The Secretary of the University of Sheffield Jewish Society today released a statement on a Facebook group set up to oppose us expressing the feelings of vulnerability and harassment felt by some Jewish students towards our occupation. The text of this statement is viewable at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/topic.php?uid=60170581533&topic=9766.
Below, Jewish activists within our occupation respond to the statement.
We are writing as Jewish activists from within the occupation in response to fears and concerns expressed by J-Soc. Although we regret any feeling of victimisation on the part of any Jewish student, or any student of another ethnic minority, we wish to make it entirely clear that our occupation is unambiguously opposed to anti-Semitism, which we believe can play no positive role in any movement to fight for peace and justice in the Middle East.
Unlike some, we do not dismiss out of hand the notion that anti-Semitism exists within the Palestine solidarity movement; however, many of the activists involved in our occupation have been at the forefront of fighting those elements and attempting to build a movement in which Jews who oppose the Israeli state's oppression of the Palestinians are made to feel welcome.
The motivation behind this occupation is ultimately anti-racist: we feel revolted by the callous attitudes which see Palestinian lives as disposable, and it is exactly this feeling of solidarity that leads us – and our gentile comrades – to oppose anti-Semitism wherever it occurs, whether inside or outside the movement. The very first principle of our code of conduct clearly states that racism (as well as other forms of discriminatory behaviour such as sexism and homophobia) is unacceptable and will not be tolerated within the safe space we have created.
It is also not the case that our occupation is hostile to Israeli-Jews as a people. Our opposition is to the Israeli state and its oppression of the Palestinians and occupation of their land; far from expressing hostility to Israeli-Jews, one of our demands is that the university expresses its solidarity with those brave Israeli students who have faced jail rather than serve in the IDF in what they feel is an unjust and immoral war. We stand in solidarity with progressive, democratic and radical forces across the world – including within Israeli society.
We cannot see any reason why any of the slogans raised by our occupation would be seen as threatening or anti-Semitic; however, if students do have genuine concerns about feeling threatened, we invite them to explain what their problems are, so we can work our concerns out together and clean up any misunderstandings that may have arisen. Any student with concerns about the impact of our occupation is welcome to visit our occupied space to discuss with us without any fear of intimidation or harassment.
Without wishing to trivialise or dismiss any concerns our fellow students may feel, we would also wish to invite anyone who feels intimidated by the sight of a few solidarity banners in a building to take a moment to think of the plight of Palestinian students attempting to study under military occupation, as it is this sense of compassion for people who are having their educations – and their lives – disrupted which drove us to this course of action in the first place.
We are proud to identify with a long, varied and rich cosmopolitan tradition of radical diaspora Jews, from Emma Goldman to Albert Einstein, and thoroughly resent the idea that an identity as diverse, multifaceted and gloriously indefinable as Judaism should be tied to a narrowly nationalist, militaristic ideology, with diaspora Jews asked to either silence criticism of Israel or else be made to feel somehow “less Jewish”. Furthermore, and as we have said, a considerable opposition movement – comprising working-class forces, refusers, anti-war activists and others – exists within Israel itself, which sees no problem with combining Jewish cultural identity with criticism of, and opposition to, the Israeli ruling-class.
Finally, we disassociate ourselves entirely from the incident in which a 'boycott Israeli goods' sticker was placed on the J-Soc noticeboard. Our occupation has no policy on the question of a boycott and many activists within it oppose the tactic. We wish to reiterate our total opposition to all forms of racism (including anti-Semitism), our commitment to internationalist solidarity with the Palestinian people and our support for Israeli-Jews struggling for peace and justice for all peoples in the Middle East.
Jewish activists within the occupation (in personal capacities)