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Posted on Feb 1, 2013

York University

York University

Untitled1In March 2007, Ahron Cohen (right), leader of the extremist Jewish sect Neturei Karta, spoke at the University of York, on behalf of Amnesty International and the York Palestine Solidarity Campaign [1]. His visit appalled Jewish students and Jewish rabbis in the region. Ahron Cohen had stated, a year before, that the Holocaust dead “deserved it”[2].

 

Similarly, Cohen was present at Iran’s Holocaust Denial conference in 2006 – paid for by the Iranian foreign ministry –  and was warmly greeted by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian President and infamous supporter of terrorism. One fellow speaker at Iran’s conference included David Duke, former “imperial wizard” of the white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan.[3]

Cohen’s invitation was provided by the York Islamic Society and the student branch of Amnesty International, run by a student named Nina Gora. [4] The York Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) – then a local group and not a student society – provided assistance.

Gora was responsible for a number of anti-Semitic actions while a student at the University of York. After Jewish students criticised her warm welcome of a man supportive of Holocaust deaths, Gora’s response was that the actions of the Jewish students was “selfish”. [5]

The University of York provides an curious case-study. It is a small university mostly devoid of student far-Left and far-Right politics. On that basis, one would expect less bigotry and extremism; but in fact, a number of incidents has made Jewish and LGBT students extremely uncomfortable. It is because such hatreds are somewhat unexpected that makes the University of York an important example.

 

The extremism and the university’s subsequent apologism feeds out into the wider world. Gora now works for Oxfam,  and in 2010 she signed a letter that voiced support for Hamas, the religiously supremacist terrorist group that calls for the genocide of all Jews, murders homosexuals and throws its political opponents off rooftops. Additionally, Gora described the now-verified recording by Turkish IHH activists shouting, “Go back to Auschwitz” before the Israeli boarding of the flotilla to Gaza as a forgery and suggests it is the product of conspiracy. [6].

This report is a short briefing on the varying forms of extremism found at the University of York over the last few years.

British National Party

In 2008, a British National Party (BNP) campaigner distributed leaflets through the campus internal mail system. A University spokesperson confirmed that two leaflets, one of which describes Muslims as Britain’s “greatest enemy”, had been received by a number of staff via their internal mail. The material was contained in blank envelopes and addressed to individual staff and academics by name[7].

 

Violent Extremism

On 29th November 2010, a group of students smashed the window of a University of York campus resident who had an Israeli flag showing. The previous day, the victim told StandforPeace that objects were thrown at his window by students who could be heard shouting: “Jew!”. This incident was reported to the University but no action was taken.

 

Student Union Racism

In October 2011, Lawrence Binitie, the Racial Equality Officer for the University of York Students’ Union (YUSU), stated, during a discussion with a local Labour Councillor, about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly, that: “I would be ashamed, if I was from Israel or even Jewish, to be associated with this.” When challenged by the Jewish councillor, the YUSU official replied: “Like it or not, as a Jew, you are inextricably linked to Israel.” After being told to “go to hell,” he remarked: “Sounds like a Jewish response to me.”[8]

After coming under criticism, the YUSU official resigned from his position, but refused to admit that his comments were anti-Semitic, stating instead: “My words were clumsy and unwise, but no more.” He also added: “Expressing my disapproval of what is happening in Israel is part of my job as the Racial Equality Officer … The atrocities occurring [in the disputed territories] are as severe as apartheid South Africa … Anyone who speaks up is labelled an anti-Semite.”

The University of York student newspaper which first reported on the story also ran an editorial in which it dismissed the YUSU official’s anti-Semitic views as “a private matter,” and further opined that the Racial Equality Officer was “guilty of being strong viewed and reacting unwisely more than anything.”

Calling on YUSU to “protect one of its own,” the editorial concluded: “The Israeli-Palestine conflict creates strong opinions and fierce debates and while the YUSU Officer’s comments were verging on the stronger or militant stance, a YUSU driven peace operation was surely not the best way to sort out this conflict.”[9]

University Apologism

On 28th May 2012, the University of York’s English Department jointly held an event at which notorious pro-Hamas politician Baroness Jenny Tonge was the guest speaker.[10] Despite hundreds of complaints, including an appeal from Baroness Deech, chair of the Bar Standards Board, the event went ahead.

In 2004, Tonge was forced to resign as a spokesman for her party after saying of Palestinian suicide bombers: “If I had to live in that situation – and I say that advisedly – I might just consider becoming one myself.”

In 2006, she was again condemned by her party’s leadership, this time for saying: “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips.”

In 2009, she travelled to Syria to meet with leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, after which she described Khaled Meshaal as “shrewd, plausible and actually very likeable.”

In 2010, she gave credence to the unfounded allegations that Israeli medical teams were “harvesting” the organs of earthquake victims in Haiti by calling for an independent inquiry into the matter.

In 2012, she was forced to resign as a Liberal Democrat peer after speaking at an event hosted by the Palestinian Return Centre, in which she idolised Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the terror organisation Hamas, and opined: “Israel is not going to be there forever in its present form … Israel will lose support and then they will reap what they have sown.” She also sat in silence as fellow panellist Ken O’Keefe compared the Jews to Nazis, blaming them for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

When criticised for inviting Baroness Jenny Tonge, a spokesman for York PEN said that they would not cancel the event, and invoking a lazy anti-Semitic canard, added: “In the [United] States, in particular, it is a commonplace that no President will be elected without the ‘Jewish vote’. While this is not so apparent in Britain, might there be a case for seeing the support of Israeli lobbyists in terms of election politics?”[11].

University Staff

Untitled2In 2009, Andrew Collingwood, an ‘equality advisor’ and member of the local Palestine Solidarity Campaign, published photos of a protest with which he was involved, including one of a placard that was deemed deeply offensive by Jewish groups, anti-racism organisations and media outlets. In response, Collingwood claimed: “The image was clearly found by an individual searching for a reason to label me an anti-Semite. I regard this as the latest move in a campaign to harass me at work because of my connection to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.” [12] Collingwood’s claim that the condemnation of his anti-Semitism was political chicanery echoed the very message his placard had implied. The University, abandoning its duty of care, decided to join in with this message, announced that, “The University does not take a position on political issues.”[13] Furthermore, the University ‘equality’ office later forced the student newspaper to remove the article from their website.

The is a strong link between University staff and the local branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, an organisation described by the BBC as ‘radical’ and supportive of terrorism. The York PSC’s newsletter is sent out by Professor David Pegg, a lecturer within the Biology department. A staff member of the mathematics department, John Bibby, is an active member of ‘Viva Palestina’, an organisation noted for its support for Syria’s murderous dictator Bashar Al-Assad as well as its financial support for the terror group Hamas.

Untitled3The York branch of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign has often appeared to have no qualms about expressing anti-Jewish sentiments. The Chairman of the York branch, Terry Gallogly, encouraged members of his mailing list to distort a poll about the far-right English Defence League in order to paint British Jews as racists.

Gallogly, also a member of the national executive of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, was partly responsible for the visit of Ahron Cohen from the extremist sect Neturei Karta in 2007. Furthermore, the previous chair, Stephen Leah, helped produce a report calling for the banning of goods from the World’s only Jewish state. His same report promoted the writings of the Christian Far Right author Stephen Sizer, who has many known links to Holocaust-deniers.[14]

In 2004, a vigil at Clifford’s Tower, to commemorate the terrible massacre of Jews in 1190, was gatecrashed by PSC activists, who saw fit to exploit the murder of more than 110 Jews with their own political agitprop. [15]

Baroness Afshar, a lecturer at the University, has spoken at events organised by the York PSC[16]. According to one student who spoke to StandforPeace, during a lecture to students, Afshar equated Hamas with the French Resistance.

 

Hate Preachers

In 2011, the York Islamic Society invited infamous hate preachers Hamza Tzortzis and Mohammed ibn Adam Al-Kawthari to address students. Tzortzis wants to criminalise homosexuality, and equates it with paedophilia and cannibalism. Al-Kawthari has issued a fatwa supporting marital rape should a woman refuse sexual intercourse from her husband.

In 2012, not much had changed: students were addressed in June by Yusuf Chambers from the Islamic Education and Research Academcy (iERA), an organisation that spews hatred against Jews and homosexuals. During an interview with Dr Zakir Naik (banned from Britain for hate preaching), Chambers specifically asks the scholar what the punishment for homosexuality should be:

Dr Naik replies: “So homosexuality is forbidden in Islam and the punishment for homosexuality is death.”[17]

Chambers has also stated that Sharia law should be implemented in the United Kingdom and has called for the ‘stoning to death’ of adulterers. In the same interview with Zakir Naik:

 

Dr Naik: That means if any man or woman who is not married, if they have unlawful sexual intercoolers, the punishment is 100 lashes, flogging them with 100 lashes… So the punishment for adultery, unlawful sexual intercourse done by married man is Islam, it is stoning to death.

Yusuf Chambers: Well, Dr. Zakir, I feel that those 2 punishments were enough to frighten the most of the individuals from Zina [adultery]. May Allah protect us from that.

Dr. Naik: That’s in Islamic country but the punishment is not there in a non-muslim country.

So If it’s put through out the world, InshaAllah, Zina would be removed from the face of the earth.

Yusuf Chambers: InshaAllah [God-willing]

Dr. Naik: InshaAllah

Yusuf Chambers: May Allah allow us to bring back that punishment to protect all humanity, InshaAllah.[18]

 

David Duncan, the University Academic Registrar, supported the event and said: “Mr Chambers was permitted to speak on the campus, in accordance with our commitment to the principles of free speech.”

The University’s putative liberalism was somewhat marred by the fact that the University and hosting student society banned all questions addressing Chambers’ violent rhetoric[19]. It is quite clear that the University was not supporting free speech at all; instead, it chose to whitewash extremism and markedly failed to protect the welfare of its students.


Politicising Human Rights

In March 2012, the University of York’s Centre for Applied Human Rights was criticised for running an event with the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.

The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign defended the event, and told one student newspaper, The Yorker, that, “These were workshops and discussions with four young Palestinian women who told us about the refugee crisis and human rights abuses caused by Israel’s decades-long military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. The events were all packed-out, and attendees commented that the day had been inspiring and that it had been an honour to meet the women and learn about their lives.

“Regarding the accusations, The Yorker’s source displays a fine command of Gricean illocutionary considerations in the service of political insinuation, but is somewhat ill-informed when it comes to the PSC. I suggest that he improves his knowledge by consulting our website,” they added.

The York PSC’s website contained, until recently, a sentence regretting that Israelis could not longer be ‘pushed into the sea’.[20]

 

1 – http://www.nouse.co.uk/2007/03/06/anti-zionist-talk-on-campus-leads-to-religious-flashpoint/

2 – Rabbi claims Holocaust dead ‘deserved it’, The Times, 17 December 2006

3 – ibid.

4 – http://www.nouse.co.uk/wp-content/print_edition_archive/06_03_07/1.pdf

5 – http://www.nouse.co.uk/2007/03/06/anti-zionist-talk-on-campus-leads-to-religious-flashpoint/

6 – www.normanfinkelstein.com/docs/BBC_Complaint_10_6_10_final_version.doc

7 – http://www.nouse.co.uk/2008/04/10/bnp-campaigner-poses-as-academic/

8 – http://www.yorkvision.co.uk/news/yusu-racial-equality-officer-resigns-over-anti-semitic-comments/

9 – http://www.nouse.co.uk/wp-content/article_images/body/2011/10/12-and-37.pdf

10 – http://www.york.ac.uk/english/news-events/events/2012/jenny-tonge/

11 – http://yorkpen.tumblr.com/post/19735892330/freespeechandpartypolitics

12 – http://www.nouse.co.uk/2009/02/17/response-from-andrew-collingwood/

13-http://web.archive.org/web/20090301010507/http://www.nouse.co.uk/2009/02/13/university-defends-%E2%80%98racist%E2%80%99-council-member/ (copy of removed article)

14 – http://hurryupharry.org/2009/06/07/stephen-sizer-accuses-evangelicals-now-of-equivalent-to-holocaust-denial/

15 – http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/archive/2004/03/19/York+Archive/7890386.Memorial_hijacked/

16 – http://www.yorkpsc.org.uk/archive/news-and-planned-events

17 – http://www.onlyislam.net/ramadhaan/fffff/Episode23.pdf

18 – http://www.onlyislam.net/ramadhaan/fffff/Episode23.pdf

19 – http://www.nouse.co.uk/2012/06/19/isoc-defends-yusuf-chambers-event-2/

20 – http://standforpeace.org.uk/sfp/?p=328

 

 

 

 

 

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