Radical BDS Activist Running for President of Britain’s Top Jewish Student Group Has ‘Definite Chance of Winning,’ Expert Says
An anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activist nominated as one of three candidates for the top leadership position of Britain’s national Jewish student organization has a “definite chance of winning” amid declining participation in the group by Zionist students, a British campus affairs expert told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.
Jonathan Hunter — co-founder of the UK-based Pinsker Centre for Zionist Education — was referring to University of York’s Eran Cohen –himself an Israeli and a Jew — who is running in the upcoming Union of Jewish Students (UJS) presidential election.
Cohen’s chances are high because his supporters are “hardcore,” Hunter said, while “the much broader constituency of students sympathetic to Israel don’t feel the urgency or want to make the effort to go on the internet and vote.”
According to Hunter, those backing Cohen aim to “subvert UJS — a body that has outwardly identified as Zionist for the last 90 years — and turn it into some fictional Yiddish, socialist, non-Zionist, all inclusive group which stands for absolutely nothing.”
Many Jewish students in Britain are “very concerned” over Cohen’s chances, and politically active individuals are “trying to make sure, in any way they can, that one of the other two candidates, who are more moderate, are elected instead,” Hunter told The Algemeiner.
While a victory in UJS by someone with Cohen’s views may have been unthinkable a few years ago, “in the age of Trump and Brexit you can’t rule out anything,” Hunter said.
Cohen is an outspoken supporter of the global boycott Israel movement, and recently made his intentions known — in an op-ed published by independent culture magazine Huck — to move UJS “away from a pro-Israel…position” and increase opposition to the Jewish state’s “occupation of Palestinian land.”
Criticizing UJS for being an “explicitly Zionist organization,” Cohen accused the group of being beholden to those who promote Israeli “propaganda.”
Through its pro-Israel advocacy work, UJS has effectively “[kept] hidden the occupation and rampant social and institutional racism against Palestinians,” he wrote, adding that the organization’s mission — “to instill in us a sense of national identity for a country in which we do not live and…have no connection to” — alienates a whole segment of students like him, who are “Jewish, Israeli, but by no means a Zionist.”
According to Cohen, the “occupation of Palestinian land by Israel has had devastating consequences on both Palestinians and Israelis, and negatively affects Jews in the rest of the world.”
Downplaying terror against Israel as “Palestinian armed struggle and unarmed civil disobedience,” Cohen wrote that the best way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to “apply non-violent, irresistible pressure on the Israeli government to force them to negotiate faithfully and sincerely.” He did not acknowledge the numerous times Israel has extended its hand to Palestinian leaders to negotiate peace, only to be rebuffed.
As The Algemeiner reported, Cohen has faced his fair share of controversy over his support for BDS. Going by the alternate last name “Kahane” on social media, Cohen has posted virulently anti-Zionist and ostensibly antisemitic rants on his personal Facebook page.
In October 2015, 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 originally by one of his Facebook friends, defending the violence by attacking its victims.
Cohen’s emergence comes alongside an ongoing controversy surrounding Malia Bouattia, the openly anti-Israel president of the country’s National Union of Students (NUS) who has also faced charges of antisemitism.
Voting for the UJS presidential election began on November 28 and ends on December 8.
Watch Cohen’s campaign video below: