Oxford University Labour Club marred by claims of anti-semitism
The Cambridge Universities Labour Club is “saddened” by the allegations.
Alex Chalmers, who studies at Oriel College, Oxford has resigned as Co-Chair of the Oxford University Labour Club (OULC).
He made the decision to step-down minutes after OULC voted to endorse Israel Apartheid Week in their General Meeting.
OULC voted 18-16 in favour of endorsing Israel Apartheid Week, which the remaining Co-Chair, Noni Csogor, said was a testament to the “persuasiveness of both side of the argument” and evidence of “democratic debate”.
In a Facebook status, which has been shared over 150 times, Chalmers argued that the attitude of some “members of the club towards certain disadvantaged groups was becoming poisonous”.
The Oxford student then went on to claim that some members of OULC’s Executive had used the term ‘Zio’ with “casual abandon”. Chalmers expressed his disapproval of this behaviour, pointing out that this was a “term usually confined to websites run by the Klu Klux Klan”.
In addition, Chalmers notes that “senior members of the club” had expressed solidarity with the Palestinian Islamic organisation, Hamas, even going so far as to defend “their tactics of indiscriminately murdering civilians”.
Chalmers found that accusations of anti-semitism were brushed aside by the former Co-Chair of OULC as “just the Zionists crying wolf”.
Chalmers went on to criticise the student left in Oxford more generally, a large proportion of whom “have some kind of problem with Jews”.
Alex argued that the endorsement of Hamas and the support of anti-semitic speakers to the university, reveals how “uneven and insincere much of the active membership is when it comes to liberation”.
Chalmers expressed great remorse over his resignation from OULC, a club which he “had invested an extraordinary amount of time, energy, and emotion in” during his first two terms at Oxford.
Chalmers’ decision to run for Co-Chair of OULC came after Labour’s huge defeat at the general election. In addition to wanting to improve the state of OULC, Alex had hoped to “move the club away from some of its more intolerant tendencies”.
He expressed his sadness that OULC had now moved to a “place I could no longer hope to retrieve it from”. He continued, “I am now in a position where I can no longer in good conscience defend club policy.”
The remaining Co-Chair, Noni Csogor, who studies PPE at Corpus Christi College, wrote an article following Chalmers’ resignation. She expressed her sadness over his decision, whilst noting “his commitment to his principles is honestly admirable.”
Noni said: “Alex is right to highlight growing anti-Semitic violence in the UK as a major issue; it’s also horrifying that Jewish students feel unsafe on campuses.”
Noni pointed towards the events at Kings College University as evidence that increasingly “Jewish students feel unsafe on campus.”
In January, an event organised by the student Israel society was attacked by demonstrators, who threw chairs and smashed windows in the vicinity.
Noni condemned the “silencing of Jewish students, who often have uniquely nuanced perspectives on the Israeli state”.
Speaking to the Oxford student newspaper, The Cherwell, Ella Taylor, who is Women’s Officer-elect and is herself Jewish, said “[OULC] is a vibrant, well led, diverse group … Last night, however, I witnessed a side to the club which was thoroughly unpleasant and I am increasingly becoming aware of some of the awful outbursts about Jews which have been made over the past 12 months.
This statement was released by the Oxford Jewish Society:
In a statement, a Cambridge Universities Labour Club spokesperson said “CULC is saddened by the allegations of antisemitism in the Oxford University Labour Club. Antisemitism has absolutely no place in the Labour movement – it is sinister, dangerous and morally degraded, and we hope that OULC will be able to stamp it out.”
The resignation has raised questions about whether Ed Miliband, himself a former Oxford student and a Jew, will agree to speak in his scheduled OULC address next month.