More than 200 students at Essex University voted against the formation of a Jewish Society. It’s the first organised attempt to stop or ban a Jewish Society on a British campus for decades.
There has been no explanation from any group of “activists” or students as to why there was a vote against the society. The university responded to outcry about the vote by short-cutting the usual procedure under which all new societies have to be approved by student ballot. To that date, some 64% of votes had been in favour of allowing the new society.
The whole procedure of student societies requiring a ballot majority is unusual and wrong. On top of that, sections of the left have a history of an “anti-Zionist” politics which refused to allow Jewish student societies to form unless they explicitly opposed Israel. It was an antisemitic campaign which Socialist Organiser (Solidarity’s predecessor) vigorously opposed, especially around the banning of the Jewish Society at Sunderland Poly in 1985.
The public statement from the Student Union says “We are also reviewing the way that societies are ratified at Essex going forward, to ensure that all students have a safe and welcoming environment to meet with those of a shared experience and to celebrate their cultural or religious identity.”
Dr Maaruf Ali, an Essex academic who has now been suspended, vocally opposed the establishment of the Jewish Society. He has previously shared antisemitic and Holocaust-denying material on social media. A rise in antisemitic incidents on university campuses and the ongoing crisis around antisemitism among the left show why a more vigorous educational campaign about the specifics of modern and particularly left antisemitism is necessary now more than ever.
• Workers’ Liberty pamphlet Left Antisemitism and How to Fight It