Voice of the Jewish News: Ugly infatuation
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Voice of the Jewish News: Ugly infatuation

This week's editorial reflects on the toxic atmosphere some Jewish students are confronted with

Demonstrators disrupting an event with Israeli speaker at UCL campus.
Demonstrators disrupting an event with Israeli speaker at UCL campus.

Another British university event  has been disrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters chanting to silence an Israeli speaker. This week saw Universities UK and the National Union of Students defer responsibility to the host venue University College London (UCL), which is investigating. Next week will see it all but forgotten. That’s nowhere near good enough.  UCL must be held fully accountable to ensure it takes firm, swift and appropriate action.

Of course, universities should – must – facilitate free expression and free exchange of ideas, including views some find repugnant. One such view is that Israel acts illegally and discriminates against Palestinians. This is not a “radical” view held by half-a-dozen online neo-Nazis. It is a broader view, alongside another mainstream view  (our view) which is that Israeli policy is designed to protect Israelis, and that Israel acts accordingly. Both views can be genuinely-held, and it is only by bringing Israeli speakers to the UK, listening to them and learning from them that we understand the reality of life in the Middle East’s only free society. To not do so is to be wilfully ignorant, and that is the only indefensible position we know of.

But all this is to assume that these views can be heard without threat or aggression, without Jewish students having to run the gauntlet of an angry mob telling them they’re terrorists. Jewish parents worried about their sons and daughters have long known that campuses are hotbeds of student politics, but Israel-Palestine at times seems to be today’s one and only infatuation. Universities have been late to recognise this, and to realise that – while protests are fine – safety must be the priority. Jews and/or Israelis will not be driven underground, and stand ready to engage. But this should be with measured words, not raised voices and pointed fingers.

 

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