Hundreds of students at the University of Essex have voted against setting up a Jewish society on the campus, while a lecturer voiced his opposition on Facebook claiming it was a group for ‘Zionists’.
More than 200 student union members – around a third of those polled – answered ‘no’ to the question ‘Should there be a Jewish society?’.
The proposal to start the group appeared on the student union website, whose rules state that any new society must be ratified by securing votes.
Around 200 students at the University of Essex (pictured) voted against establishing a Jewish society on campus
Only registered students can vote in the poll.
‘We are deeply disappointed by the significant proportion of students who have voted against the establishment of a Jewish society at the University of Essex,’ a spokesman for the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) said.
Dr Maaruf Ali from University of Essex reportedly said ‘Zionists’ were behind the proposed Jewish society
‘Jewish societies, of which over 60 exist on UK campuses up and down the country, provide a space for Jewish students to celebrate their culture and identity.
‘The fact that some students at the University of Essex deem it fit to vote against that is quite simply shocking.’
The row has also embroiled a lecturer at the university, Dr Maanuf Ali, who the UJS say has displayed anti-Semitic views.
Dr Ali also expressed opposition to the idea of a Jewish society on a Facebook post on the University of Essex Freshers’ Page 2018-2019.
The original post said that Israel plans to ‘expel 36,000 Palestinians from the Negev’, and Dr Ali commented that ‘the Zionists next want to create a society here at our university!’
It is not the first time Dr Ali has shared questionable and controversial material on Facebook, including one post that appeared to deny the Holocaust.
The computers and electronic lecturer shared a quote attributed to Edgar J Steele, an attorney who defended the white separatist organisation the ‘Aryan Nations’.
Dr Ali, who lecturers in computer and economists at the University of Essex, has shared conspiracy theories about Jews on Facebook multiple times
The quote reads: ‘In all of German Occupied Europe, there resided 2.4 million Jews before the war, according to the world Jewish encyclopedia.
‘After the war, 3.8 million Jewish ‘Holocaust survivors’ were receiving pensions from the German government.’
The quote continues: ‘Tragically, the remaining 6 million were lost.’
Additionally, Dr Ali shared a picture stating that ‘50,000 Jews protest[ed] Israel’ in March 2016 in New York, but that there was a ‘total mainstream media blackout by the Zionist mafia’.
The previous year he shared a photo from a fascist website which claimed that one of the French policemen shot dead in the Paris terrorist attack in January 2015 was secretly ‘a Mossad agent live and well in Buenos Aires… a crypto-Jew in the service of Israeli intelligence’.
A UJS spokesman said: ‘We will be talking to the University about his views – we want a full disciplinary investigation and the strongest possible for a staff member who has allegedly engaged in racist hate speech and discrimination.’
Dr Ali shared this photo which claims that a French policemen shot dead in the Paris terrorist attack in January 2015 was secretly ‘a Mossad agent live and well in Buenos Aires… a crypto-Jew in the service of Israeli intelligence’
Meanwhile, Colchester MP Will Quince has today described the student union vote as ‘shocking’ and ‘terrible’.
Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, also commented on the row on Twitter, writing to the University: ‘I used to be so proud of hanging out at your gigs and going to events there. This is just awful. How many people voted in total and how many were eligible?’
In response, the university’s Vice Chancellor sent Ms Creasy a letter, which said: ‘All student societies go through a ratification process and we have more than 120 societies covering diverse interest, including culture, music, art and religion.’
Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, received this ‘Extraordinarily poor’ letter in response to her criticism of the University of Essex
‘Alongside our commitment to freedom of speech, we have clear guidelines for student and staff conduct. This includes a zero tolerance towards harassment and hate crime and we will always take appropriate and proportionate action.’
Ms Creasy posted a photograph of the letter on Twitter, writing: ‘If the actual leadership at @Uni_of_Essex cant bring itself to use word Jewish and say it will act to protect students from being demeaned for their religion, how can we expect it to teach students to do so either?
‘Extraordinarily poor letter from vice chancellors office!’
There are already several religious societies currently ratified by the university’s student’s union – including those for Christianity and Islam.
The University of Essex, recently voted ‘University of the Year’, has become embroiled in an anti-Semitism row
The University of Essex was a hotbed of student politics in the 1960s and in the 70’s there were violent clashes with police – but it has recently won the ‘University of the Year’ award.
The UJS are calling for a full investigation and say they are supporting Jewish students at Essex with their next steps.
The application for a Jewish society was approved by the societies guild committee nine days ago and had been posted online for students to vote on.
A spokesman for the University’s Students’ Union said it welcomed the proposed establishment of a Jewish society by student members and recognised the importance of such a society.
He added: ‘As a union we reject any form of hate speech and we are taking all reports of anti-Semitic behaviour extremely seriously and ensuring that these are investigated and acted upon.
‘In particular we are extremely concerned by the reported comments by a member of university staff and we are representing these concerns and those raised by our members, to the university.
He added: ‘Essex students’ union has a proud history of inclusivity and our 16,000 student members come from an incredibly diverse range of nationalities, cultures and religions.’
A University of Essex spokeswoman said they are looking into allegations of comments made by a member of staff regarding the desire of Jewish students to set up their own society.
They are doing so in accordance with the university’s zero tolerance policy, adding: ‘We expect staff, students and visitors to be treated, and to treat each other, with dignity and respect. The ratification process has been a focus for strong debate.
‘As a university, we promote debate and deliberation of controversial issues and, within the limits of the law, encourage students and staff to express views with rigour and conviction.
‘Alongside our commitment to freedom of speech, we also have clear guidelines for student and staff conduct and we have zero tolerance towards harassment or hate crime and will always take appropriate and proportionate action.
‘We are looking into the allegations as a matter of urgency in accordance with our zero tolerance policy.’