Cardiff University has said it is deeply concerned after Jewish students revealed that they had suffered panic attacks during a highly intimidating debate on Israel and now feared for their safety on campus.
In a clip of the debate at the university’s student union (SU) last month, student Jake Enea can be heard delivering an address in which he sets out in measured tones that Israel had a right to defend itself against terrorists.
As he speaks, the braying crowd can be heard telling him he “supports genocide” and “f**k off out of my face”.
“The horrors of Hamas extend beyond their attacks on free speech, targeting political dissidents, suppressing the rights of women and LGBT individuals,” Enea said, to loud jeers.
A woman then shouted: “Women are dying. Absolutely disgraceful.”
Enea can then be seen being led off stage amid screams, abuse and chants of “Free Palestine”.
Jewish students who had wanted to speak at the debate had been “intimidated, abused and harassed” and had been “left shaking” in their seats, the Union of Jewish Students reported.
Two Jewish students had had “panic attacks” and one student who had tried to make the case for peace had been shouted down and “had to be escorted from the debate from his own safety”, they said.
The SU voted heavily in support for a motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict and strongly condemning the Jewish state.
The UJS statement added: “We now fear for our security on campus and we feel unsafe walking between lectures. Jewish voices were silenced.”
In response, Cardiff University said its Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Damian Walford Davies, had written to students of “the absolute need to behave with dignity and respect to all and setting out our zero-tolerance attitude to harassment and discrimination of all kinds on campus.”
A review of “student behaviours” at the AGM and other events was under way, the university said. It would reach out again “to the Jewish society to consider what additional support can be put in place during these extremely challenging times”.
The SU motion claimed there was evidence that Israel operates a regime of apartheid, committing ethnic cleansing and breaking international law by failing to provide adequate means of survival to those fleeing the northern Gaza Strip.
It described both Hamas’s taking of hostages and Israel’s use of “disproportionate force” against Palestinian civilians as violations of international law. The motion referred to Hamas “militants” and said that “Israel’s destruction of Palestine vs Hamas’s destruction of Israel is widely different.”
It called on the SU to “materially support” Palestinian, Israeli, Muslim and Jewish students, while combating antisemitism and Islamophobia.
It also demanded students be taught “how to spot lies and propaganda from the state of Israel and the Israeli Defence Forces”.
One postgraduate student at Cardiff University,who did not wish to be named told the JC there had been “intimidation throughout” the AGM.
“Jewish students didn’t want to speak,” he said. “They didn’t feel able to speak in the debate… It was not a nice place to be, even after the meeting had ended.”
Enea said aftewards: “I presented Cardiff University students with an option to condemn terrorism and recognise the role that Hamas have taken in this conflict.
“Hamas is a proscribed terrorist organisation and I truly believe that all people of good conscience must condemn them. I am ashamed of my union’s failure to do just that.”
An SU spokesperson said it was “saddened to hear about the upset and fear of the Jewish student community” and would not tolerate any form of discrimination on campus.
No student had been escorted from the meeting for their own safety, the SU said.
The SU understood that the “vocal” response to some speakers at the debate had “created a challenging environment for some”.
“Where we were able to identify students shouting abusive language, we removed them immediately,” they added.
The spokesperson said that the union was “reviewing the AGM content” and said no student group was guaranteed a right to reply to motions submitted to the union.