Are Protests Against Israel Making Campuses Unsafe for Jews?

In an editorial for Arutz Sheva, Giulio Meotti writes that strong anti-Israeli feeling in some of Europe’s top universities has now transformed itself into a feeling of antisemitism and into violent attacks against Jewish students. While colleges and students embrace the messages of hate offered by Islamic speakers and “Iranian envoys” are given freedom to speak, representatives of Israel are hounded out of speaking engagements and protested so virulently that their invitations are rescinded and their supporters are harassed.

Meotti provides as an example of the recent disinvitation of Motti Crystal to be the guest speaker at the conference put together by the Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust because he is an Israeli Jew. Although he is an expert in negotiation theory – which was one of the topics the conference was organized to tackle – one of the unions also participating held his origins against him and protested his inclusion.

An Israeli student at the University of Turin, Amit Peer, confessed that “the Jews here are hiding their own identity because they risk becoming a target”. He went on to say that “Jewish classmates told me that they hide their family name or surname. Only close friends know their true origin, they do not trust even to reveal it to their teachers”.

Similar incidents took place in other European countries and universities – from the disruption of Israeli attache Shai Cohen’s speech at Pisa University to the “flight” of former Israeli ambassador Ehud Gol from Florence University. However, what is more alarming is that the people in charge don’t seem willing to at least insist that a clear distinction be drawn between a Jew and an Israeli. According to the reports from the Scottish Jewish Student Chaplaincy, Jewish students are now feeling unsafe enough on campus to take steps to conceal their religious and ancestral affiliation.

Meotti expresses concern that this could signal a reemergence of Europe-wide antisemitism, which has to some degree always simmered below the surface. While the protests started out as efforts to force a cut in ties between European places of learning and their Israeli counterparts, the campaign has spread to intimidation and harassment of anyone who happens to be guilty of being a Jewish student or intellectual.

However, Meotti can take some comfort in the fact that not all institutions of higher learning are embracing this approach. In a surprise move, reported in Israel Hayom, the Student Union of Britain’s Oxford University voted to reject a motion that would have called for a complete academic boycott of Israeli universities. The vote count was overwhelming. Only 10 people supported the motion, with 79 rejecting while 15 abstained.

The students were voting in favor of a larger call by the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement to boycott all Israeli products, including exported fruits and vegetables and Dead Sea products, as well as cutting all business ties to Israeli companies.

The students at Oxford were asked to vote on whether the British Students’ Union should join the BDS movement.