New UJS campaign is an 'insult' to Jewish students

September 23, 2011

As a Jewish university student, I was disappointed and frustrated when I first heard about the UJS's new "Liberation" campaign.

Having spoken to many other Jewish students, including those involved with running the various JSocs on campuses across London, I have found that I am not alone in feeling incredibly let down and alienated by this latest UJS decision.

The issue at hand has nothing to do with whether or not you ultimately support a two-state solution; rather, the timing and context of this campaign makes it both irrational and cowardly.

It is counter-intuitive to suggest that promoting Palestinian statehood at this time should be considered "good" for Israel. Hamas, whose charter calls for the genocide of the Jewish people (an agenda that it pursues with great relish), currently controls the Gaza Strip, whilst even Mahmoud Abbas' own "moderate" Fatah Party still calls in its charter for the destruction of the State of Israel.

The Palestinian Authority's efforts at the UN constitute a classic piece of Palestinian rejectionism: saying '"no" to Israeli offers of partition if they require them to end hostilities, whilst unilaterally attempting to seize their objectives outside of a peace agreement.

We are not absolved from standing up for our brothers and sisters in Israel just because the atmosphere here is hostile

It may not be fashionable or popular to say such things on campuses today – and our attempts may be shrugged off by those extremists who agree with such hateful sentiments anyway – but that does not make them any less true. And we are not absolved from stating the truth and standing up for our brothers and sisters in Israel just because the atmosphere here is hostile.

Even more exasperating is the claim by the UJS that this campaign has been launched after "old campaigns" failed to work. My question to them is: which "old campaigns"?

I have not encountered a single attempt at "hasbara" by the UJS during my past two years at university. The only such campaigns were carried out last year by StandWithUsUK – a new organisation which is entirely independent of the UJS.

The UJS Campaigns Director said that: "for once, we'll be setting the campus agenda on Israel." Such a statement is insulting to the Jewish student body.

Far from setting the agenda, it is painfully clear that the current UJS leadership has chosen to go with the flow of knee-jerk, pro-Palestinian sympathies on campus. They are effectively allowing the Jewish student body to be bullied into taking a particular position, which many of us do not support, simply because it is much easier to do so and avoids confronting the hatred of anti-Israel extremists.

The UJS has chosen to bow its head in submission to the voices of aggressive anti-Zionism on campus, thereby ignoring its primary duty: to stand up for the rights of Jews and the Jewish people on campus.

There are plenty of Palestine Societies and ISocs campaigning for the Palestinians - all the Jewish student body asks is that our own student union does the same for Israel.

Ari Soffer is a third year student at Kings' College London reading War Studies. He is a campaigns director for the British Israel Coalition.

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Last updated: 11:10am, September 23 2011