Jewish students at Cardiff University ‘traumatised’ after rowdy students’ union meeting
Cardiff University’s Jewish Society has released a statement revealing how its members have been traumatised by what they see as antisemitic behaviour at a recent students’ union meeting where the Israeli invasion of Gaza was discussed..
Nation.Cymru has reported previously about a video posted on a right wing social media site which shows a student called Jake at the podium being told he has four minutes to speak. After introducing himself, he is immediately booed by some of the students present. He then speaks nervously, saying: “We all have different perspectives on the Israel – Palestine conflict. It’s a complex and challenging issue that affects the lives of many individuals in the region. Today I present my perspective on the motion for a ceasefire.”
When he says: “It is important to defend Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas, a recognised terrorist organisation,” he comes in for further barracking. He continues: ”Hamas has shown a lack of consideration for peaceful settlements by developing their military operations in civilian areas, and refusing to recognise the possibility of a two-state solution. The horrors of Hamas extend beyond their attacks, on free speech, targeting political dissidents and suppressing the rights of women and LGBTQ individuals.”
At this point the noise of heckling grows, but Jake tries to continue, saying: “These actions contribute to suffering and the terrorist threat …” He is then howled down, with one student shouting out: “Can Jimmy Savile defend himself against the kids he raped?” A chant of “Free Free Palestine” then drowns out Jake’s words and he is escorted away from the podium.”
A statement issued by the University’s Jewish Society said: “Last week at Cardiff Students’ Union’s AGM students voted on whether the Students’ Union should ‘teach students to spot lies and propaganda from the state of Israel’. We, the Jewish students who wanted to speak on this motion were intimidated, abused and harassed.
“We were left shaking in our seats. Two Jewish students had panic attacks . One student, who took the stage to make the case for peace and dialogue was shouted down and had to be escorted from the debate for his own safety.
“We now fear for our security on campus and we feel unsafe walking between lectures. Jewish voices were silenced . We just want to be able to do the things that all other students do. Despite this we will not be silent.We refuse to be intimidated into not being proud of our Jewish identity. In a previous meeting with the university, , they found it hard to believe that Jewish students were having a difficult time on campus. Do you understand now?”
A spokesperson for Cardiff University said: “We are concerned by the comments made in our Jewish Society’s statement. As we’ve previously flagged, the university’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor has already written to all students to reiterate the absolute need to behave with dignity and respect to all and setting out our zero-tolerance attitude to harassment and discrimination of all kinds on campus. It also sets out the support available both in terms of safety and support to students.
“The university is already undertaking a review of student behaviours at the AGM and other university events. This review remains on-going and will be published in due course. The university has been in regular contact with our Jewish Society and, following their statement, we will reach out again and consider what additional support can be put in place during these extremely challenging times.”
Cardiff University Students’ Union has previously issued a statement which said: “The Students’ Union Annual General Meeting (AGM) is one of the largest student democratic meetings in the UK, with nearly 1,000 students in attendance to discuss key issues and debate topics put forward by the student community.
“We take our responsibility to uphold freedom of speech very seriously and in preparation for the AGM many actions were undertaken to ensure students were aware of their role in ensuring that the meeting could be conducted respectfully. However, as students were informed freedom of speech is not absolute and we are committed to act against any behaviours that lead to hate or discrimination, whether in our democratic meetings or in wider SU activity.
“During the meeting, some students gave emotive speeches during some of the motion debates. We recognise the strength of feeling and sensitivities surrounding some of the topics discussed and the Chair of the meeting set out to ensure that all speakers were heard as well as encouraging the crowd to be respectful and listen to speakers.
“It is important to clarify that the clip from the meeting does not present an accurate account of the evening as a whole. The Chair asked the speaker to step away from the microphone for a short period of time to protect the speakers’ allotted time whilst the meeting was brought back to order, they were then permitted to resume their speech.
“The Students’ Union will continue to work to ensure that the student community is a safe and welcome place for all and any student impacted by the AGM should reach out to SU’s Student Advice team.”
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