By Cameron Scheijde, co-Editor-in-Chief
Incoming BME Network Chair Omar Chowdhury has faced online abuse following his official warning over comments to Izzy Posen - the Jewish student who Chowdhury told to 'be like Israel and cease to exist'.
In a statement posted to Facebook, Posen denounced the abuse that Chowdhury has faced since the story was picked up by national newspapers and attracted national attention beyond the University campus. He said 'I raised issues about antisemitic comments made to me by our university's incoming BME officer because I felt that these things need transparency. The SU has dealt with it and I am happy with their recommendations.
'I am appalled and disgusted by the hounding campaigns made against Omar Chowdhury, as it is beyond any proportion. People are saying far more hateful things about him than what he ever said about me'.
Comments under the Facebook page 'Stop Antisemitism' - a page not linked to Bristol University - contain directly threatening comments aimed at Chowdhury. One called him a 'foul mouthed creep, shows the quality of students at that univ [sic] is in the sewer', another called him 'evil and disgusting'. Other comments, including Islamophobic hate speech, are too crude to publish.
Posen said 'we handle strifes with reconciliation, understanding and forgiveness, not with more hate. I want to make it clear that this hate is not in my name, not as the "victim" of Omar's comments and not as a Jew.
'I profoundly disagree with Omar's politics and ideally I would like to see a more compassionate and respectful candidate in his role. But he does not deserve this kind of persecution. I now stand in opposition to the haters. It is not antisemitism that is the problem but hatred between groups. And this response to his antisemitism is definitely hatred'.
A petition has been launched by the new group 'Bristol against antisemitism' calling on Chowdhury to resign or for the SU to remove Chowdhury from the position - it now has over 1,000 signatures.. He received an official warning from the SU after his comments on a Bristruth thread emerged, and has since apologised to Mr. Posen. He said 'over the last two weeks, I have already begun efforts to educate myself on antisemitism and I have learned a lot just in this small timeframe.
'I want to continue to grow my understanding of antisemitism and the different forms it takes and will undertake antisemitism training as part of this.
'I will do everything I can to show that these comments do not represent my character and commit to creating a more welcoming environment for minorities in the work I do next year, starting with myself.'
Bristol Jewish Society (JSoc) are due to have a vote on whether to officially campaign for Chowdhury's removal. Posen told Epigram that while he does not think Chowdhury should be forcefully removed from his post, he thinks he should resign.
A spokesperson for Bristol Students Against Antisemitism said: 'Bristol Students Against Antisemitism are deeply saddened by the abuse which Omar Chowdhury has received and condemn it unreservedly. We exist to oppose racism and I am proud that, it's exactly what we have done. Our campaign has been conducted with the utmost respect and decency. We continue to believe strongly that Mr Chowdhury should resign or be removed from his role as the Chair of the BME network and will continue to campaign for this with total integrity'.
Bristol SU has previously told Epigram ‘Bristol SU is committed to tackling racism and antisemitism on campus. We uphold the IHRA definition of antisemitism and will ensure that all SU officers and chairs of networks receive antisemitism training. We will also reach out to Jewish students to make sure their concerns are heard and addressed.’