OPINION: Don’t avoid confrontation on Israel, talk to your adversaries

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

OPINION: Don’t avoid confrontation on Israel, talk to your adversaries

Queen Mary University

By Rachel Paul

Being a Jew on campus may be daunting to some, with boycott motions of Israel being commonplace, making life uncomfortable. But if you just sit down and talk with people, there’s an opportunity to turn discord into something more constructive. 

Some of my strongest memories from secondary school are of sitting in Israel advocacy seminars. We were taught that there was a high chance that we would be virulently attacked for our religious and political affiliations, that we would be ostracised for them.

Perhaps I have been lucky, or made friends with the right people but if so, this luck has extended to many of my friends and peer group.

I have not been subjected to any serious incidents of anti-Zionism and have yet to personally meet anyone who has.

The Queen Mary JSOC president, Lisa Igel, has said that ‘it is easy to talk about’ Israel and Judaism with classmates without fear of discord, and that most people are ‘interested and curious’ to find out more about the ideology.

My closest friends at university are a group of religious Muslims.

We sit next to each other and pray next to each other.

Together we eat our homemade food, kosher and halal respectively.

We talk about our nails, bad hair days, our annoying siblings.

We laugh, have a coffee after lectures.

If I were to go by the doctrine preached by advocacy workers in schools, these are friendships that are doomed from the start as I, the lone Jew in the group, may feel threatened by of Islam and certain anti-Israel sentiments.

Instead, when loaded statements are made by either party about Israel-Palestine, it would be easy for it to suffocate our good relations – we have something called dialogue.

We vocalise our feelings and thoughts. During the standoff last Autumn between Israel and Gaza, such conversations were common.

This is not to say that there are not serious cases of anti-Israel sentiment on campus, because there are and they should not be treated lightly. There are also ample cases of Islamophobia which need to be tackled, and we can work together on that too. 

There are many examples of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) motions being passed on campuses in the UK, as well as rallies against Israel during times of heightened tensions.

However, friction most commonly stems from groups of people on campus rather than individuals. It does not make up the day to day life of the average Jewish student, and the Union of Jewish Students works very hard to ensure that Jewish student life is multi-faceted and rich.

I have spoken at length to other Jews studying at universities across England and Wales, many of whom enjoy close relationships with their non-Jewish friends.

The key to nurturing strong friendships with non-Jewish students is to engage in conversation.

Discussion is the single most important factors of any meaningful relationship, whether that be romantic, platonic friendships, or business relations.

Instead of being taught to avoid confrontation, and to dogmatically defend Israel, perhaps we should advocate discussion, especially when talking about a topic which sits deep in the hearts of many.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: