A pair of Jewish societies at London universities have criticised the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) for a recent statement on Israel’s general election result.
The UCL and City University Jewish societies have accused the UJS of making “unnecessary political statements” in the wake of the poll, which gave Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition an 8-seat majority in the Knesset.
In a joint statement published over the weekend, the campus clubs admitted that global politics "have become increasingly polarised, with Israel being no exception.
However they stressed that: “Jewish people in the diaspora do not vote in Israeli elections. It is a privilege left to Israeli Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze, and various other minorities who exercise their sovereign rights and have elected this government duly and democratically.
“In light of this, we feel the need to distance ourselves from the statement released by the UJS.
“The role of the UJS has always been to serve Jewish students throughout the UK. As a voice of British Jewish students, we ask the UJS to be inclusive of students across the political spectrum and refrain from unnecessary political statements.
The statement continued to argue that “Jewish students in the UK support a democratically elected Israeli government.
“We remain hopeful that the elected government will achieve the political objectives set out during the election campaign; including social security, economic prosperity, and regional peace. We trust that a diverse Knesset will keep extreme viewpoints in check, and we will not judge this government preemptively but based on its performance.
“We hope this will open the door to further constructive dialogue and we will work to make our views better represented within the UJS,” they went on.
The UJS’ 22 November statement was published following a meeting and vote of its National Executive Committee.
In the agreed document the 103-year-old body that currently describes itself as "traditional, progressive, cultural and spiritual", wrote that they were "proud to stand on the shoulders of previous generations of Jewish students, who stood against racism and fascism and fought for a more just future.
“Inspired by that tradition, we feel compelled to vocally denounce the potential inclusion of far-right Ministers within the next Government of Israel.
“Likely Cabinet Ministers such as Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich do not represent the Jewish virtues we hold dear. We unequivocally condemn their anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism and their homophobia and are alarmed by the rise of extremism and violence that preceded this result.
The statement affirmed that the UJS “cannot support a Government where these individuals are in positions of power. If we as a community call out the Far Right in Britain and elsewhere, we must not turn a blind eye to the Far Right in Israel,” and vowed to “ make representations to the Israeli Embassy in London, to discuss these issues.
Following a meeting and vote of UJS' National Executive Committee, which represents a cross-section of Jewish students, the following statement was agreed: pic.twitter.com/9iXturMCIi— Union of Jewish Students (@UJS_UK) November 22, 2022
"We will continue to critically engage with a wide range of Israeli political figures and civil society organisations to advocate for a just future for Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and harmony, in line with motions UJ3 and UJ7, passed overwhelmingly by our 2020 conference, which recognise the collective rights of both peoples," they continued.
A UJS Spokesperson told the JC, “Our statement was voted on by the cross-communal UJS National Council, an elected body of students who represent the nearly 9,000 Jewish students we serve. We welcome a diversity of views and look forward to working with UCL and City JSocs to ensure that the diversity of Jewish student opinion continues to be reflected in the work of UJS”.