On Tuesday night, Jewish students at SOAS were treated differently from other minorities. They were told that unlike every other minority group, they are not allowed to define what constitutes their own antisemitism. They were also told that Zionists were not welcome on their campus.
A motion called ‘Jewish Equality Act’ was debated at SOAS Students’ Union’s Union General Meeting on Tuesday. The motion aimed to create processes to make campus life more accessible for Jewish students. This included ensuring that there were prayer spaces for all students of faith, provision of kosher food, and not scheduling events on Jewish holidays or the Sabbath.
As part of the debate of the motion, the following line was removed after debate:
“Jewish students should be given the right to self-determination and be able to define what constitutes hatred against their group like all other minority groups”
This was, once again, a room full of students who do not identify as Jewish, explaining to Jewish students how to define their own oppression. This is in contrast to the way that other forms of oppression are defined, as per the Macpherson principle, allowing the victim to define their own oppression.
The proposer of the motion and J-Soc President, Avrahum Sanger, whose experiences were recently covered in the Evening Standard was told that he was wrong and that his experiences of discrimination were not true. This is reflective of many Jewish students in the past year not being able to define their own experiences or oppression, unlike other minority groups.
The motion passed with lines either removed or changed, but what followed was a debate on the motion ‘External organisations hosting events’. During this debate, the following statement was made in favour of the motion:
“We need to be careful with organisations and speakers speaking at our university. For instance, an organisation that has any affiliation or any links to a Zionist or Netanyahu or to a Zionist ideology. There will not be any tolerance of such organisations to host an event or speak on any topic regardless.”
This statement was made with Jewish students who define as Zionists sitting in the room, and appallingly, it was followed by thunderous applause by the audience. Whilst this comment was not part of the proposed motion and therefore Zionist speakers will not be banned under this motion, it is no less concerning to hear comments like these being made at a university.
In light of Tuesday night’s events, proposer of the motion and SOAS Jewish Society President Avrahum Sanger wrote a blog that you can read here.
Josh Nagli, UJS Campaigns Director added:
“The comments made during the SOAS Union General Meeting were outrageous. Not only were Jewish students told that they did not have the right to define their own oppression, but they also heard that Zionists are not welcome in their Students’ Union. These disgraceful comments are a stark reminder of the discrimination and intolerance many Jewish students at SOAS have faced in recent years.
“Time and again, Jewish students are being told what constitutes antisemitism. Whereas Students’ Unions have regularly applied the Macpherson principle to other minority groups, allowing them to define their own oppression, it seems that once again we are seeing one rule for Jewish students and another for everyone else.
“The disgraceful comments regarding Zionist speakers will bring back dreadful memories of Jewish students’ experiences on campus in the 1970s when the banning of Zionist speakers led to J-Socs being banned. It is completely unacceptable that these comments were not challenged. Instead they were met with applause. It is imperative that SOAS Students’ Union makes it clear that they do not support this view.
“Despite Jewish students simply attempting to make campus a safe place for them, the events that took place on Tuesday night sent a clear message to Jewish students that the Students' Union will work with them, but not if it has anything to do with Israel or Zionism.”