The Union of Jewish Students hosted a fringe event at the National Union of Students conference on Tuesday, inviting students to "meet the Zionists".
Alex Dwek, UJS chair, said Zionism was "central to the majority of Jewish students", but added that the term "Zionist" had been hijacked in political and media circles.
During the question-and-answer session Jewish students were challenged over their beliefs. Former NUS national executive member Joel Braunold acknowledged that religious Zionists such as himself had a "terrible reputation" because the term had been "abused".
But UCL medical student Deborah Blausten said she often found it difficult to call herself a Zionist. "For me, the occupation and humanitarian crisis eat away at the democratic nature of the state."