'Islamic State',  antisemitism,  The Left

Student Politics: a round up

Some news and updates on three recent stories concerning student politics.

First, that post from a few days ago about the NUS’s refusal to endorse a motion condemning ISIS. Richard Seymour insists that this story has been misrepresented. He opens his piece:

Look.  If pressed, and if it will help anyone sleep better at night, I will condemn ISIS in the boldest and most strident terms.  But I will do so with some weariness.

This made me wonder if he ever wearies of condemning Israel.  Seymour is correct in saying that it is not entirely accurate to insist that the SU refused to condemn ISIS. He even acknowledges that the motion was not as bad as it might have been. Instead, he asserts, the students had a problem with one detail, an element in the motion which it was felt might encourage anti-Muslim bigotry and an atmosphere of distrust.  However this really doesn’t account for a comment made by Aaron Kiely on Twitter (linked to here):

Amazing speech by @maliaBouattia challenging the Western, imperialist narrative around ‘ISIS’! Overwhelming vote against the motion.

The words ‘challenging imperialist narrative around ‘ISIS” may not constitute condoning ISIS, but it reveals some very strange priorities, given that even Seymour couldn’t find too much wrong with the motion. Here’s a link to an embarrassingly evasive interview with Kiely.

Another recent story, this time relating to Goldsmiths SU, has also prompted some indignant responses. Here the SU voted down a motion urging a commemoration of the Holocaust.  Much was made, in the original report in the Tab, of the way the SU Education Officer, Sarah El-alfi, @Gsu_Education, complained that the motion was ‘Eurocentric’. Now, it is important to note that she did not state that HMD itself was Eurocentric.  It was the focus on a number of different events, all European, in this motion which was the perceived problem. It’s also perhaps worth noting that the person who wrote up the debate for the Tab was himself the proposer of the defeated motion.

However the response from Sarah El-alfi is still highly problematic.  Take the penultimate point:

With historical records and current news being in the hands of the privileged few, it is important we keep this in mind when passing such motions, i.e. a white male has to think of his privilege when talking about racial hatred.

This would be pretty crude in any context, but seems particularly iill-judged in the context of antisemitism, both because the victims are (generally) categorised as ‘white’ and because the history of the Holocaust has been the subject, notoriously, of hostile revisionism.  Within the SU El-alfi herself has at least a measure of control, of privilege, and might consider whether her apparent leading role in PalSoc in any way compromises her role as Education Officer.  And, following on from that, it’s interesting that she chooses to ignore completely perhaps the most shocking interventions in this debate:.

One student had suggested she couldn’t commemorate the Holocaust because she thought the Union was explicitly “anti-Zionist”. Another said the proposal should be voted against as it would affect the Union’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It’s a pity this racist ignorance didn’t seem to have inspired as much indignation as the ‘Eurocentric’ nature of the motion.  As Bob from Brockley concludes, with reference to assurances that the SU simply wants to improve the motion, ‘I think the key test will be whether new motion relativises Holocaust into triviality.’

Finally, a report on a Palestine Society meeting at Oxford by Richard Black. It makes pretty grim reading.

What I heard and saw genuinely shocked me. I’ve heard a lot in my time but this was by far the worst event I have ever attended. I can only describe it as a two hour hate fest of the variety described in George Orwell’s ‘1984.’ It went from the downright idiotic to the explicitly anti-Semitic – and often both. I heard a girl complain about the evils of ‘Zionist’ control in her native America – she even attacked ‘Zionists’ for controlling the make up she wore! No one challenged this girl’s delusions: they only reassured her that fighting Zionism must remain paramount. I heard numerous people glorify the ‘right of the resistance’ and reject non-violent tactics, even including an Oxford academic on the panel (Karma Nabulsi)

I have done what I can. I tried exposing rampant anti-Semitism in the Palestine Society at the start of this year and I was treated with ridicule. It’s time to take this stuff seriously. I saw many freshers at this event – freshers whose minds have been poisoned and given a wholly false narrative which demonises one people at the expense of the other, one that demonises the forces of peace and rewards the actions of hate and terrorism. I saw a room of intelligent, perhaps highly naive students, express the most hideous and morally warped trash. I saw no effort to condemn outright anti-Semitic prejudice when it was expressed. I saw pure intellectual fascism – people attending a talk to confirm their prejudices, and actively ostracising those that disagree with them.

Reading about these three incidents brings an expression coined by Norman Geras to mind – they exemplify the worst of the verkrappt left.

Thanks to Bob from Brockley, Andrew Coates, Mark Lott, Jay Stoll and others for observations and information.