The Union of Jewish Students has hit back after an outspoken American rabbi claimed British Jewish students were too “cowed” to talk about Israel on campus.
It comes after Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, known for his right-wing views, said Jewish youngsters “had become so cowed by the omnipresent hostility and bullying on and off British campuses that they were afraid to engage in a dialogue about Israel”.
Russell Langer, UJS Campaigns Director, whole-heartedly denied the accusations, saying instead that British Jewish students were “extremely active” in the debate.
Boteach earlier said he had been invited to speak at King’s College, and was stopped in mid-flow, but those present said he was asked “at the last minute” to pop in for a social event, because he was next door, but that he took the stage for half an hour and “wouldn’t stop talking”.
The rabbi, who is advertising his latest book, was subsequently told – in an effort to get him off stage – that the Jewish Society (J-Soc) didn’t discuss Israel.
He later wrote an article in Jerusalem Post, arguing that “London has become ground zero for the anti-Semitic boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, which has found especially fertile ground on England’s college campuses”.
It provoked a furious reaction from UJS, with Langer saying: “Jewish students at many campuses in London have found that combatting the delegitimisation of Israel with separate Israel societies is the most effective method for their environment.”
He added: “Jewish students are extremely active at Kings in standing up for Israel and ensuring a balanced debate.”
Last year, during Israeli Apartheid Week, Jewish students across three London institutions, including Kings, ran the Piece 2 Peace campaign – an initiative that engaged over 4,000 students in dialogue around the conflict.
“We work closely with students across the country in determining the best way to fight the delegitimisation of Israel on each campus,” said Langer. “Israel engagement is a core value of ours.”