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Israel Apartheid Week is still a pressing concern for Jewish students

The number of anti-Israel events may be down this year but the UJS's 'optimism' is misplaced

    Israel Apartheid Week is not dead.

    The Union of Jewish Students said this week that it is "cautiously optimistic" over this year’s event, noting a “decline” in the number of activities planned. There were no specific events it was concerned about, UJS said. 

    But Israeli Apartheid Week is based on a systematic denial of the rights of Jewish and Israeli students on campus. As long as events that demonise and defame Israel continue to occur with the participation of student union presidents and sabbatical officers, we must treat the issue as a pressing one. 

    We should worry not just about specific events, but about the wider institutionalised anti-Zionist activity of student unions across the UK. 

    Across campuses in the UK, Palestinian Societies are still hosting events with hundreds of students in attendance, where slander and demonisation of Israel is the norm. Dozens of new speakers are participating in cultural anti-Zionist events. 

    Since January, there have been two major protests in London where student union presidents or sabbatical officers have lead chants of "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free". A BDS motion at City University student union has also been passed. 

    However, it is undeniable that due to the efforts of Zionist activists on campus, the number of events as part of Israel Apartheid Week - this year's event started on Monday - has somewhat waned. Jewish students, acting without support from UJS, have organised dozens of events this academic year, including talks from Israeli generals, panels on the Balfour Declaration and Tel Aviv themed parties. Such activity has pre-empted Israel Apartheid Week, causing Palestinian activists to lose confidence in their dominance on campus. 

    It is important to recognise that students this week are not walking onto campus to witness nothing when it comes to Israel or anti-Israel activity. There are not solely "JSoc socials" occurring instead, as if the response from Jewish students to attacks on their identity has been to retreat from any discussion of Israel at all.

    Jewish students on campus are organising dozens of events this week, including Israel History Week at King’s College London, to set our own tone for the debate on campus surrounding the Jewish state.

    Whether or not you believe that Israel Apartheid Week is a pressing issue, it is important to recognise that Zionist students across the country must continue to do more than simply fighting BDS motions when they appear and acting on the defensive. Zionist students are actively putting on our own events to explore Israel and introduce it to the wider student body in a positive way. We will continue to promote positive discourse surrounding Israel on campus, with or without the support of the UJS.

    Tamara Berens is a UK Campus Associate for the pro-Israel CAMERA group and president of King's College London Israel Society