Earlier this term, KCL Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) co-hosted an event with 17 other Palestinian student societies across the UK featuring the co-founder of the anti-Israeli Boycott Sanction and Divest (BDS) campaign, Omar Barghouti. Barghouti co-founded the campaign in 2005. While BDS officially claims to oppose “anti-Jewish racism”, the UK, United States, Germany and others have called the movement anti-semitic.
At the BDS 101 talk, which took place on February 10 2022, Barghouti described BDS as “a call to fulfil a profound moral mission” to end “Israeli apartheid.” He spoke expressly on how this must not include “bigotry towards Jews”, yet his talk included Holocaust comparisons, likening the current treatment of Palestinians to that of Jews in Nazi Germany.
The KCL Students for Justice for Palestine (SJP) society’s event with Barghouti featured a litany of falsehoods.
Most importantly, there is no genocide happening to the Palestinians, let alone one comparable to the Holocaust. It’s an unfounded accusation that has no basis in reality. The current growth rate for Palestinians is over 2%, more than twice the global average. In fact, the Palestinian population has almost doubled in 24 years.
Claims of genocide are grotesque lies, designed to demonise Israelis. Worse than this, they are trying to demonise them with the worst kind of comparison, the Nazis, who persecuted the Jewish people in the most horrifying way the world has ever known.
A common claim within BDS rhetoric is that the Jews hypocritically experienced genocide and then went on to perpetrate it toward the Palestinians. Holocaust inversion, as well as relativisation, is a kind of “secondary antisemitism”. Indeed, denial or minimisation of the Holocaust is linked to increases in antisemitism. To accuse Jews of perpetuating a Holocaust is profoundly hurtful, ignorant of the historical and current reality; and indicative of a marked urge to demonise Jews regardless of fact. For these reasons, Holocaust inversion is a recognised form of antisemitism according to the IHRA definition.
StopAntisemitismNow has published a report detailing how BDS causes an immediate increase in antisemitism on campus.
Barghouti also spoke negatively about the IHRA definition of antisemitism, claiming that it stymies Palestinian free speech. However, this definition explicitly states that “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” The IHRA offers guidelines to identify contemporary forms of antisemitism. If Barghouti’s criticisms of Israel are legitimate and devoid of bigotry, as he claims in his talk, then he should not fear censure.
So what’s the problem here, besides Barghouti being a problematic speaker? In short, 17 Palestinian societies across the UK sympathise with and are willing to platform this kind of extreme language, despite complications like the German antisemitic designation. This fact becomes more relevant considering the current antisemitism crisis that the National Union of Students (NUS) is facing right now.
President-elect Shaima Dallali is facing investigation for antisemitic comments she’s made in the past including supporting armed resistance against Israel. Dallali has also been known to express support for BDS, helping push through a related motion at the City University of London student union.
KCL SJP would want the NUS to drop their investigation into Shaima Dallali’s alleged antisemitism. A President who tweets: “Khaybar Khaybar O Jews… Muhammad’s army will return Gaza”, a death chant to Jews in honour of a 628 massacre, is antisemitic.
It should bother the SJP that Dallali incites a massacre as precedent for advancing the conflict. It should bother the SJP that Dallali has praised Yusuf al Quradawi, after he called for Jews to be wiped out. It should bother the SJP that Dallali used the Muslim Brotherhood’s slogan on her Twitter profile, called a cleric critical of Hamas “a dirty Zionist” and supported CAGE, an organisation accused of terrorist sympathy. How is it appropriate for a candidate representing all students to speak in this manner? How can the SJP excuse her antisemitism and drop the investigation as if it didn’t matter? Dallali’s claim that the investigation is “a clear example of racist gendered Islamophobia” is farcical.
KCL SJP opposes the investigation into Shaima Dallali as it is a ‘direct decision to oppose those who stand for justice in Palestine,” and argue the Union of Jewish Students is hypocritical to “call for inclusion into the NUS while maintaining support for an Apartheid State.” The SJP resort to libellous accusations of apartheid to move attention away from the question of antisemitism. Jews can’t expect ‘inclusion’ while they support Israel? Must we expect segregation and exclusion in the meantime?
There is certainly a place for criticism of Israel just as there is against any government. But SJP should acknowledge antisemitism where it rears its head and be open to investigations.
What exactly is Dallali against? Or, just as pressing, what does she stand for? In response to the Board of Deputies bemoaning both Israel and Gaza escalating violence, Ms Dallali posted: “Take any prospect of a lasting peace’ and shove it up yours” followed by the hashtag “Free Palestine”.
It should go without saying that Shaima Dallali representing the welfare of Jewish students around the country should raise eyebrows. Equally alarming is that KCL SJP refuses to acknowledge Dallali’s antisemitism nor has any issues with hosting antisemitic speakers.
It is not inconsequential for SJP to host an extreme speaker like Barghouti or be blind to the problems with some of Dallali’s comments. Choosing to utilise antisemitic rhetoric and platforming people who use tactics like Barghouti’s will create an atmosphere where Jews do not feel comfortable identifying as Jews. This could create biases in the university structure and alienate anyone who dares speak out of line. It cannot continue.