A speech at a protest calling on Oriel College, Oxford to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes which blamed Israel for the behaviour of the police who killed George Floyd in Minnesota has been condemned by students at the college.
Around 1,000 people are estimated to have attended the protest, which took place on Tuesday, during which a Leeds University student told the crowd: “The American police are trained by the Israel oppression army. They are united against us.”
He then attacked his university which, he said, "like many others, invests in Israel apartheid. More than £2 billion have invested in companies which are complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people...An Israeli official recently called for the criminalisation of the Black Lives Matter movement."
The protest was hosted by the Rhodes Must Fall campaign in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Rhodes Must Fall campaign seeks the removal of a statue of the colonialist mining magnate on Oriel college’s façade, which overlooks Oxford High Street.
Euan McGivern, 23, the Equality and Diversity Officer of Oriel Middle Common Room, said: “A speaker stood up and started bringing up Israel in a context where you wouldn’t really expect Israel to be relevant.
“He started talking conspiratorially about how Israel was responsible for racism,” Mr McGivern said, “and he used the antisemitic tropes of bringing Israel in where Israel is not relevant”.
Mr McGivern, who attended the Rhodes Must Fall protest with friends, said that when he mentioned that the speaker’s statements might be antisemitic, he received “threatening stares from people around us” and left the event after being made to feel “uncomfortable”.
Two Jewish students and six non-Jewish students have since approached Mr McGivern about the remarks at the protest, saying that they were “hurt and concerned”.
Mr McGivern sent a statement on Friday to Oriel College, in which he called on the Oxford branches of the Black Lives Matter movement and Rhodes Must Fall to “distance themselves from the speaker and the portion of the crowd that cheered.”
Mr McGivern also called on Oriel college to “condemn the hate-speech that was uttered on its steps” in the interests of students’ welfare.
Oriel college has been contacted for comment.