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February 25, 2016 4:00 pm

Jewish Human Rights Group Hints at Legal Action Against Cambridge U Over Mock Checkpoint Erected for Israeli Apartheid Week

avatar by Andrew Pessin

Israeli Apartheid Week at Cambridge University. Photo: Facebook

Israeli Apartheid Week at Cambridge University. Photo: Facebook.

Lawyers for a Jewish advocacy group sent a letter to Britain’s Cambridge University, hinting that legal action would be taken over the erection of a mock “checkpoint” on campus during Israeli Apartheid Week.

The letter, sent Wednesday on behalf of Jewish Human Rights Watch, described the structure as “comprising a metal barrier with barbed wire which blocked the entrance to one of [Cambridge’s] educational facilities.” This “deliberately intimidating paramilitary-style antisemitic ‘checkpoint,’” it read, “was manned by individuals in camouflage waving replica weapons,” and was adorned with an Israeli flag.

The letter continued:

It is clear to our client that no-one whatsoever has given any thought to how a Jewish person in the current climate might feel about being forced to walk through such an intimidating road block on the campus. It is bad enough that anti-Jewish incidents have over the last 2 years risen to record levels. What makes this so much worse is that a respected institution such as yours should endorse such virulent antisemitic elements …

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The construction of the checkpoint kicked off Israeli Apartheid Week, a series of events held on many campuses across the UK and US, aimed, according to Cambridge University’s Israeli Apartheid Week Facebook page, “to raise awareness about Israel’s ongoing settler-colonial project and apartheid policies over the indigenous Palestinian people.” At Cambridge it is organized by the Cambridge University Palestine Society, which last week was in the news for refusing to participate in a “Middle East Peace Week,” co-sponsored by the Cambridge Israel Society, as reported by The Algemeiner.

The Algemeiner reached out to Cambridge Vice-Chancellor Prof. Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, to ask whether the university believed (a) that the mock checkpoint was in keeping with all university norms and codes of conduct, and (b) that Jewish students would be unreasonable in feeling intimidated by such a structure.

The Vice-Chancellor’s office responded: “Permission was given to the Palestine Society to hold a one-day protest event on the Sidgwick Site which was carried out peacefully. Access to buildings was not restricted and anyone wishing to avoid the protest was able to go around it.”

Jewish Human Rights Watch was recently established, according to its website, to “combat and record the anti-Jewish boycott movement’s action, the rise of anti-Semitism and to respond accordingly.”

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