The university swamp
Published in: Jewish Chronicle
It's groundhog day in the universities. The spectre of an academic boycott of Israel is now doing the rounds yet again, almost three years to the day since an infamous letter to the Guardian first put it on the agenda.
While their teachers gear themselves up to single out Israelis for discrimination, Jewish students are being forced to run a gauntlet of racial abuse on campus - an ordeal which is being viewed with indifference by the rest of the supposedly anti-racist, diversity and equality-loving student body.
The universities are our historic guardians of intellectual freedom and tolerance. Unfortunately, someone seems to have torn up the lecture notes.
Three Jewish officers of the National Union of Students have resigned in protest at what they say is the NUS executive's refusal to do anything about the anti-Jewish prejudice openly erupting on campus. Responding to criticism for organising an event on a Saturday, NUS officer Benson Osawe reportedly said: 'When Jewish students cough and sneeze within NUS everyone jumps, but it's not the same for international students'; and for good measure he added that the NUS was 'pandering to Jewish students'. At a student union meeting, someone commented that burning down a synagogue was a rational act. A stall at the NUS conference displayed anti-Jewish leaflets which compared Jews to Nazis, claimed that Jews had abused Judaism to obtain the State of Israel, and regurgitated extracts from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Yet according to the UJS, not only did the NUS executive do nothing about these leaflets and remarks but instead it did remove a UJS leaflet exposing the extremist Islamist movement Hizb-ut-Tahrir. So while it turned a blind eye to brazen anti-Jewish prejudice, it suppressed a protest by Jews against the Islamist fanaticism that threatens themselves and others.
This is racism, pure and simple. But there's worse.
One of the trio who resigned, Luciana Berger - a convener of the union's Anti-Racism and Anti-Fascism Campaign, no less - recounted in her resignation letter an appalling litany of racial bullying. She had been accused of being biased towards the Jews because she had tackled anti-Jewish prejudice. An attempt had been made to censure her for speaking out about anti-Jewish feeling at the School of Oriental and African Studies.
Five years ago, she wrote, she had been spat at because she was Jewish. In recent years, Jewish students had had to be escorted from the building by the back door because of fears for their safety; while this year, Jews had been accused by union officers of conspiring to write, submit and debate motions that they had had no part in.
Being spat at? Having to be smuggled out by the back door? Baselessly accused of conspiracies? This is simply open season on Jewish students of the most shameless and disgusting kind - and it has been going on for years.
By any normal standards of decency, university teachers should be expressing huge concern about this racial prejudice and intimidation within the student body and taking action to stop it. But look at what they are doing instead - debating a proposal at the Association of University Teachers' conference next week to boycott Israeli academics.
Not all Israeli academics, mind - only those who fail to denounce their country's policies in the disputed territories. So in true totalitarian tradition, only those who betray their own people will be permitted to maintain their livelihood.
Of course, the boycotters would say this has got nothing to do with racial prejudice, not least because some of them are Jews themselves. This is self-serving humbug. Tragically, there have always been Jews who have sided with the persecutors of their own people. And this boycott is without any doubt racially discriminatory.
There is no similar proposal to boycott Syria, say, for occupying Lebanon; or China for oppressing Tibet; or Sudan for the genocide of two million Africans. It is only the Jews of democratic Israel - the victims of annihilatory terror - who are being singled out for punishment.
The motion reveals that its proponents are as ignorant as they are prejudiced. They have swallowed the lie that Israel colonised Palestinian land. They thus not only ignore the ancient Jewish settlements in the territories which predated the Arab colonisation by several centuries. They also ignore the fact that this land never belonged to the Palestinians but to the British mandatory authority, from which Jordan and Egypt aggressively and illegally seized it.
What is going on in the universities is no mere sideshow. These academics are shaping the minds of generations of young people. Instead of bringing enlightenment, they are spreading darkness. And in this most oppressive of climates, Jewish students are being intimidated and abandoned.
A virus of anti-Jewish hatred is now coursing through this country's arteries - and the universities are the swamp in which it breeds.