The Equality and Diversity Officer at Oriel College, Oxford, has claimed that a protest against the statue of Cecil Rhodes at the college turned antisemitic, according to the JC.
The protest to remove the statue, held by the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign reportedly in solidarity with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, featured a speaker from the University of Leeds who blamed Israel for the racist American police brutality that killed George Floyd. The speaker claimed that “the American police are trained by the Israel oppression army. They are united against us.” He went on to accuse his university “like many others” of “invest[ing] in Israeli apartheid”.
However, the Equality and Diversity Officer of Oriel Middle Common Room told the JC: “A speaker stood up and started bringing up Israel in a context where you wouldn’t really expect Israel to be relevant. He started talking conspiratorially about how Israel was responsible for racism and he used the antisemitic tropes of bringing Israel in where Israel is not relevant”. The officer, in attendance at the protest, raised his concerns to those around him but in return “received threatening stares” and opted to leave the protest after being made to feel “uncomfortable”.
It is understood that numerous Jewish and non-Jewish students subsequently approached the officer in his official capacity about the protest, saying that they were “hurt and concerned” following the remarks by the inflammatory speaker.
The officer called on Oxford branches of the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaigns to “distance themselves from the speaker and the portion of the crowd that cheered” his comments. He also called on Oriel College to condemn the comments.
This is not the first time that activists with their own agendas have tried to co-opt concern for and protests against anti-black racism for their own agendas, including by blaming the Jewish state.