Rebecca Filer and Hannah Rose call for support for Jewish students regardless of their political opinions.
Despite the atrocities of the twentieth century, antisemitism still persists in our society. According to the Community Security Trust (CST), a charity that protects the Jewish community and records antisemitism, reported antisemitic incidents in the UK have risen by 36% in 2016 compared to last year.
It is something that can be found across the political spectrum and is a particular problem in the student movement. In Bristol during the NUS referendum, the response to antisemitism was a major concern for Jewish students, and many were disappointed that the Remain campaign did not engage fully with the issue.
A conversation about Israel/Palestine was of greater concern than the ability for Jewish students to be able to define antisemitism.
The AMM demonstrated a big step forward for Jewish students, but not in the way that I expected. Various amendments, multiple speakers and 20 minutes of debate were somehow necessary to pass a simple motion pledging to combat antisemitism.
I proposed that Bristol Students’ Union define antisemitism using the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition, adopted by the UK government and the Labour Party but it became clear that for some, a conversation about Israel/Palestine was of greater concern than the ability for Jewish students to be able to define antisemitism.
Why must there be a caveat to standing alongside Jewish students asking for solidarity when tackling antisemitism?
Let me be clear; I believe in a safe homeland for Jewish people in the state of Israel. I also believe in justice for Palestinian people in a free and independent Palestinian state. However, I do not believe that any of this is relevant to combating antisemitism, and to suggest otherwise is highly inappropriate. An amendment to my motion was proposed by a student officer, specifying that this motion should not prevent pro-Palestinian activism on campus.
A motion with the title, ‘Combatting Antisemitism’, now has this amendment at the end. Personally, I was completely baffled by the sudden proposal of the amendment. Why must there be a caveat to standing alongside Jewish students asking for solidarity when tackling antisemitism?
Standing up to antisemitism shouldn’t be based on certain conditions.
I find it incredibly insulting that when asked to stand shoulder to shoulder with Jewish students in the UK, the first concern of some is ‘will this affect my ability to criticise Israel?’. Standing up to antisemitism shouldn’t be based on certain conditions, antisemitism should be challenged regardless.
The past year in the student movement has seen the concerns of Jewish students dismissed by student leaders. Now, more than ever, we need to stand by Jewish students and not on the condition that ‘we will stand by you if its suits our politics’, but ‘we will stand by you no matter what’.
Stand with us, on our terms.
It is of no comfort to Jewish students when precursors are placed on challenging antisemitism. Whilst I’m glad that the motion passed with the wording of the original motion unchanged, the amended addition serves as an example of how not to approach combatting antisemitism. Stand with us, on our terms, and help us to beat antisemitism once and for all.
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