Rowan Williams offers support to York student after anti-semitic abuse

He received a letter from Rowan Williams following abusive comments on social media

Following the opposition against Palestinian Solidarity Society’s staging of ‘Seven Jewish Children (A Play for Palestine)’, Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has encouraged the government to address the rise of anti-semitism in universities across the UK.

Lord Williams wrote a letter to a York student who had been a victim of anti-semitic abuse, criticising the failures of Christian chaplains in providing support. Zachary Confino, a law student, has received a number of anonymous anti-semitic comments and messages, which Williams was “very shocked” to see.

Zachary Confino received abuse on social media

Confino campaigned against the Palestinian Solidarity Society’s event, releasing leaflets opposing the performance. The current member of the Jewish Society was met with confrontation from them, as well as anonymous anti-semitic comments via social media.

When speaking to the Tab, Confino said, “Personally, I am furious that it has taken this amount of pressure from the press and influential people to make the Uni and YUSU take our concerns seriously.”

“However they still do not accept that the play performed on campus is antisemitic, and they are more concerned in debating with us about what is and what isn’t antisemitism (which is never the case with other minority groups when they experience racism) rather than dealing with the root cause.”

The play’s event page

Lord Williams said, “It’s ironic that just as we are waking up to all sorts of ways in which ‘hate speech’ works we should lose sight of one of the most ancient and poisonous forms of it, in the shape of anti-semitic rhetoric.”

“Anyone concerned (as I am) about Islamophobia here and elsewhere needs to be scrupulously alert to the risk of scapegoating and demonising other religious communities, especially Jews; and anyone with even the least bit of historical sense ought to hear the echoes of past bigotry and violence towards Jewish people in Europe.”

Alongside York, other universities have also been criticised for their lack of response to the rise in anti-semitism amongst students, including Cambridge, Oxford, and LSE.