One of the candidates runnning for election as president of the Union of Jewish Students has been the target of abuse on social media over his support for a boycott of Israel.
Eran Cohen, an undergraduate at the University of York, was called a “disgusting Kapo”, a “traitor” and a “self-hating Jew” in messages posted on Facebook.
Mr Cohen, who was born in Israel, has served as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions officer for the university’s Palestinian Society, and has publicly called for a boycott of Israel. He has also promoted “Israel Apartheid Week” on campus.
On Thursday, David Brown, the executive director of UJS, urged Mr Cohen's critics to stop posting abusive messages.
In a statement on Facebook, Mr Brown said: “Some of the ‘grown-ups’ in our community need to follow the lead of our students and engage with ideas they oppose with far more respect and civility.
“There is no place in commentary about the UJS Presidential Elections for attacks that include 'self-hating Jew' or suggest that any of the candidates are equivalent to murderers."
He praised the "civilised" behaviour of students at last weekend's UJS hustings.
Mr Brown said: "On Saturday night I sat with over 120 students as three very different candidates for UJS president shared their vision for UJS. We had Orthodox, Liberal, Reform, Masorti, Secular, Zionist, non-Zionist, anti-Zionist, Gay, Straight, Ashkenazi and Sephardi students with us, and believe me, plenty of them have very ardent views and vehement disagreements with some of what was shared.
“At no point was any candidate booed, shouted at, personally attacked, or abused in any way. Indeed, during the hustings and afterwards, the thoughtful, calm and respectful engagement between students, from across a far ranging spectrum of views on Israel, highlighted that our students are capable of a civility sadly lacking from many of our communal spaces and certainly from the battlefield of the keyboard warriors.”
Mr Brown also urged members of the community who wanted to comment on the election to be “mindful of their language”.
He said: “Those you know who are apparently well intentioned and concerned with Jewish students’ welfare need to extend their love of Am Yisrael to a respect for each and every member of the Jewish people, whatever their political beliefs”.
He recommended people should “read a few more times the words of our current president Josh Seitler: ‘And if you’re not a Jewish student then by all means encourage students to engage with the elections and vote, but please don’t tell them what they should be doing’."
Mr Cohen’s candidacy has been backed by Palestinian activists, with a member of the Kings College London Action Palestine Group posting a link to an article written by him along with the caption: “If you're currently a student who self-identifies as Jewish, make sure to vote Eran Cohen for UJS's next president.”
That statement was met with angry replies from Jewish members of the KCL Palestine Group, with one calling Mr Cohen’s campaign “a joke”.
“I actually find it really disgusting that you have posted this endorsement”, wrote one.
“Just because someone is non-Zionist doesn't make them a good person for Jewish welfare, and I ask you at least think about that some more.”
“UJS isn't a one issue movement, there is so much more to us than the Israel/Palestine debate,” another member said.
“I find it belittling that this society thinks it knows what is best for UK Jewish students.”
Mr Cohen is running against two other candidates; Josh Holt, a student at the University of Nottingham and former representative for the UJS on the Board of Deputies, and Adam Schapira, a student at University College London and a former chair of the UCL Jewish Society.
Voting in the UJS presidential election is currently open; the vote will close at noon on Friday December 9, with the result announced at the UJS conference on Sunday December 11.