Dear Oxford University Labour Club,

We were appalled by the Guardian’s report of Oxford University Labour Club’s welcome decision to support Israel Apartheid Week. As academics of Jewish origin we know what antisemitism looks and smells like and we know that IAW is not antisemitic.

The Guardian repeated fact- and evidence-free claims from the rent-a-crowd of inveterate supporters of Zionism without making any attempt to question their claims. While we believe that Apartheid is a correct descriptor of the Israeli state we acknowledge there is legitimate debate about this. We do not, however, accept that attempting to shut down debate by screaming “antisemitism! antisemitism!” is legitimate or helpful.

This slurring of support for Palestinian rights and the attempt to close down debate in universities now appears to be a mainstream Conservative Government policy. We hope for better from Labour Party supporters and especially MPs.

Those of us who are members of the Labour Party will use party processes to question the decision of the party to launch an investigation without even attempting to discover if there is a prima facie case. We believe they should, rather, be launching an investigation of those MPs who rushed to judgement and slandered a student organisation on the basis of their own prejudiced support for a State in repeated breach of international law,

If you would like one of us to address the club on the need for academic boycott, or Jewish support for BDS, please let us know. Or indeed on another topic. For example, some of us were members of a delegation which visited West Bank universities last year and issued a report on Israel’s deliberate campaign of sabotage of their academic life.

We hope you will not be deterred or intimidated from campaigning for the rights of Palestinians by this campaign of abuse and disinformation.

Yours in solidarity

In alphabetical order
Haim Bresheeth
Mike Cushman
Les Levidow
Malcolm Levitt
Moshe Machover
Ilan Pappe
Steven Rose
Jonathan Rosenhead
Andrew Samuels
Lynne Segal

1 March 2016

The signatories received the folowing reply from the club:

Thanks so much for standing in solidarity with us, it means a lot to us given some of the stress we’ve been placed under by the media and the abuse we’ve had on twitter and from friends. It’s especially lovely to receive this support from such a distinguished and large group of academics. 

The debate we had on endorsing IAW was incredibly interesting and rigorous – it was a Palestinian student who proposed the motion, and there were Jewish students, many with family in Israel, who made cases on both sides of the debate. Despite the media attention we’ve had as a result, We’re really proud that we had that debate and don’t regret making our support clear, as a result of the vote in favour, at all.

2 March 2016