Anti-Zionism and antisemitism are still too often conflated on university campuses, and Jewish students are paying the price.
That’s the view advanced in Crossing The Line: Exploring Israel On Campus, a new documentary which raises concerns about the safety of students targeted by anti-Israel activists.
The film, which was produced by educational organisation Jerusalem U and sponsored by the Steinberg Family Trust, reveals how Jews on campus feel victimised by anti-Zionists, and often feel personally attacked — this, despite last week’s Community Security Trust report revealing a dramatic decline in university-based antisemitism.
The film was launched in the UK this week by Jerusalem U’s executive vice-president, Eli Ovits. He said that the film, which is being screened on campuses and in community centres across the country and will soon be available online, would help encourage a more objective view of Israel.
“We’re not trying to be fear-mongers or spark controversy, but we want people to watch it as the first step,” he said.
“We hope it will make people aware of these issues, and give them the confidence to speak out. There are still cases where people don’t feel comfortable to talk publicly in support of Israel.”
Crossing The Line highlights the difficulties of separating antisemitism from anti-Israel rhetoric.
It interviews a range of academics, activists and students — Jewish and non-Jewish — who offer a glimpse into prejudices on campuses.
One student, Hannah Brady, describes how alienated she felt when she began her studies at King’s College London.
“Three people in my halls refused to speak to me when they found out I had been in the IDF”, she says.
“I’ve been asked if I was a terrorist because I said I believed in Zionism.”
Kasim Hafeez, a former anti-Israel activist, reveals that antisemitism is prevalent, but often disguised.
“I would go to these Al-Quds rallies where, in the middle of Trafalgar Square, people would hold up placards saying ‘Zionism is cancer’ and ‘Israel must be destroyed for the sake of world peace’.
“It’s important we all wake up to the threat this poses to society.”
Jerusalem U’s next step is to integrate the film into senior-school education, so that teenagers will have the tools to tackle prejudices before they go to university.
“We’re telling people to talk about Israel like they would talk about any other country and talk about the Jewish people like they would talk about any other minority living here. That is our goal.”