An Italian chef due to speak at a student event at the School of Oriental and African Studies this month has a “history of using antisemitic language,” Jewish students claimed on Monday.
The talk on 20 March, organised by the university’s Palestine and Italian societies according to an online listing, will be led by Gabriele Rubini, a former rugby player turned chef and TV personality.
The student event has been promoted on social media by both student societies, which have their logos on the poster.
The student event’s online listing describes Rubini as a “long-time supporter of the Palestinian cause” and says he will discuss “the daily challenges he encounters when advocating for Palestinian rights in Italy.”
Rubini, also known as Chef Rubio, recently travelled to Gaza with an Italian non-governmental organisation, where he led a cooking class for the inmates of a local prison, Agence France-Presse reported earlier this year.
Three Jewish postgraduate students described Rubini as an “inappropriate speaker for an event on Palestine” on Monday evening.
In a joint-statement, Amanda Assin, 23, Micol Meghnagi, 23, and Bruno Montesano, 24, said events like the Rubini talk could “do massive damage to the movement of Palestine solidarity.”
The students, who say they are “clear in our support of the Palestinian cause and of a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the Middle East,” pointed to previous remarks made by Rubini.
Last month, the TV chef drew criticism when he apparently suggested in an interview with the Italian broadcaster Radio Radio that Jewish victims of the Holocaust could not “afford bribes” unlike survivors who fled the Nazis.
“There was not only the Holocaust. There were many genocides in the world but if you notice it we are led to pay attention only to what has struck the Jews and not all the Jews, because the rich ones have sold themselves also the brothers, sisters, families, neighbours who could not afford bribes or closeness to power and also went to die for this cause, for the state of Israel,” he reportedly said in Italian.
Daniel Kosky, campaigns organiser at the Union of Jewish Students said the speaker has a “history of using antisemitic language.”
“Antisemitism should have no place on campus and we call on the society to rescind their invitation to Rubini and apologise for the offence caused to the Jewish community,” he said on Monday.
“It is hardly surprising that there is no longer a Jewish student society at SOAS when we are consistently seeing similar events occurring,” he added.
When reached for comment on Monday, the SOAS Palestine Society said Rubini “never said anything of which he’s being accused” and dismissed allegations of antisemitism as “unfounded.”
The student society described the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism as “contentious and controversial” and said it had not been adopted or recognised by “many states, institutions, and communities around the world.”
A spokesperson for SOAS said the university has a code of conduct to ensure speakers do not break hate speech legislation.
“We are checking the arrangements for this event to ensure the organisers are following this code of conduct,” the spokesperson said on Monday. “There is no place for hate speech on the SOAS campus and freedom of speech does not permit the expression of racist or antisemitic views.”
Rubini and the SOAS Italian student society were contacted on Monday.