Bigotry at UK university despite director's claims of "respect and tolerance"

Under the definition of antisemitism recently adopted by the government, all the students filmed in just one hour expressed anti-Jewish views.


Students at a leading university have been filmed making “chilling” comments considered antisemitic under the definition recently adopted by the UK government.

J-TV, the Jewish YouTube channel, visited the School of Oriental and African Studies to ask students questions about Israel.

One student responded by describing Israel’s policies being “as bad as Hitler – it’s the same thing, probably worse”.

Another said that in Israel “some things are reminiscent, you know, of the socialist authoritarian government that Hitler had been part of in the 40s.”

Students variously described Zionism as “a fascist ideology”, an “extremist ideology… born out of hate” and a “racist and discriminatory political ideology”.

Under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, which is used by the government, “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, eg by claiming that the existence of the state of Israel is a racist endeavour” is regarded as Jew-hatred.

Another of the students said he believed in “resistance against occupation and apartheid at all costs… the same opinion as Hizbollah”

Hizbollah is an internationally proscribed antisemitic terrorist organisation, which has targeted and killed Jews around the world.

According to the IHRA definition, “calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion” is antisemitic.

The video team, who visited Soas during Israel Apartheid Week, earlier this month, did not tell the students they were from J-TV.

A spokesperson for the channel said they had concealed their identity so students “could be honest about their opinions with us”.

The faces of the four students featured have been blurred out in the video. 

“It is chilling to think that this was all the footage we got after only being there for about an hour - and this being nearly everyone we interviewed”, said the J-TV spokesperson.

“We are surprised and unsurprised. On the one hand we know that anti-Zionist hatred can run deep among some students, especially at SOAS, but one can never stop being shocked when they hear people claim Netanyahu is worse than Hitler, or that Zionism is evil and that the state of Israel should be abolished.

“The footage flies in the face of Baroness Amos's words that SOAS is ‘building a culture of respect and tolerance’ and ‘we are not going to allow racism, anti-Semitism on our campus’. We hope this video will be a wake-up call.”

Baroness Amos, the director of Soas, has rejected the IHRA definition. In an interview on BBCs Sunday Politics programme earlier this month, she said: “We [SOAS] don’t think that our responsibility as a university is to define antisemitism… or any other of the issues that are so widely discussed in our society. We see our responsibility as ensuring that we promote robust discussion and debate.”

She also said that “protecting diversity, ensuring inclusivity and building a culture of respect and tolerance is absolutely at the heart of who we are”.

In a statement, Soas said the university was "extremely concerned with the statements contained in the video and about any allegations of antisemitism at our School".

The statement went on: "Diversity is key to the Soas mission and we want all our students to feel welcome and supported in their studies. That is why we are actively taking steps to address recent concerns that have been raised by some of our Jewish students.

"As an institution, we do not seek to close down debate or shy away from discussion of issues which are complex or difficult. It is important that academic institutions enable debates to take place in a secure and well-managed way. We are a place where the free and respectful exchange of ideas and opinions should thrive.

"Our Director and our Registrar have met on a number of occasions in recent weeks with the President of the Soas Jewish students’ society."

It added: "We do take issue with the way that a very short extract of our Director's comments on a recent BBC programme has been used out of context in this recent film. This is unprofessional. In that section of the BBC programme she said: 'We have robust debate on these issues all the time and it’s very, very important that we do. And of course it makes people feel uncomfortable. But we are not going to allow racism and antisemitism on our campus and what we have to do is make sure we have the policies in place that enable us to root that out. And I want to hear from my students if there is a problem'.”

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