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January 5, 2017 3:30 pm

Jewish Student Activists in UK Say Umbrella Organization Must Stop ‘Wrongly Dismissing,’ Apologizing for Antisemitism on Campus

avatar by Lea Speyer

Photo: Boles Shikmim/ Wikimedia Commons.

Photo: Boles Shikmim/ Wikimedia Commons.

Jewish students in the UK are calling on the country’s leading Jewish student group to stop “wrongly dismissing” antisemitism on college campuses and fulfill its “commitment to not be ‘apologetic in the face of abuse.’”

In an oped in Britain’s Jewish Chronicle, Jonathan Hunter, co-founder of the Pinsker Center for Zionist Education, and Shlomo Roiter-Jesner, a Cambridge University student who was the target of an antisemitic attack, wrote that they were “surprised and bewildered” to witness Union of Jewish Students (UJS) Campaigns Director Josh Nagli downplay racism against Jews on college campuses in their response to recent claims by parliamentarian Baroness Ruth Deech that this was, in fact, an increasing trend.

According to Nagli, Deech’s warnings that Jewish students are avoiding certain universities due to their antisemitic atmoshphere do a “disservice,” are “inflammatory” and “frankly wrong.” Citing statistics from a 2011 National Jewish Student Survey, Nagli argued, “Antisemitism is not rife at universities.”

The UJS campaigns director, Hunter and Roiter-Jesner wrote, “not only misconstrued Baroness Deech’s comments, but went so far as to completely contradict all statistics,” such as how 42 percent of Jewish students were either witness to or targets of an antisemitic incident.

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“We cannot deny that a significant proportion of Jewish students have at some point in their university careers been made to feel enormously uncomfortable, simply because of their background,” they wrote.

Hunter and Roiter-Jesner said that though there are many Jewish students who feel safe enough to express their Judaism publicly, “purporting the converse is both false and unrepresentative of the depressingly rife presence of antisemitism on British university campuses.” 

UJS representatives must “utilize the enormous resources available to them — and properly call out the bigotry we face,” they wrote. “They should make it clear that Jewish students will not tolerate antisemitism in any shape or form — nor will they stand for the even more troubling inability of universities to guarantee them a safe learning environment, free from antagonism and hostility.”

As The Algemeiner reported, Deech asserted that several top-tier British universities have become inhospitable to Jewish students, due to a combination of rising antisemitism and a desire on the part of administrators to raise funds from Arab states hostile to Israel.

Deech said she “[doesn’t] know why [universities] aren’t doing anything” — specifically the University of Manchester, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of Southampton, the University of Exeter and Oxford — about the plight of Jewish students

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