Yes, they are anti-Israel. But they are not racists

By Alex Goodman, May 27, 2010
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As a 16-year-old I decided to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at university on the recommendation of a secretary I met while doing work experience.

Desiring a good Jewish social life, my choices were limited. Almost by default Manchester became my first preference - it being the only one of the "big four" Jewish universities to offer the course.

I arrived in nervous excitement. Despite engaging less with my studies than I should, it became apparent that plenty of opportunities existed in Manchester to engage as both a student and a Jew.

I was truly grateful to JSoc for its tireless work during freshers' week. The famous Hillel meat pie lunch was provided for free, as was the evening BBQ. A bar crawl was attended by more than 250 students.

Manchester JSoc was evidently both an active and multi-faceted society. Booze for Jews, charity bike rides and the black tie ball were all eagerly anticipated annual events.

But Jewish student life in the city cannot be accurately portrayed without assessing campus attitudes towards Israel.

Manchester has regularly been perceived as distinctly cold to the Jewish state, perhaps even hostile.

True, it has one of the most active pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel student movements in the country.

True, there have been sporadic, unpleasant incidents. The protests surrounding the visit of the Israeli deputy ambassador typify this.

But I must be clear - at no point in my experience has anti-Israel feeling spilled over into antisemitism.

I know of no Jew who is afraid to walk around campus or express their Jewish identity. The vocal, yet tiny, minority who campaign against Israel do not inhibit the life of Jewish students.

If anything, they enhance our experience, creating a sense of unity within our community that is absent from most other JSocs.

We are not prevented from celebrating and enjoying our religion or nation. Israel Awareness Week saw daily informative events and Israeli beer and kosher food handed out to hundreds of students in the street.

Our Yom Hazikaron ceremony and Yom Ha'atzmaut party were attended by more than 90 JSoc members. Friday Night Fever dinners regularly host 150 people.

Our exposure to passionate debate forces questioning of preconceptions and breeds high calibre, experienced activists.

I could not have stumbled upon a better place.

Alex, 20, is Manchester Jewish Society Campaigns Officer

    Last updated: 1:24pm, August 13 2010

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