Jewish students at the University of Essex were left shocked as students rallied in an attempt to block the establishment of a new Jewish Society on campus. Until now, the university’s Jewish students have not had an organised body.
When founding a new student society through the University of Essex Students’ Union, approval is needed by the student body, so as usual students were allowed the opportunity to vote whether or not to permit the establishment of the Jewish Society.
The proposal was met with heavy opposition. 200 students voted against the establishment of a Jewish Society, including members of societies such as the “K-Pop Society” and “Pokémon Go Society.” In total, over 500 students voted, with 64% voting for the establishment of a Jewish Society, but 36% of students voting against Jewish students being permitted to organise.
Students were not alone in voicing their opposition. A lecturer, Dr Maaruf Ali, openly and vociferously opposed the establishment of a Jewish Society, writing on Facebook that “the Zionists next want to create a society here at our university!”
Dr Ali has previously posted conspiracy theories alleging “Zionist” control of the media, and has shared far-right content alleging Mossad involvement in the 2015 terror attack in Paris. He has also shared a post claiming that the Jewish population of Europe actually rose during the Holocaust, and equated Israel with Nazi Germany. The Jewish News has reported that he is now under investigation by the university. A spokesperson told the Jewish News that they are “looking into the allegations as a matter of urgency in accordance with our zero tolerance policy.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism is making representations to the University seeking disciplinary action not only against Dr Ali, but also some of the students who sought to prevent the establishment of a Jewish Society. The Union of Jewish Students has forcefully condemned both those who voted against the establishment of the Jewish Society and Dr Ali.
If any students are concerned about antisemitism on campus or need assistance, they can call us on 0330 822 0321, or e-mail [email protected].