Jewish students claim antisemitism is on the rise in Glasgow following situation in Gaza

Students said they’ve felt uneasy and that their identities have become politicised since the situation started in October


Jewish students in Glasgow have experienced a rise in antisemitic comments and sentiments since the events that have transpired between Israel and Gaza since October 7th.

Antisemitic actions across the UK have reportedly left Jewish students feeling “deeply anxious”, and Glasgow students have reported a feeling of “unease”.

With the largest Jewish community in Scotland, the Jewish Student Society of Glasgow (Jsoc) spoke to The Tab Glasgow about the experiences of Jewish students in the city. Two of the members of the board and students at the University of Glasgow, Sylvia Bergman and Alasdair Haig, spoke about antisemitism in Glasgow and its impact on the society.

When asked if they were surprised that antisemitism had risen, both Sylvia and Alasdair answered no. Haig said: “Anytime Israel is in the news, antisemitism rises”. He also said he has experienced antisemitism directed towards him.

Speaking of an example of when he felt he was targeted due to being Jewish, he continued: “I had snowballs thrown at my window that had a Magen David (Star of David) lit up on it. That’s the most recent one I can think of”. He added that other students have also spoken to him concerning a rise in antisemitic events taking place in Glasgow since October.

Sylvia also spoke of her experiences with antisemitism, including how behaviour towards her worsened after the events on October 7th. She said: “I’ve had people online reacting to my faith with ‘free Palestine’ before October 7th, but it was after the attacks that I first experienced it in person when I’d mentioned that I was Jewish in a game with friends”.

Both students did not feel these incidents affected their Jewish identities in a significant way. Sylvia said: “In certain scenarios in seminars I had felt uneasy, but I have never shied away from revealing my identity when relevant and I almost always wear my Star of David necklace.”

Regarding how the society has been affected by the rising antisemitism detected, Sylvia explained: “Taking on the role of social secretary last April, I was expecting a less intense role but since the recent events, I’ve definitely felt the need to take up a more leading and supportive role. With any world issue, opposing opinions and beliefs are bound to cause issues within such a diverse organisation.”

She continued: “As an organisation, we don’t want to infringe on anyone’s right to freedom of speech, but we also want to preserve this space that we have created to be open and comfortable to all. Any speech that may infringe on someone’s civil rights is unacceptable.”

Sylvia discussed how identity has been politicised in aspects of life since the events of 7th October but also before, however these societies allow for a space without students feeling the blame simply for their religion.

She said: “I think the conflict has allowed members to have a space where they can find Jewish peers with similar beliefs, but also give an organised place for all Jewish students to come together and escape discussions about Israel.”

Since the situation started, the number of antisemitic incidents in the UK has risen. The Community Security Trust charity’s most recent analysis of antisemitic incidents for 2023 shows a record high number of incidents reported to the organisation. Over 180 of them were related to university students in the UK.

Other religious groups have also felt a rise in discrimination in the UK and Scotland since October, with the Scottish Parliament’s Islamophobia report finding 75 per cent of the Muslims in Scotland had felt a rise in Islamophobia in their surroundings in 2023. This rise in hatred has also not gone unnoticed by the universities in Scotland and Glasgow.

The University of Glasgow Student Representative Council (SRC) released a statement for students and staff experiencing discrimination. It said: “As an executive, we have been profoundly troubled and saddened by the violence that has unfolded in the last two months. We are especially mindful of those Palestinian, Israeli, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian members of our community who have been directly affected by this conflict.

“We are also particularly conscious of increased racist and xenophobic incidents happening closer to home. The SRC condemns all forms of discrimination, including antisemitism and Islamophobia, and we encourage our community to challenge prejudice wherever it arises.”

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