Israeli quits Oxford ‘over verbal abuse’

By Shelly Paz, June 6, 2008
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An Israeli postgraduate student who won a research place at Oxford University has turned down a second year’s scholarship because of what he said were antisemitic and anti-Israeli attitudes he had faced on campus.

The student left Britain and abandoned his Oxford research, complaining of harassment due to his Israeli nationality and the fact that he had served in the army.

The JC has spoken to the postgraduate, a student in one of Israel’s leading universities, who would not give any details which could reveal his identity and possibly hurt his fledgling academic career.

But, he said, his year in Oxford was riddled with anti-Israeli comments, personal harassment and an “unbearable” atmosphere in which he could not easily pursue his academic research. Those students who knew about his military background used this fact to abuse him verbally.

According to the head of the department in which the student currently studies, “When the first year of the grant was over and we started to work to renew it, he got back to me and said he didn’t want to continue the research in the UK following the harsh insults and the verbal violence he was facing on a daily basis.

“He said it was completely unbearable,” the head of department added.

However, that was not the experience of another Israeli student, Ruvi Ziegler, 29, reading for a master’s degree in law. He said: “I came to Oxford knowing it wouldn’t be the most supportive place since I served in the army as a military lawyer in Beit El.”

Mr Ziegler will soon complete his first year and plans to stay longer.

“I haven’t encountered anti-Israeli or Jewish behaviour, but that might be because of the faculty I am in. I can’t imagine an Israeli at the faculty of Middle Eastern Studies saying the same thing,” he added.

A spokesman for Oxford University, while refusing to comment on the specific claim of the postgraduate student, said: “Oxford University is and always has been a great international community that thrives on diversity. There is no place in our community for racism and prejudice… Oxford has already developed equality policies to guard against such attitudes or behaviours.”

Last updated: 10:13am, June 5 2008