A number of weeks ago, Cambridge University’s Middle East and North Africa Forum, of which I am a founder and co-president, had the pleasure of hosting Mark Regev, Israel’s ambassador to the UK. The event was a fantastic success.
Unfortunately, the fact an Israel-related event on a UK campus took place undisturbed is the exception to the rule and not the norm.
Universities in Britain are not known to be especially respectful of freedom of expression when it comes to Israeli speakers.
Harassment, assault, violence and vandalism is generally the currency of operation. Whether the speaker is critical or supportive of the Israeli government’s policies is irrelevant.
I would like to believe this campus obsession with Israel has nothing to do with the fact Israel is the Jewish state. I find it increasingly difficult to convince myself this is not the case.
It appears the primary way to uphold human rights on campus today is by violating the rights of both Israelis and Jews.
Disrupting Israel-related events is only one aspect of a larger scale phenomenon, which in my 18 months here have included a number of horrifying spectacles.
First was a mock checkpoint set up in the heart of the Cambridge campus, during so called Israel Apartheid Week. The experience was repeated when my friends and I were physically attacked by fellow Cambridge students, simply for wearing traditional Jewish head coverings.
But how can I blame these students for their actions when intimidation of Jewish and Israeli students is allowed for a full week every year under the guise of Israel Apartheid Week?
I appreciate Cambridge is an exceptionally comfortable place to be both a Jew and a Zionist in the UK and that, until these incidents, I never considered antisemitism to even be an issue here. But the anti-Zionist and antisemitic phenomena on campuses in the UK is concerning.
While I applaud the tendencies of Cambridge students to partake in a culture of open-mindedness with regard to Israel-related issues, the disproportionate anti-Israel sentiment on campuses is an issue that needs greater attention. Every student deserves to live in an environment free from hate, even those who support Israel. Ignoring it certainly is not going to make it go away.
Contributed by CAMERA Fellow and co-founder of CAMERA-supported group Cambridge University’s Middle East and North Africa Forum at the University of Cambridge, Shlomo Roiter.
Originally published in the Jewish Chronicle.