Following a speech to students at the University of Kent in which journalist Amira Hass reportedly claimed that the “Elders of Zion” planned “colonial” hegemony over Palestinians, the Head of the Office of the Vice Chancellor has told Campaign Against Antisemitism that no action will be taken.
“Elders of Zion” is a phrase used absolutely exclusively in the context of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, the antisemitic fabrication first published in 1903 which alleges the existence of a Jewish conspiracy to further the interests of Jewish people to the detriment of mankind, and forms the basis for many antisemitic conspiracy myths. Neither the organisers nor attendees appear to have spoken out.
Hass is quoted by blogger David Colier as saying: “And I ask myself did the Elders of Zion really sit together at the beginning of the seventies and then during the nineties, and plan, and have all these military orders, all these changes?” The remark was allegedly made on 28th January at a conference entitled “Israel and the Palestinians: Colonialism and Prospects for Justice” which was a joint event by University of Kent and SOAS.
Asked to clarify the University’s position and what action will now be taken to prevent the use of further antisemitic rhetoric at the University under the guise of political discourse about Israel, David Powell, Head of the Office of the Vice Chancellor confirmed to us that no action would be taken, writing:
“A debate may doubtless be had about the precise point that Ms Hass may have been making in her own presentation but we would note that she is a bona fide (and award winning) journalist working for a respected Israeli newspaper.”
Claiming that the “Elders of Zion” plotted the subjugation of Arabs is not free speech; it is hate speech.
Using that phrase is inexcusable, especially when the person using it is doing so advisedly to an audience of students, knowing the full connotations of her words, both as a Jew and as an “award-winning” journalist.
It is a disgrace that the University of Kent has decided that no action will be taken against the organisers, and that no change in policy is required to prevent antisemitic rhetoric disguised as political discourse in the future.
You may wish to contact the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask what action will be taken to protect Jewish students. You may also wish to express your views to David Powell on 01227 826 596.