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November 23, 2016 9:00 am

Israeli BDS Activist Among Top Candidates for Presidency of Britain’s Jewish Student Umbrella Organization

avatar by Lea Speyer

Photo: University of York PalSoc/Facebook.

Israel boycott paraphernalia. Photo: University of York PalSoc/Facebook.

An Israeli BDS activist who has downplayed Arab terrorism against his fellow countrymen, is one of three candidates nominated to run for the leadership of Britain’s Jewish student umbrella organization, The Algemeiner has learned.

Eran Cohen — a student at the University of York who will be contending in the upcoming Union of Jewish Students (UJS) presidential election — is a vocal promoter of divestment from the Jewish state and served as the BDS officer of the school’s Palestinian Solidarity Society (PalSoc), which held “Israel Apartheid Week” activities on campus and was responsible for the passage last year of a student government motion to boycott goods produced in West Bank settlements.

In an April 2015 oped, Cohen urged his peers at York to support the motion, calling it “an opportunity for the student body to show solidarity with the Palestinian people and send a strong message to say that the military occupation and annexation of Palestinian land for Israeli settlements must end.”

He also referred to the “ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people,” and accused the Israel Defense Forces of creating and perpetuating an “atmosphere of fear and paranoia in the West Bank [where] non-violent protests are quashed with tear-gas and batons” — without mention of the terrorist attacks committed by Palestinians against Israeli soldiers and civilians on a regular basis.

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In addition, Cohen produced and acted in “Seven Jewish Children: A play for Gaza — staged by the PalSoc for Israel Apartheid Week — which was denounced by York’s Jewish Society (JSoc) and other organizations as antisemitic. According to a York JSoc statement at the time:

The words Israel, Israelis, Zionism and Zionist are not mentioned once in the play, while Jews and alleged Jewish behavior is core throughout it. We are often told that when people talk about Israel or Zionists, it is mischievous to accuse them of meaning Jews. Now, we are expected to imagine that a play that talks only of Jews, in fact, means Israelis.

Though both a Jew and an Israeli, Cohen — who goes by the alternate last name “Kahane” on social media — has posted virulently anti-Zionist and seemingly antisemitic rants on his personal Facebook page. A year ago in October, for example, a couple of weeks into the surge in “lone-wolf” Palestinian terrorism that is still ongoing, he shared and translated into English a Hebrew post — written by one of his FB friends — virtually defending the violence by attacking its victims.


In May this year, he turned the following graphic into his profile picture:


This week, he shared the following meme, which alludes to an infamous antisemitic trope:


In response to an inquiry about the candidacy, a spokesman for UJS lauded Cohen’s run as an expression of the group’s diversity. “We are excited about the levels of engagement in our representative cross-communal union this dynamic and contested election should generate,” she told The Algemeiner.

Cohen told The Algemeiner that he is unable to respond to questions at this time, due to UJS campaign laws. He said he was “instructed not to talk to journalists, because it may come across as campaigning, which we are not allowed to begin until after this coming Shabbat.”

Instead, he referred to the following statement that he was permitted to give to the UK’s Jewish Chronicle:

UJS should represent all Jewish students — Zionist or not. I am a diasporist — I believe the focus of Jewish life is wherever Jews live, and excessive focus on Israel damages the UK Jewish community. There are many left-wing Jewish students, both Zionist and not, who support my campaign…[I] support BDS as a nonviolent tool to effect change.

Voting for the UJS presidential election begins on November 28 and ends on December 8.

Concerns have been raised in the UK Jewish community about Cohen’s radical anti-Israel activism and the impact it may have on his leadership abilities at UJS. These come alongside an ongoing controversy surrounding Malia Bouattia, the openly anti-Israel president of the country’s National Union of Students (NUS) who has been accused of antisemitism

In October, as the The Algemeiner reported, a parliamentary report on the state of antisemitism in the UK criticized Bouattia for continually dismissing — and even undermining — efforts to combat antisemitism on campus. The report spurred calls for her immediate resignation by the head of UJS.

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