Behind the Headlines Uphill Battle by Jewish Students Against Anti-zionist Campaign
Menu JTA Search

Behind the Headlines Uphill Battle by Jewish Students Against Anti-zionist Campaign

Download PDF for this date

Jewish students are fighting an uphill battle at British universities against a concerted Arab and left-wing campaign to brand Zionism as racist. So far, student unions at seven universities have passed resolutions equating Zionism with racism and thus effectively excluding any Jewish activities connected with Israel.

The battle reached a peak last week at Salford University, Lancashire, where the small Jewish campus group went ahead with an “Israel Week” despite the students union previous decision to ban it. The Jewish group succeeded in winning a high court injunction preventing their festivities from being excluded from the university premises.

Nevertheless, the Israeli program was not completed without mishap. Despite the high court decision, the students union banned a lecture by a local rabbi because of what the Arabs had termed “provocative and racist” remarks the previous day by Yaakov Morris, an Israeli diplomat. Morris, the Israeli ambassador-designate to New Zealand and an old hand at student debates, was apparently too successful in showing that it was the anti-Zionists–and not the Zionists–who were the real racists.


The anti-Zionist crusade, which has been going on for about 18 moths, has aroused the anxiety of both the National Union of Students (NUS) and of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. The outgoing president of the NUS, Charles Clarke, has expressed concern that it is basically anti-Jewish in character and not merely “anti-Zionist” as its supporters claim. This concern is shared by the new NUS president, Susan Slipman. Although a Communist, Ms. Slipman, who is Jewish, does not share the extreme views propounded by Soviet and Arab propaganda.

Dr. Jacob Gewirtz, director of the Board of Deputies’ Defense Department, says that there is no difference between the propaganda of the extreme left-wing and that put out by the neo-Nazi National Front Party. At two universities, Arabs had put out literature produced by a publisher who also works for right-wing groups and which included passages from the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

Although the anti-Zionist campaign has been going on for a considerable time, it is now beginning to attract wider interest. Thus the events at Salford University, where the 40 Jewish students are outnumbered by 600 Arabs, have been reported in The Times, Daily Telegraph and The Guardian. The latter paper has printed an editorial strongly supporting the Jewish students in their fight for free speech.

After the banning last week of Rabbi Lazar Weiss from Salford University, a member of the Jewish student group there said, “We think our opponents are digging their own grave.” But Jewish student leaders admit that in some of the universities where anti-Zionist policies have been adopted, the weakness of the local Jewish student group is to blame. This was charged after Essex University’s union passed a motion earlier this month calling for the abolition of Israel.

Alan Elsner, full-time field officer of the National Unions of Jewish Students, claims that the Essex Jewish students’ nerves failed them. Another student said the Jewish student group’s spokesmen had been too compromising in their counter-arguments.

The Arab and left-wing successes partly reflect the general apathy of the broad mass of students at British universities, since debates on the Middle East rarely attract large numbers of participants. They also reflect the large numbers of Arab, Moslem and Third World students on British campuses. The Arabs alone are believed to number between 15,000 and 20,000. Of the 8000 Jewish students, only about 3000 belong to Jewish student groups.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund