Open letter from former members Oxford University Labour Club
This week the members of Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) voted to endorse so-called “Israel Apartheid Week”. As former Chairs and Executive members of OULC, we oppose this decision and condemn it. We support the decision of one of the current Co-Chairs, Alex Chalmers, to resign in response.
Israel Apartheid Week purports to be a conference promoting intellectual discussion. In reality it is little more than a gathering of propagandists seeking to dismantle the only majority-Jewish member-state of the United Nations. It principally serves as a vehicle for promoting the academic, cultural and economic isolation of the Jewish state. In doing so, it strengthens the hand of those who oppose the two-state solution and emboldens extremists who seek to “resolve” the conflict by extinguishing one of the parties to it.
It is wrong to contend that Israel – a multiracial democracy - even remotely resembles the horrors of South Africa’s racist dictatorship. Israel is a nation largely composed of refugees and their descendants – from both Europe and the Arab world, living in a land to which they have deep historical and religious ties.
Worse, the appropriation of the term “apartheid” is an affront to black South Africans. The supporters of Israel Apartheid Week would do well to remember the words of Nelson Mandela: “As a movement we recognise the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism just as we recognise the legitimacy of Zionism as a Jewish nationalism. We insist on the right of the state of Israel to exist within secure borders, but with equal vigour support the Palestinian right to national self-determination.” We share this vision and believe it is in the best traditions of OULC.
We don’t pretend for a second that there are no problems in Israel-Palestine. We have not forgotten Israel’s military occupation. We don’t ignore the imperfections of Israeli society. We don’t overlook the tragedy of conflict. But we are troubled by OULC’s decision and feel compelled to speak out.
Finally, we observe with horror what Mr Chalmers describes in his note of resignation as co-Chair from OULC: “members of the Executive throwing around the term ‘Zio’ (a term for Jews usually confined to websites run by the Ku Klux Klan)’”; senior members expressing “solidarity” with Hamas; claims that “most accusations of anti-Semitism are just the Zionists crying wolf” and the fact that “a large proportion of both OULC and the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews”.
This is not the OULC we remember and which we proudly led. OULC and the Labour Party have a long and distinguished history of fighting racism and injustice. We urge the current members to remember that tradition and to reconsider their decision.
Tom Adams - Co-Chair 2012
Ayo Ajanaku - Co-Chair 2009
Emily Benn - Executive Committee 2009
Anthony Breach - Co-Chair 2012
Mark Baker - Co-Chair 2007
Kieran Cunningham - Co-Chair 2010
Helena Dollimore - Co-Chair 2013
Jack Evans - Co-Chair 2011
Kevin Feeney - Co-Chair 2012
David Green - Co-chair 2008
Lincoln Hill - Chair 2011
Sarah Hutchinson - Co-Chair 2008
Colin Jackson - Co-Chair 2011
Aled Jones - Co-Chair 2013
Stephen Longden - Chair 2005
Ben Lyons - Co-Chair 2009
Sapan Maini-Thompson - Executive Committee 2014
Jonathan Metzer - Co-Chair 2013
Martin McCluskey - Co-Chair 2005
Martha MacKenzie - Executive Committee 2009
Phillip Patterson - Co-Chair 2006
Tom Rutland - Executive Committee 2011
Kathleen Shields - Co-Chair 2011
Alistair Strathern - Co-Chair 2010
Jamie Susskind - Co-Chair 2009
Alice Taylor - Co-Chair 2008
Jacob Turner - Co-Chair 2009