THE BLOG

Boycotting Jewish Students at UCL

15/03/2016 12:18 GMT | Updated 15/03/2017 09:12 GMT

When a student union passes a motion which purposefully disenfranchises hundreds of students from running for its most important positions, one can only describe such a situation as a reprehensible form of institutional discrimination.

University College London is exceptional for its history of tolerance. It is one of the few universities in England which has accepted students from all faiths since its foundation. In contrast to the closed door policy of the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Durham, UCL famously accepted Jewish students when it opened its doors in 1827 - a truly remarkable gesture for its time, which is celebrated until this day.

It is therefore ironic that the first university to 'remove' the requirement for Jews to profess a particular faith is also the first university with a student union which will bar hundreds of Jewish students from becoming sabbatical officers.

Once again, measures to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement at UCL - itself, an illiberal onslaught on freedom of thought - has resulted in blatantly discriminatory measures.

Imagine you were elected to a representative position where you forced to profess something contrary to your deeply held religious or personal beliefs. Such a situation would be roundly condemned as completely outrageous - yet at UCL, Jewish students will now be forced to boycott the Jewish state if they want to make a difference in their student union. It has been over one hundred years since 'confessional oaths' have been used to disqualify minorities from holding civil office or entering certain positions. 'Progress' in the name of 'liberation' (?) - or a so-called 'progressive' movement once more revealing its inherently 'regressive' character?

Of course, this is not the first time that student support for BDS has unveiled its more shady aspects. Take January's violent protest against Ami Ayalon, a former Israeli politician whose talk at King's College London led to a violent incident between extreme activists and a Jewish student. Alternatively, take a look at Rayhan Uddin's recent conspiratorial outbursts suggesting that 'leading Zionists' seek to take over the London School of Economics. Needless to say, UCL's discriminatory motion is the latest incident in a long history of suspicion and intimidation of anyone with even the slightest sympathy towards the State of Israel.

It's therefore vital to put last week's events at UCL into a broader context. In the past, Mohammed Fahed, a UCLU Union Chair and Treasurer of the Friends of Palestine Society, has sycophantically worshipped the terror tunnels built by Hamas in the recent Gaza war - in essence, he applauded a subterranean network designed for the sole intention of murdering Israeli civilians.

It's not an understatement to describe January's incident at King's College - or the continuing controversy surrounding Oxford University's Labour Club -as only the tip of the iceberg of anti-Zionist (and increasingly anti-Semitic) activity on campus. Many students at UCL will remember holding a vigil for International Holocaust Memorial Day on campus last January. Only one Sabbatical officer from the Union gave their time and effort to make this happen. It turned out that the rest of the Union team were at a meeting where among other things, a motion to boycott a well-known water company with links to Israel was on the agenda.

One pro-Israeli UCL Alumnus who regularly dealt with the UCL Student Union candidly told us how 'like most far-left student unions, UCLU seems to be under the illusion that it should be conducting a foreign policy, which would be funny if it didn't meant yet more singling out of the world's only Jewish country.'

Of course, singling out the only Jewish country has seemingly led to singling out the only Jewish students on campus as well. As the situation has developed, it's become increasingly difficult to host pro-Israeli speakers on campus - prominently, the abuse that former Ambassador Daniel Taub had to face from a well-known anti-Israel student received a lot of attention. The Ambassador pleaded for the Student to stay and debate the key issues in an academic environment, but this was evidently too much of a 'normalisation' for the bigoted anti-Israel activists on London Campuses.

Daniel Gross, a Former President of UCL Jewish Society, commented, 'this episode is hardly surprising from a student union who engage in voter fraud, no-platform a speaker who fought against ISIL and regularly invite extremists to campus. If only they got on with student issues as opposed to pretending to be some sort of government.'

As Daniel implies, it's about time such 'obsessive' focus on the Israeli-Palestinian issue is challenged, given the damage it causes to educational opportunity and general student welfare. After all, it is not only Jewish students who are challenged by discriminatory motions put forward by student unions - but as Mr Gross reminds us, each and every one of us. We shouldn't allow an atmosphere of intolerance and bigotry to fester. This entrenchment of corruption has not only led to near total control of what we are allowed to think and what we are allowed to say - but now, which religions are allowed to represent us too.

This was written Elliot Miller with assistance from Jonathan Hunter - who are both founders of the Pinsker Centre for Zionist Education. Elliot is the Former President of University College London Jewish Society - Jonathan is an M.St student in Modern Jewish Studies, who advised on the historical aspects of this piece.