CST Blog

The radical left & “some kind of problem with Jews”

17 February 2016

CST calls for a full investigation into the serious allegations made against Oxford University’s Labour Club. This follows yesterday’s resignation of the Labour Club’s co-chair Alex Chalmers, who said his erstwhile colleagues “have some kind of problem with Jews”.  

This is, by far, Britain’s most important university Labour group; and if one outcome of the controversy is to help focus Labour’s attention on the reality of modern antisemitism, then it will be of long-term benefit, both to Jews and the Labour Party. Thus far, the official reactions have been encouraging and relatively quick. Labour Students say the allegations “indicate a shocking pattern of hateful and racist behaviour by some Club members” and they have announced an investigation, which has received public support from the Labour Party itself.

The allegations are summarised by both Alex Chalmers and in a statement by Oxford University’s Jewish Society. The J-Soc statement begins by noting that the Labour Club, “has become increasingly dominated by the radical student left in recent weeks and months”. It describes the outcome of this leftist influx as: “This has been accompanied by a series of anti-Semitic statements and incidents”.

The list of allegations against the Labour Club are striking, because they take modes of thinking about Zionist lobbies, mainstream Jews and anti-Israel terrorism to places that are more extreme than usual: but seem perversely logical consequences of the rank hatred of Israel and Zionism that is commonplace in such radical left circles.

Whether this amounts to antisemitism, or at what point it trips over the line into antisemitism, is a matter of interpretation and furious contention. For example, the failed tribunal in 2013 brought by a Jewish member against his union, the UCU (University and College Union), shows that mainstream Jewish feelings and interpretations can count for nothing, depending on who is doing the judging. Now, with Labour Students (and behind it the Labour Party) in the chair, the conduct of the investigation and its outcomes assume an importance that may reach well beyond the esteemed Oxford University Labour Club.

Alex Chalmers summary of his complaint includes the following:

“Whether it be members of the Executive throwing around the term 'Zio' (a term for Jews usually confined to websites run by the Ku Klux Klan) with casual abandon, senior members of the club expressing their 'solidarity' with Hamas and explitictly defending their tactics of indiscriminately murdering civilians, or a former Co-Chair claiming that 'most accusations of antisemitism are just the Zionists crying wolf’, a large proportion of both OULC and the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews.”   

The Jewish society state the following:

  • Several people, all of whom have been on committee, have been known to sing the song ‘Rockets over Tel Aviv’ and have specifically expressed support for Hamas’ tactic of launching indiscriminate attacks against Israel’s Jewish citizens.
  • One member stated specifically that it was ‘not anti-Semitic’ to allege the existence of a ‘New York – Tel Aviv axis’ that rigs elections, and said that ‘we should be aware of the influence wielded over elections by high net-worth Jewish individuals’. He also stated that it was ‘not anti-Semitic’ to allege the existence of an international Jewish conspiracy, even though he did not endorse the idea himself.
  • One member, then on committee, stated that all Jews should be expected to publicly denounce Zionism and the state of Israel, and that we should not associate with any Jew who fails to do so.
  • Several individuals, some who have been on committee, repeatedly used the word ‘Zio’ (a word normally only found on neo-Nazi websites) to refer to Jewish students.
  • Several members have alleged that US foreign policy is under the control of the ‘Zionist Lobby’ and when asked if by ‘Zionist’ they simply meant ‘Jewish’ they went very silent.
  • One member of OULC was formally disciplined by their College for organising a group of students to harass a Jewish student and to shout ‘filthy Zionist’ whenever they saw her.
  • In a public discussion on the OULC Facebook group one member argued that Hamas was justified in its policy of killing Jewish civilians and claimed that all Jews were legitimate targets. Several other members, including two former co-chairs and one then on committee, defended the member as making ‘a legitimate point clumsily expressed’.
  • Two members of OULC argued that Jenny Tonge, a peer expelled from the Liberal Democrats over anti-Semitism, should be encouraged to join the Labour Party.

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