It's a scary time for Jewish students on campus

'As the clashes between Israel and Gaza intensify, antisemitic incidences have sky rocketed.'


Palestinian factions launch a large batch of rockets from the Gaza Strip towards central Israel, on May 11, 2021. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90

May 14, 2021 16:44

Jewish students are on the metaphorical frontline in the war against antisemitism. Most Jewish students I know are feeling unbelievably uncomfortable as a result of the current Israel/Palestine discourse. As the clashes between Israel and Gaza intensify, antisemitic incidences have sky rocketed. 

According to CST, since May 8, there has been a 250 percent increase in the number of antisemitic incidents in the UK. Given this, it is no wonder Jewish students feel intimidated, isolated and scared to speak up. For young Jewish students social media has become a hostile space.  Racist Instagram infographics have gone viral and are being shared all over my feed by friends, coursemates, Youtubers, and celebrities. 

When your friends like racist, anti-Israel posts it is more than just unpleasant, it is scary. One post that has racked up 700 000 likes, claims that “Zionists want Palestine'' because of “oil” and that “the Rothschilds [and] Rupert Murdoch have invested in the rich resource” which is “why what you see on the media is so biased”. Posts like these are no longer on the fringes of the internet but have been liked and shared by people that I know and see every day. 

This is not only deeply uncomfortable but incredibly upsetting. Antisemitic social media posts are inescapable. It is frustrating that people have been sharing this racist nonsense without fact-checking a single thing  because it’s packaged in a pretty font. Jewish students are being made to feel responsible for educating and fact-checking their peers. 

Every time I turn on my phone I am hounded by these stupidly uninformed, one-page graphics that attempt to explain a 72 year-old conflict in 10 seconds.  I am sick of the conflict being explained to me by 20-year-old students who have never been to Israel or East Jerusalem. I am tired of being told that this is a one-sided conflict whilst my family and friends cower in bomb shelters in the middle of the night. This sentiment is felt by almost every Jewish student I know. 

One student at Durham University told me:“it is frustrating that people post [about Israel/Palestine] without having done any research or knowing anything about the history of the situation”. She said that after confronting people about their social media posts they admitted that they hadn’t done any research. 

A fellow student of mine at the University of Bristol, was absolutely horrified when one of her close friends tried to justify the actions of Hamas. In messages he wrote that Hamas had “done what almost any rebel organisation would do against an occupying state” asking “what can you expect when you occupy Palestinian land?” 

Another Jewish friend of mine expressed her disgust and horror that people have started using an asterix in words like ‘Isr*el’ and ‘Isr*eli’ because - like Voldemort - Israel must not be named. The word Israel has been turned into a slur that progressives dare not utter. 

For the many Jewish Israeli students this has all been incredibly isolating.  One  current student at the University of Nottingham, told me he was really “stressed” and worried about his family who are being bombed in Ra’anana and Tel Aviv. On top of that he is facing a barrage of racist posts on social media. He admitted that the “anti Israel and antisemitic rhetoric really gets to me. [It] makes me feel unwelcome at my uni and anywhere that isn’t a Jewish safe haven.” 

On campus he feels like an outsider.  “There’s a fear to speak up about it as I know I’ll get shut down by the majority and it seems that it’s quite hostile towards Israelis and Jews living outside of Israel right now.” 

Jewish students are afraid of being honest or speaking out because they fear they will be met with a barrage of uninformed hate. Questioning your friend can be really challenging and awkward and not all Jewish students feel comfortable having those conversations. However, it is not fair that Jewish students are facing the consequences of other people’s ignorance. Instagram and Facebook have become ‘safe spaces’ for people who have no idea what they are talking about. 

Unfortunately all of this is colliding with exam season, causing huge amounts of stress for young students who just want to learn and definitely don’t want to be held accountable for the actions of a country thousands of miles away. Though of course this is nothing in comparison to what Israelis and Palestinians are currently experiencing, antisemitism must be taken seriously. 



May 14, 2021 16:44

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