Young Voices: Racism – the new normal?

Young Voices: Racism – the new normal?

by Jonty Leibowitz

Jonty  Leibowitz
Jonty Leibowitz

The resignation of the co-chair of the Oxford University Labour Club because of anti-Semitism from the student left is deeply saddening, but comes as no shock to students up and down the country. With protests turning violent, slurs, vile chanting and police needing to protect J-Soc events, anti-Semitism in our universities has become the new normal.

In the Oxford case, the allegations are all the more worrying, because they fit into a broader narrative in which the hostile anti-Israel rhetoric on the student left has created a tense situation.

Last month’s Israel Apartheid Week saw a spike in incidents of alleged anti-Semitism on campus, as passionate debates about the Israel-Palestine conflict raised tempers. The conversation has become polarised around two sides, a depressing parallel of the debate concurrently raging in wider society. On one side, anti-Israel student groups have been too slow to respond to accusations of anti-Semitism, and too quick to denounce the legitimate concerns of Jewish students.

Yet on the other side, the Jewish communal response has not itself been perfect. Too often, Jewish students see all attacks on Israel as evidence of latent anti-Semitism, and are too quick to move to shut down debate instead of taking it on.

Instead, Jewish students need to take up the challenge of making a real case for Israel, one which is at home in the left-wing student debating halls as it is in the comfortable space of a J-Soc. We need to stop assuming that the student left is inherently anti-Semitic.

We need to listen to the thousands of Jewish students across the country who support Labour, the Greens and other left-wing organisations with student membership.

Anti-Semitism has no place on campus, and the Jewish community is strong enough to beat it. But we can only do it together, with a thoughtful and inclusive response.

• Jonty Leibowitz is the campaigns officer of the Cambridge Universities Labour Club, and an LJY-Netzer leader

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