men burst into the office of Mr Rob Minshull, a union sabbatical officer. He said they shouted “you Jewish bastard, we’re going to sort you out,” attacked him and broke his nose.

According to Mr Cohen, Jewish students at many colleges have experienced increasing hostility since a dispute between black and Jewish students at the South Bank Polytechnic in London over the playing at a meeting of tapes of speeches by the anti-Semitic black American leader, Mr Louis Farrakahn.

Whilst SWSS and other far-left groups have for many years, espoused views which Jewish students find offensive there is particular concern from Mr Cohen and his colleagues at alleged anti-Semitism from elements within NOLS.

The current NOLS handbook sent to all students listing useful organisations omits Jewish groups. At a “Red Revue,” organised by NOLS at the NUS conference, Jewish students walked out after a member sang an offensive satirical song.

A seminar on the Middle East, organised by NOLS in Scotland later this month, Hill, effectively exclude Jewish students, according to UJS. It takes place over the Jewish festival of Shevuot.

Mr David King, a student at Lancashire Polytechnic and the Labour parliamentary candidate in Ribble Valley, opposed an NUS conference motion supporting Soviet Jewry on the grounds that it “clearly forgets the plight of Palestinians in the country of Israel.”

He spoke of “so-called refuseniks” immediately seeking refuge in the very country which had been created by occupying land belonging to Palestinians.

He twice referred to “the Union of Jewish Students and their powerful lobbyists,” which, he said, were concerned only about Russian Jews and failed to acknowledge “the existence of the fact of their fellow-Semites who are being persecuted, brutalised and murdered by the neo-fascist state of Israel.”

Mr King said yesterday that he was in no way anti-Semitic and that concern about his speech by UJS amounted to “hysteria.” He had been “victimised by a scurrilous attack.”

He said his speech expressed his disgust at the alleged use of refuseniks by Israel to justify “international terrorism in the name of the Jewish people and Zionism” while UJS included people who “interpret Zionism in a racist manner.”

Ms Linzi Brand, the NUS anti-racism officer, said that at the conference she had failed to be elected to a further sabbatical post largely because she was Jewish. Enough organised groups supported her theoretically to ensure a large majority, but in the end she lost heavily.

She said: “There were a lot of comments. People were saying they weren’t going to vote for a left-wing Yid, that kind of thing. Anti-Semitism can be a good recruiting agent for the far-left: it focuses on the Palestine issue but taps traditional, English sources.

“There’s no doubt that it’s getting worse, and that anti-Zionism is being used to attack Jews, not Zionism.”

Senior Labour Party sources said last night that allegations of anti-Semitism within NOLS had not been brought to the party’s attention, but that if evidence was presented it would not be ignored.