Jewish students challenge Queen Mary academics during anti-IHRA event

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Jewish students challenge Queen Mary academics during anti-IHRA event

International politics lecturer Clive Gabay branded the IHRA a 'bad conceptual definition... harmful to Palestinians, to anti-racism and even to Jews.'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Academic Clive Gabay speaking at the event against IHRA
Academic Clive Gabay speaking at the event against IHRA

Jewish students confronted a group of academics at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), taking part in an event aimed at building opposition to the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

As part of a programme of events timed to take place on a picket line at the university while strike action was taking place, the ‘Resisting and Refusing the IHRA at Queen Mary “teach out” was held on Thursday morning.

Clive Gabay, an international politics lecturer at QMUL had earlier tweeted that he “can’t wait” to co-speak at the event “on why the IHRA definition of antisemitism is a bad conceptual definition… harmful to Palestinians, to anti-racism and even to Jews.”

The academic said he had staged the event at the East End institution to coincide with strike action by colleagues “because QMUL adopted the IHRA without consultation…”

While Gabay, who is Jewish himself, has previously criticised sacked Bristol University Professor David Miller, he has also suggested: “Treating JSocs (and UJS) as the inviolable and unquestioned voice of all Jewish students, who supposedly exist devoid of political cleavages, is itself an antisemitic position to take (i.e. it’s saying that all Jews are the same).”

He has also suggested “antisemitism is taken more seriously than other forms of racism.”

In an October tweet last year he Gabay wrote:”It’s a question about why Jewish student voices are taken so much more seriously than trans, black and/or Muslim student voices. To come closer to home, at my university all it took was for *2* students to meet with our senior management for the university to adopt the IHRA”

But Jewish News has learned that the event attracted complaints before from other academics at the university and Jewish students.

QMUL JSoc President Joel Azulay said:“This event should not have taken place on the picket line and damages the relationship between QMUCU and Jewish students.

“However, as one of the Jewish students who secured the IHRA definition at QMUL, it was necessary to attend this teach out event and respond to the panel’s discourse.

“I certainly rebutted their comments and demonstrated, giving first hand evidence, why the IHRA definition of antisemitism is the definition which protects Jewish students on and off campus and it is here to stay.”

The decision to allow the event to go ahead, which did not feature a speaker defending IHRA and explaining its importance to Jewish students, also prompted complaints from several academics themselves.

It is understood Rabbi Gavin Broder, the London university chaplain, was consulted and said it was under the circumstances better to let it happen rather than shut it down.

The Chaplin also arranged for Rabbi Broder to address Queen Mary’s Jewish Society about the event in due course.

But some academics were angry that the rabbi had been put in a “terrible position” after being approached over the event.

University chiefs reassured those angry about the event taking place that QMUL had adopted the IHRA definition in full.

The Chaplain also observed that the people leading the event were QMUL lecturers and not outside political agitators who were mainly Jewish themselves.

Other academics raised concerns that the controversial event had been allowed to go ahead on Diocese owned land.

After the event took place a Union of Jewish Students spokesperson told Jewish News: “It is bewildering that some academics at Queen Mary University are spending their time talking about the adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism on campus, whilst ignoring the reason why the definition is there in the first place: to protect Jewish students.

“Jewish students at Queen Mary University fought tirelessly for this definition and academics should follow in their footsteps by empowering their students to stand up against anti-Jewish racism, rather than belittling their voices.”

Joel Azulay
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