How Anti-Semitism Took over the Left at Oxford

March 17, 2016 | Alex Chalmers
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The co-chair of the Oxford University Labor Club (OULC), Alex Chalmers, recently drew attention to left-wing anti-Semitism in Britain by resigning from his position rather than joining the club’s endorsement of “Israel Apartheid Week.” He writes:

During my year-and-a-half as an active member of the OULC, I found that [anti-Semitic] attitudes were prevalent. The word “Zio” was part of the club’s lexicon, despite its [clearly anti-Semitic] connotations eventually becoming widely known, the song “Rockets over Tel Aviv” was a favorite among a certain faction of the club, and the concerns of Jewish students over issues such as Israel Apartheid Week were ridiculed. . . .

What prompted me to resign in such a public fashion was witnessing just how passionate, over the top, and catch-all “anti-Zionism” was. I am no stranger to bad-tempered meetings or sharp debate, but the sheer hatred people felt was visible in their eyes. The motion [regarding Apartheid Week] was written deliberately to make me feel uncomfortable: [it] mandated that the co-chairs condemn “Israeli Apartheid” when asked to do so. In the meeting, members of the club were shouted down by a small clique, Jewish students were laughed at, and there was an attempt to deny paid-up members of the club who opposed the motion the right to vote.

Added to this, I was denounced as a Zionist stooge, and while I was counting the votes, someone stood over me suggesting that my Zionist sympathies meant that I might try to rig the ballot. . . .

In a way, the anti-Semitic incidents I witnessed in OULC are less troubling than the culture which allowed such behavior to become normalized. It is common to encounter anti-Semitic individuals in all walks of life, but the mass turning-of-a-blind-eye that has come to characterize vast parts of the left is chilling. As anti-Semites can double up as vocal critics of Israel, there is a marked tendency on the left to view them as fellow travelers whose hearts are in the right place—so their rhetoric passes the test of social acceptability.

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