Historian hits out at Jewish student lobby

April 6, 2007

Israeli academic accuses campus groups of being 'ambassadors of Israel'. Melanie Newman reports

An Israeli academic has suggested that Jewish student groups are courting Muslim anger by aligning themselves with the state of Israel.

Ilan Pappé, who is leaving Haifa University to take up a chair in history at Exeter University this year, said some Jewish students had become "ambassadors of Israel".

He said: "Muslim anger is directed at them not because they are Jews but because of their unqualified support for the state of Israel, which Muslims see as an oppressive country."

Professor Pappé, who previously accused Israel of "ethnically cleansing" Palestinians and supported a boycott of Israeli academics, was responding to suggestions that Jewish students were under increasing threat from anti-Semitism on campus.

In its response to the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry on Anti-Semitism published last week, the UK Government notes "real concerns that practice (in addressing anti-Semitism) is not consistent across the sector".

Professor Pappé played down those claims. "Jewish students are not taken away by MI5 for questioning," he said. "Muslims are feeling real pressure from the state organ, whereas Jewish students are on the winning side. The Semites who suffer racism today are Muslims, not Jews."

Mitch Simmons, the Union of Jewish Students campaigns officer, said: "We are worried that he will use his position to influence debate and that his views will gain more legitimacy."

Michael Harris, president of Manchester Jewish Students' Society, said that it was "extremely worrying" that a man with such views had been appointed.

Geoffrey Alderman, a visiting research fellow at University of London's Institute of Historical Research, who describes himself as "an unashamed Zionist", said those opposing Professor Pappé's appointment were "on dangerous ground". He added: "No one should be barred from a position because they hold unpopular opinions."

Other academics have complained that criticism of Israel on campus too often turns into generalised attacks on Jews.

David Hirsh, sociology lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, said:

"Jews who decline to identify themselves as anti-Zionist are treated as though they are racist. There is a direct route from that to the creation of an anti-Semitic atmosphere."

melanie.newman@thes.co.uk

 

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