King's Evangelical Divinity School

10 February 2010

In Britain's hallowed halls of academia... "Kill the Jews"

The Times today reports on how, during an address to the Oxford Union by the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, a pro-Palestinian protester allegedly shouted out, "Kill the Jews!"

It's quite one thing thing for one or other side to express disagreement, even anger (though this achieves nothing), over the current Middle East conflict. But imagine the outrage (and rightly so) if at a similar meeting a Jewish student had shouted out, "Death to Arabs!" For that matter, imagine attending a meeting where someone called for the death of Whites, Asians, Blacks, or whatever other ethnic group. We would be pretty united in our disgust and outrage.

Yet in keeping with a recent recorded rise in anti-Semitic incidents here in the UK, it seems this kind of thing seems to go on quite a bit on British campuses, while condemnation does not always seem to be immediate and concerted. It's almost as if racist abuse towards Jews is somehow different from that aimed at other ethnic groups, and definitely so if the target is Israeli. Even one of the comments following the Times story complained about the Jews hijacking the term "Semitic", while another remarked Israelis couldn't handle free speech.

It seems, though, that the student in question might be out of luck because the Deputy FM, in a new policy of zero tolerance towards anti-Semitic abuse, is apparently looking at the video evidence to see if he can pursue the matter through our race hate laws. Good!


Philip said...

Good on them. And good on the Oxford Union for kicking him out. If indeed this person was a student, the proctors should look into booting him out of the university too. Racism is always and everywhere wrong.

Andrew Sibley said...

Yes I can imaging that Jews feel threatened in this country and we should work to protect them. There are often pro-Palestinian demonstrators on the campus of my university, which I have often thought must make Jewish students, who may even have little connection with the Middle East, feel unwelcome.

That comment was in Arabic - not a language many western people know so I am guessing it was from a Palestinian or Arab Muslim - and it is probably repeated many times in private. There is a need for us all to work for peace and respect across the board and not get caught up in favouring one side or the other.

But it is the case that Palestinians and Arabs are as much Semitic people as Jews, and they are suffering too. What if an Israeli deputy defence minister were to call for a 'Shoah' against Palesatinians ? Would that be anti semitic?

To what extent should the Israeli government take responsibility for the rise of anti-semitism in the world because of its actions?

Philip said...

Andrew, to your last point I have to say, absolutely none.

Let me explain: there is a fundamental difference between causality and moral responsibility. This means that even if the actions of the Israeli government could be shown to cause anti-Semitism, it would still be wrong to be anti-Semitic, and the moral responsibility for anti-Semitic statements and actions would lie with those who made and took them.

I say this as someone who disagrees with many of the actions of the Israeli government. Anti-Semitism is wrong. I note from reading Cherwell that this incident has been reported to the university proctors.

Calvin L. Smith said...

Pretty unequivocal, Philip, and I agree. Otherwise, we reach the stage where it is conceivably possible to justify racism if the circumstances are "right".

Update: Oxford Uniuon have released this statement:

Philip said...

Thanks Calvin. I think it's important to understand what causes racism, but that should never distract from the fact that racism is wrong plain and simple. God treats us equally, so we should therefore do the same.

On understanding racism, this is a very good piece:

Calvin L. Smith said...

Philip, I just a piece you posted on your blog about Christians and development work. I'd be very interested to know a little more about your educational and Christian background. A colleague and I were discussing the piece and thought it was thoughtful and interesting.

Calvin L. Smith said...

Sorry, missed out the word "read" after "I just..."

Andrew Sibley said...

Peter - I am not sure it is as simple as that. There is social responsibility to others as well as personal responsibility. A root of bitterness in one person can defile many others. "See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." Heb 12:15
So I would argue that governments do have social responsibility not to enflame hatred in others.

Philip said...

Andrew, I both agree with you and disagree with you.

I agree that the government of Israel has a duty to act justly and is responsible for its actions. But I don't agree that they should always worry about whether others hate them: sometimes an individual or a government will act justly and others will hate them for it. In this case the duty is to act justly.

As an example, imagine the British government announces legislation to protect homosexuals from violent attack. Then a group of neo-Nazis attack five random homosexual men they find because they are angry at this new law. Who is to blame? Well, the government caused (in a strict sense) the attack, but I don't think anyone would argue that anyone but the attackers were to blame. I think it's a much more fundamental duty to act rightly, and while I agree that where possible people shouldn't antagonise others, this isn't the imperative in this situation.