Harassment officer posts ‘racist’ cartoon

By Marcus Dysch, February 26, 2009
The offending poster which Mr Collingwood placed on Facebook

The offending poster which Mr Collingwood placed on Facebook

Student groups have condemned a university for failing to discipline a harassment officer who posted an antisemitic picture on the internet.

Andrew Collingwood, who works in the University of York’s biology department, added the image to a Palestine Solidarity Campaign group on social networking site Facebook.

The photograph was taken during a protest in the city against Israel’s actions in Gaza last month.

It shows a placard bearing an image of Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni wearing a witch’s hat and waving a Star of David-topped wand.

She is shown to be saying “Anti-Semitic! Anti-Semitic! Anti-Semitic!”, while thinking “Oh, F***! They No Longer Fear The Magic Word”.

Mr Collingwood said he regretted the offence caused, but claimed he was the victim of a harassment campaign because of his links to the PSC.

Simon Winkler, chairman of the university’s Jewish Society, said: “Everyone who has seen the picture has been offended. How could a Jewish student now feel comfortable going to him as a harassment officer?

“There has been no formal apology and Mr Collingwood has not contacted us, which is surprising.”

Mr Winkler said the image is “fundamentally racist and definitely perpetrates race hate”.

York JSoc, which has 15 members, may now make a formal complaint to the university, which says it does not take a position on “political issues”.

But a Union of Jewish Students spokesman said: “Antisemitism isn’t political, it’s race hate. The university should be responding much more strongly than it is, and we would urge it to conduct a full investigation and to take appropriate action.”

The university said it promoted the principle of freedom of speech and encouraged “healthy debate”.

But a spokesman said that as Mr Collingwood had acted in a personal capacity, off campus, and no official complaint had yet been made, no further action would be taken.

York students’ union said the image was “clearly objectionable” and it was “entirely inappropriate for a staff member in a position of responsibility to publish images that may intimidate their students or harm their departmental relationship”.

In a letter last week to Nouse, the university’s newspaper, Mr Collingwood wrote: “I do not support any antisemitic displays and would not have posted the picture if it had occurred to me that it would cause offence.

“The image was clearly found by an individual searching for a reason to label me an antisemite. I regard this as the latest move in a campaign to harass me at work because of my connection to the PSC.”

When contacted by the JC, Mr Collingwood declined to comment.

Last updated: 12:51pm, March 10 2009