OPINION: Hate chants, flyers and banners – enough of this antisemitic insanity on campus

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OPINION: Hate chants, flyers and banners – enough of this antisemitic insanity on campus

Students have the responsibility to be the ones who say 'We’ve had enough of antisemitic bullying and hate'. We must take a stand, writes Edgar Santos, president of Bristol JSoc

Bristol University, Pic: Edgar Santos
Bristol University, Pic: Edgar Santos

Antisemitism is a strange concept. It’s unjustified, unfounded and irrational. Why is hate and anger awakened upon the sight of an individual or group that is different? Ever since the existence of this form of racism, both the perpetrators of antisemitism themselves and Jews have attempted to tackle this question.

Arriving on campus as a fresher. these questions and debates swirled at the back of my head. Having, for the majority of my life, only attended Jewish schools, surely the same welcoming environment and respectful environment would be translated onto campus? Yes, bigots and antisemites exist everywhere but surely all the tales and accounts are just scary stories my mum got off Facebook, right?

Well, not really. The more I walked around campus, the more I realised the truth. The chants and the flyers, the banners and posters all painted a very ugly picture. There was dis-unification and vitriol plastered everywhere.

Bristol University. 2024

It was then I decided to stand for president of the Bristol Jsoc – we as students, had to be the ones to spread a message of unification and of peace. We had to be the ones who said: we’ve had enough of the bullying and the hate – we are making a clear stand.

The more I walked around campus, the more I realised the truth. The chants and the flyers, the banners and posters all painted a very ugly picture. There was dis-unification and vitriol plastered everywhere.

And so, once elected, I began alongside the committee the arduous process of tackling hate. Despite having just begun, it is very clear why progress has been halted in the past. With the university administration and student union time and time again simply nodding their heads across boardroom tables but never really taking action, I understood that this project must go beyond meetings and bureaucracies. Naturally the reaction to this slow progress is to give up, to lay down our strifes and simply walk on, but that is no stance to take.

Edgar Santos

Jewish students across the nation are scared. They fear what may happen if we raise our heads above the ground. Let this be a message to all students: as long as we live in this fear we lose the momentum to fight back. We have, and always have had the power to enact change where we want to see it. May the early Zionists be of inspiration; they went out and against all odds created a haven for Jews everywhere.

They lacked funding, support and resources but nonetheless they established the only democracy in the Middle East. We too can take action. There is nothing that is beyond our reach. We must not feel forlorn or helpless. Our stance MUST be that enough is enough. Enough of the antisemitic vitriol on campus and academic spaces.

Alongside other Jsocs and UJS (Union of Jewish Students) we will continue pushing for cross communalism and education to break down these barriers. We have been involved in projects that will ensure university staff and students are adequately aware of what crosses the line into antisemitism.

Widely, there is ignorance around what is or isn’t antisemitic – more action needs to be taken to ensure that everyone is aware.

A group of students led by the Socialist Workers Student Society occupied a main university building (Senate House) and carried out a ‘teach in’ about ‘weaponising antisemitism’ and David Miller. Pic: Edgar Santos

Granted all of this, it’s obvious that some things can’t happen from night to day. Recent events have proven that no matter how much progress we hope to have made, an uphill struggle is always around the corner. The universities’ over-cautiousness still seems like a hardship to face. Regardless, we must continue to push, lobby and pressure campuses and faculties to make our student life better.

Sure – two Jews, three opinions, but let’s now take the opportunity to all come together under one banner of peace and create an environment in our learning institutions free of hate.

  • Edgar Santos is president of Bristol JSoc
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