Oxford Jewish students demand Labour ‘action’ over antisemitism

Jeremy Corbyn urged to investigate claims of abuse much more actively and openly

July 13, 2016
'Boycott Israel' graffiti on Israeli separation wall
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Do deep concerns about Israel mean that university Labour clubs are no longer 'a safe space for Jews and Jewish students'?

Jewish students and alumni of the University of Oxford have written an open letter to Jeremy Corbyn about “the failure of the Labour Party to adequately address the alleged antisemitism in the Oxford University Labour Club”.

The issue came to the fore in February, when Alex Chalmers resigned as co-chair of the OULC, alleging that many members had “some kind of problem with Jews”, used the offensive term “Zio” and expressed support for Hamas.

A report looking into the matter by Baroness Royall was submitted to the Labour Party in May but has so far not been made publically available in full.

Writing to Jeremy Corbyn, the 43 students and alumni said they felt “appalled” and “let down by a process that has only served to brush the issue of antisemitism under the carpet”.

After the announcement of a series of inquiries, they had “wanted to believe that the Labour Party was taking antisemitism seriously and that it was a safe space for Jews and Jewish students”.

Yet in the meantime they had “been forced to sit and wait for the Labour Party to deal with those who called Jewish students ‘Zios’, and with those who rolled their eyes and tutted whenever Jewish students stood up and started speaking with the statement ‘as a Jew’.”

After submitting evidence to Baroness Royall’s inquiry, the signatories claimed they had been told that her findings would be incorporated into Shami Chakrabarti’s separate report, released on 30 June, on “anti-Semitism and other forms of racism including Islamophobia, within the [Labour] party”, yet they had found not a single mention of the OULC.

In September, the letter added, “around 8,500 Jewish students will return to campuses across the country”. While many were keen to “play their part in a progressive politics which is anti-racism and takes a stand in the fight against anti-Semitism”, they were likely to remain “uncertain as to whether their Labour club is a safe space for them, or even shares their desire to combat anti-Semitism”.

In response to the open letter, the Union of Jewish Students added their own concerns that “the Labour Party has failed to reassure Jewish students that they are welcome at Labour clubs” and noted that they “deserve[d] answers and action”.

Interviewed by Jewish News, Baroness Royall has stated that she would “now seriously consider publishing [her] report in full, in due course”.


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