Israeli students fear disclosing where they are from

By Robyn Rosen, March 17, 2011

Israeli students at British universities have spoken about the "hostility" they feel on campus. One says she hides her nationality.

In the past year alone, police have been called to anti-Israel protests at Manchester and Edinburgh universities and the London School of Economics.

Manchester Law student Shir Gomes de Mesquita, 20 from Zur Moshe, near Netanya, said: "I feel that I have to be cautious before disclosing my nationality if I'm by myself or surrounded by non-Jews."

She chose Manchester because of its "active Jewish community" and was taught at school in Israel about the "active delegitimisation" of Israel in UK universities.

"The way things are going, Israeli officials may never be able to visit UK campuses and Israeli students will just feel more alone than ever.

"The UK government and university administration has made it possible for a group of students to feel unsafe away from their homes. I'm going to go back to Israel at the end of the year to serve in the army."

Doron Bar-Gil, 27, from Jerusalem, studying for his master's in global politics at LSE, said: "During a class on Israel's policy in the West Bank, a few people, who knew I was Israeli, just kept staring at me and made me feel very uncomfortable.

"There were some other events when people were on the main road with bottles filled with fake blood, as part of a campaign to take Israel's goods from campus.

"Sometimes, when I tell people I'm Israeli they ask a lot of questions about where I'm from to make sure I'm not a settler. It always gets a reaction. Generally speaking, there is an Israeli assumption of an anti-Israeli sentiment in all British academia."

Lior Erez, a political thought postgraduate student at Cambridge, said: "I've been to a couple of talks on campus that have been critical of Israel and it was quite hostile. I didn't out myself as an Israeli."

There have been 465 applications to the Home Office by Israelis seeking student visas in the past two years.

Last updated: 12:32pm, March 17 2011