Jewish students ‘shocked’ at Goldsmiths UCU response to Israel war

Jewish students have condemned the failure of their university’s staff union to acknowledge Israeli casualties in the war against Hamas.

The Jewish society of Goldsmiths, University of London, said it was “upset” and “shocked” by the statement released by the university’s branch of the University and College Union (GUCU) which also failed to express concern about Jewish students and staff facing antisemitism.

In its statement, GUCU said: “We recognise that the current situation in Palestine cannot be divorced from the ongoing system of Israel’s settler colonialism, apartheid and illegal occupation, and the continuous denial of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. 

“In the face of the appalling mass ethnic cleansing, we stand with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, justice and equality in the land of Palestine/Israel.”

The statement did not mention Israeli victims and hostages taken by Hamas. The UCU represents more than 100,000 lecturers and university staff across the UK.

The university’s Jewish Society said: “Many of our students were upset  by the statement released by Goldsmiths’ branch of the University and College Union.

“Having sympathy or the ability to acknowledge the pain of loss of life should be second nature.

“We were shocked that our educators showed little recognition for the 200+ who lost their lives at the Nova music festival and for the families who were murdered whilst still in their own homes.”

STATEMENT: The Jewish society said it was saddened by GUCU’s statement on the conflict

The society added that it was prompted to make a statement after a protest on campus and the wider demonstrations in London last weekend, where some protesters chanted “jihad”.

Last week about 80 students gathered at Goldsmiths, in New Cross, southeast London, for a pro-Palestinian rally organised by the university’s Marxist society. They demanded Goldsmiths’ senior management to “decry the injustices of the Israeli state”.

The senior management team had released a statement condemning the violation of the human rights of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians in the war and encouraged students to “remain sensitive to the views of others”. 

Goldsmiths’ Jewish society welcomed the statement, which recognised difficulties experienced by both Jewish students and those with family and friends in Gaza.

A spokesman for Goldsmiths said: “We have written to the union executive to make them aware that their statement has regrettably caused upset for students and staff at what is already a very challenging time for our community.  

“The leadership team at Goldsmiths has set out its position on the crisis in the Middle East, which prioritises support and safety for everyone in the Goldsmiths community. This also includes guidance for students and staff, including reminding our community that Hamas is a proscribed terrorist organisation.”  

The Jewish society from another London university, which wanted to remain anonymous because it received several threats online and offline, said: “There is a worry that going to campus at all is not safe any more, both because of the journey there and the potential environment on campus.

“Many students are hiding that they are Jewish and events need to be provided with additional security.”

The society added that there was concern among Jewish students that the “university climate is hostile to us and that antisemitism and anti-Jewish sentiment is not taken seriously enough by the administration”. 

In the three weeks since the Hamas attacks on October 7, 55 antisemitic incidents related to students have been reported to the Community Security Trust, a charity that protects British Jews from antisemitism and related threats. This is more than three times the amount of such incidents in the first six months of this year, when 17 incidents were reported.

The Community Security Trust has recorded 661 antisemitic incidents in total since October 7. This is an increase of 687 per cent on the 84 incidents reported in the same period last year. 

Goldsmiths UCU has been contacted for comment.

Featured image: Goldsmiths, University of London. Credit: Goldsmiths

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