Jewish students at Cardiff University have voiced serious concerns about their safety following a student union AGM. The meeting, which did not acknowledge recent Hamas attacks on Israel, passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire and planned educational events aimed at identifying alleged propaganda from Israel and its Defence Forces. This resolution, focused on teaching students “how to spot lies and propaganda,” notably omitted any mention of the October 7 Hamas attacks.
University’s Response to Student Concerns
In response to these developments, the university’s administration expressed deep concern. The deputy vice-chancellor is engaging in discussions with the Jewish Society to address these issues. The university has taken a firm stance, reiterating to all students the need for respect and dignity, emphasizing a zero-tolerance policy towards harassment and discrimination. A review of student behaviors at the AGM and other university events is underway, aiming to publish findings shortly.
Jewish Students’ Experience of Intimidation
Members of Cardiff’s Jewish Society (JSoc) described their experience at the AGM as one of intimidation and abuse, leading to panic attacks among some members. Jewish students felt silenced and now fear for their safety on campus, a sentiment shared widely in their community. Despite these challenges, they remain committed to expressing their Jewish identity and seeking a safe and respectful campus environment.
Students’ Union’s Stance
The Cardiff University Students’ Union, while insisting on the importance of freedom of speech, expressed sadness over the Jewish students’ fear and distress. The union emphasized its commitment to ensuring a discrimination-free environment and addressing any behaviors leading to hate or discrimination. It highlighted the procedural aspects of the AGM, including the random selection of speakers, and noted efforts to remove students using abusive language during the meeting.
Efforts Towards Inclusivity and Understanding
A motion titled “A better and more inclusive university,” tabled by the Islamic Society and supported by JSoc, was also discussed. This motion acknowledged the SU’s commitment to definitions of antisemitism and Islamophobia and aimed to improve student experiences on campus. The Students’ Union President met with JSoc to listen to their concerns and discuss future actions.
Controversy Surrounding the “Ceasefire” Motion
The “ceasefire” motion, a central point of contention, advised students that criticism should be leveled equally at both Hamas and Israel. However, it primarily highlighted Hamas’s use of hostages as a violation of international law, with no mention of Hamas’s violent actions against Israelis. The motion extensively quoted an Amnesty International report accusing Israel of imposing an apartheid system on Palestinians, a claim that has added to the heated debate on campus.
As tensions continue, the university and its student union are working to navigate these complex issues, balancing the need for free speech with the responsibility to ensure a safe and respectful environment for all students. The adopted motions have been sent to Cardiff union’s board of trustees for review, indicating ongoing deliberations and potential actions to address these challenges.