‘We are a formidable force’
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Campus antisemitism has been brought to the attention of government with the aid of improved reporting and recording resources.
Reports across the world tell of record levels of antisemitic attacks and challenging environments for Jewish students. They also warn of no-go zones on certain campuses.
In 2007 there were over 59 recorded incidents here, a handful of which were assaults. Yet antisemitism, and its expression on campuses, is more complex than these findings suggest, and the picture for students in Britain is more positive.
Jewish students in the UK are a formidable force in campus politics and are making their voices heard at the highest levels. They have been fighting back using the advanced political structures within the student movement. The political driving force is UJS, which has been actively campaigning for decades.
Over this past academic year, our activists have been elected to run their unions in both full- and part- time capacities, showing a dedication to the entire student body.
Jewish students have campaigned and won not only on issues directly affecting us, but on issues of global importance such as the genocide in Darfur. While the discourse around boycotts of Israel still exists, it is being increasingly sidelined in the student movement. When academics called for a boycott of Israel, the National Union of Students, in conjunction with UJS, publicly spoke out against it. The NUS remains committed to dialogue and discussion in search of progress in the region; ironically the students, not their teachers, are leading the way.
When it comes to the fight against antisemitism, the campus is seen by many as a microcosm for society; so there is hope yet. This year, the NUS became the first body to use the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia definition (as recommended by the All Party Inquiry into Antisemitism) in a practical way to remove antisemites from their national conference. This from an organisation that four years ago conducted an internal inquiry into its apathy towards anti-Jewish racism.
The response to antisemitism is always about more than just fighting back; we utterly reject being defined solely by adversity. Our message has consistently been that through educational, cultural, religious, social and political activities Jewish students will define their identity and shape for themselves a positive campus experience.
Success within the democratic structures of student politics, support from the community and the education sector, and the laying down of clear red lines make it clear that the fight against antisemitism on British campuses is in full swing.
Adam Pike, UJS Chair