Labour backs investigation into Oxford student group antisemitism claims

By Rosa Doherty, February 17, 2016
Alex Chalmers (Photo: Facebook/Alex Chalmers)

Alex Chalmers (Photo: Facebook/Alex Chalmers)

Labour has welcomed the launch of an immediate investigation into allegations of antisemitic behaviour and intimidation at Oxford University's Labour Club.

Jewish students at Oxford University revealed a list of what they say are examples of antisemitism within the university's Labour club.

The university's Jewish Society claims Labour-supporting students backed Hamas terrorists' efforts to kill Jews, sang about rockets over Tel Aviv, and discussed "an international Jewish conspiracy".

The Labour Students group launched the investigation today.

Labour MP John Mann, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, has written to party leader Jeremy Corbyn and general secretary Iain McNicol to call for a full party investigation into the matter.

Mr Mann wrote: "I have always made clear that MPs must directly address accusations of antisemitism from within their own party ranks.

"Antisemitism in the Labour Party must not go unchallenged. If these allegations have merit, the perpetrators must be found and routed out of our party.

"I am writing to ask for a full investigation by the Labour Party. A statement of solidarity with Jewish students at this time would also be welcome."

"Stench of antisemitism": Jonathan Arkush

"Stench of antisemitism": Jonathan Arkush

Jonathan Arkush, chairman of the Board of Deputies and Oxford University alumnus, was saddened that "the stench of antisemitism" had made it's way onto the Oxford campus.

He said: "The stench of antisemitism now appears to have permeated the Oxford University Labour Club at my old university.

"As we have often warned, this is in part a direct result of the anti-Israel bigotry, prevalent in the far left, and in part from the fact that Israel is used as a pretext for racism directed against Jews.

"The Labour Party and Oxford University must now take rigorous and credible measures to rid themselves of all antisemitic and racist elements."

A Labour Party spokesperson said: "The Labour Party condemns antisemitism in any form. Following recent allegations of antisemitic behaviour and intimidation at Oxford University Labour Club, Labour Students have launched an immediate investigation and the Labour Party welcomes and supports this action.

"If complaints are made about any individual member of the Labour Party, the party will take robust action to deal with any antisemitic behaviour."

The claims were made on Tuesday night, 24 hours after Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) co-chair Alex Chalmers quit, citing what he said was "a problem with Jews" in the club.

Mr Chalmers resigned after OULC endorsed Israel Apartheid Week – a week of events runs annually by anti-Israel activists.

In a statement on Tuesday evening the JSoc said: "OULC has become increasingly dominated by the radical student left in recent weeks and months.

"This has been accompanied by a series of antisemitic statements and incidents. Following Alex Chalmers's resignation, other OULC members have approached Oxford University Jewish Society with reports of these incidents."

The allegations include one claim that an OULC member was disciplined for organising a group of students to harass a Jewish student and shout "filthy Zionist" at her.

Another alleged: "One member, then on committee, stated that all Jews should be expected to publicly denounce Zionism and the state of Israel, and that we should not associate with any Jew who fails to do so."

Earlier on Tuesday, the OULC's co-chair Noni Csogor said: "We take allegations of antisemitism in the club very seriously."

The OULC is one of the largest and most prestigious student Labour clubs in the country. Its former members include the party's ex-leaders Ed Miliband and Michael Foot.

On Wednesday morning, Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson posted a tweet which suggested he would be asking party chiefs to look into the episode.

Last updated: 5:47pm, February 17 2016