An open letter to OULC

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Dear Sirs,

On Monday 15th February, the members of Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) voted to endorse Oxford’s so-called “Israeli Apartheid Week”. As former and current Chairs and Executive members of OULC, Jewish student leaders and other members and friends of Oxford University, we condemn and oppose this poorly considered course of action. We also congratulate the bold decision of one of the current Co-Chairs, Alex Chalmers, to resign in response. “Israeli Apartheid Week” purports to be a conference promoting intellectual discussion. In reality it is little more than a gathering of activists promoting a one-sided narrative, seeking to dismantle the only majority-Jewish member-state of the United Nations.

It principally serves as a vehicle for promoting the academic, cultural and economic isolation of the Jewish state. In doing so, it strengthens the hand of those who oppose the two-state solution and emboldens extremists who seek to “resolve” the conflict by extinguishing one of the parties to it.

It is wrong to contend that Israel – a multiracial democracy – even remotely resembles the horrors of South Africa’s racist dictatorship. Israel is a nation largely composed of refugees and their descendants – from both Europe and the Arab world, living in a land to which they have deep historical and religious ties. It is not a settler-colonial state. It belongs to the Middle East’s rich tapestry of religious and ethnic diversity. Today, more than ever, minorities in the Middle East need their own states. Worse still, the appropriation of the term “apartheid” is an affront to black South Africans. The supporters of “Israeli Apartheid Week” would do well to remember the words of Nelson Mandela: “As a movement we recognise the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism just as we recognise the legitimacy of Zionism as a Jewish nationalism. We insist on the right of the state of Israel to exist within secure borders, but with equal vigour support the Palestinian right to national self-determination.” We share this vision and believe it is in the best traditions of OULC – and more importantly, the ethos and values of Oxford University.

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We don’t pretend for a second that there are no problems in Israel-Palestine. We don’t ignore the imperfections of Israeli society. We don’t overlook the tragedy of conflict. But we are troubled by OULC’s decision and feel compelled to speak out. In a climate of rising anti-Semitism, we have a duty to oppose initiatives that foster an intolerant political culture which intimidates Jewish students.

Lastly – but most distressingly – we observe with horror what Mr Chalmers describes in his note of resignation: “members of the Executive throwing around the term ‘Zio’ (a term for Jews usually confined to websites run by the Ku Klux Klan)”; senior members expressing “solidarity” with Hamas; claims that “most accusations of anti-Semitism are just the Zionists crying wolf” and the fact that “a large proportion of both OULC and the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews”.

We note that OULC and the Labour Party have a long and distinguished history of fighting racism and injustice – and we therefore urge current members to remember that tradition and to reconsider their distressing decision.

Yours sincerely,

Baroness Ruth Deech, QC (Hon) DBE, Former Principal (St Anne’s College)

Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE QC

Lord Pannick QC

John Mann MP

John Bowers QC

Professor Richard Susskind OBE

 

Oxford University Labour Club

Ella Taylor (Executive Committee)

Louis McEvoy (Executive Committee)

David Klemperer (Co-Chair MT 2015)

David Cesar-Heymann (Co-Chair HT 2015)

Helena Dollimore (Co-Chair MT 2013)

Aled Jones (Co-Chair MT 2013)

Jonathan Metzer (Co-Chair TT 2013)

Tom Adams (Co-Chair MT 2012)

Anthony Breach (Co-Chair TT 2012)

Kevin Feeney (Co-Chair TT 2012)

Claire Smith, Co-Chair 2012

Lincoln Hill (Co-Chair TT 2011)

Colin Jackson (Co-Chair 2011)

Kathleen Shields (Co-Chair HT 2011)

Sapandeep Singh Maini-Thompson (Executive Committee TT 2014)

Jack Evans (Co-Chair HT 2011)

Tom Rutland (ex OUSU President 2013-14, OULC Executive Committee 2011)

Hannah Cusworth (Co-Chair HT 2010)

Alistair Strathern (Co-Chair TT 2010)

Kieran Cunningham (Co-Chair MT 2010)

Jacob Turner (Co-Chair TT 2009)

Ben Lyons (Co-Chair 2009)

Ayo Ajanaku (Co-Chair 2009)

Emily Benn (Executive TT 2009)

Jamie Susskind (Co-Chair TT 2009)

Martha MacKenzie (Executive Committee 2009)

David Green (Co-Chair TT 2008)

Sarah Hutchinson (Co-Chair TT 2008)

Alice Taylor (Co-Chair 2008)

Mark Baker (Co-Chair TT 2007)

Harriet Myles (Co-Chair 2007)

Phillip Patterson (Co-Chair TT 2006)

Martin McCluskey (Co-Chair MT 2005)

Stephen Longden (Co-Chair HT 2005)

Alex Brodkin (Co-Chair 2005)

Jack Graves (Co-Chair 2005)

 

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Oxford University Jewish Society

Yoni Stone (Current JSoc President)

Aaron Simons (Former JSoc President)

Jake Berger (Former JSoc Vice-President)

Matt Rose (Former JSoc President)

Paul Erdunast (Former JSoc president)

Rachel Grabiner (Former JSoc Vice-President)

David Miron (Former JSoc Vice-President)

Rebecca Freedman (Former JSoc Vice-President)

Vladimir Bermant (Former JSoc President)
 
Andrew Freedman (Former JSoc President, barrister)

 

Oxford University Chabad Society

Jonathan Hunter (Former Oxford Chabad President, Former Vice-President of JSoc)

Sam Bodansky (Current Oxford Chabad President)

Fien Barnett-Neefs (Current Oxford Chabad Vice-President)

 

Oxford University Liberal Democrats

Jack Ford (Co-Chair)

Matt Sumption (Former Co-Chair)

Anne Cremin (Secretary)

 

Oxford University Conservative Association

Thomas Jackson (President)

Shane Finn (Treasurer)

William Robert Rees-Mogg (Committee Member)

Richard Black (Ex-Publications Editor, Former JSoc Publicity Officer)

Dan Freeman (Ex-Political Officer)

Jack Matthews (Ex-President)

Jan Nedvidek (Ex-President)

Benjamin Woolf (Ex-Returning Officer)