Cambridge SU is 'failing its Jewish students' says UJS

A motion calling for 'mass uprisings' in Israel was debated on Monday


Hundreds of students gather outside the Students Union of Cambridge University while the Ambassador of Israel, Tzipi Hotovely, gives a talk inside. Byline John Nguyen/JNVisuals 08/02/2022

The Union of Jewish Students has accused Cambridge Students’ Union of "failing its Jewish students" after a motion was debated that called for a “mass uprising” in Israel.

In a letter to the Cambridge SU presidents, UJS said they were “failing in its duty of care to Jewish students,” leaving them in a position where they had to “debate the mass murder of their friends and relatives”.

During the debate on Monday, the proposer of the motion told students she was “thinking back to the first Intifada” in calling for an “uprising on both sides of the Green Line and across the Middle East”.

According to a leaked audio recording of the proceedings, the student told the Council that “the present situation did not arise out of nowhere – it is a result of decades of oppression”.

She also said, “The ruling class, and the media, and the university, are not pointing out the context and the intent behind the motion is to set the record straight”.

When pushed to condemn Hamas violence, she responded: “The violence of the oppressed is not equal to the violence of the oppressor”. She continued: “The purpose of the motion is not to present both sides, it’s to express solidarity with Palestine”.

Einav Grushka, a Jewish student at Cambridge who previously co-authored an open letter demanding the university condemn Hamas, denounced the motion. “The Student Union once again has shown blatant disregard for all Israeli and Jewish students,” she told the JC.

She continued: “The SU should be ashamed to allow such an extremist and morally repulsive proposition to be debated. It is no wonder Jews and Israelis here have never felt more unsafe”.

She accused the proposer of “directly and dangerously inciting violence,” and encouraged the university to investigate.

The proposer of the motion told Varsity, a Cambridge student newspaper, that their proposal did not incite violence. They condemned the Hamas attacks, which are “the exact opposite of what we stand for as communists”.

The proposer is a member of Cambridge Marxist Society, which is linked to Socialist Appeal, a proscribed group by the Labour Party under Keir Starmer.

Cambridge Jewish Society also condemned the motion, calling it a “disgrace”. They suggested the motion amounted to instigating “acts of terror”.

The debate on the motion came to an early end, after the Council chair stated, “We would not like to put a student in a position where to answer a question they would have to incite violence”. The proposer had been pushed on the meaning of an Intifada.

The Undergraduate SU president, Fergus Kirman, submitted an amendment to the motion prior to the debate, admitting that he “took most of it out”. At the Council meeting, he said that due to guidance based on the Charity Commission’s rules, “this is not a motion we could enact as a Students’ Union”. He called the unamended motion “damaging,” and said he was “appalled by it”. He continued: “The motion as unamended is something we cannot support as a Students’ Union”.

Rather than resolving to “declare…solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people against occupation and for national determination,” the amended motion states that the SU resolves “to support all students affected by violence across Israel and Palestine”.

Kirman’s amendment cut the statement that “this latest conflict is a direct consequence of decades of violent oppression of the Palestinian people by the Israeli state”. Instead, it notes that “violence in the region has escalated as a result of actions by various groups, organisations and individuals”.

The motion was not passed, as there were not enough voting members in attendance at Council, and will be retabled for a vote in two weeks’ time.

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