It may be difficult for many to relate to the rarefied air of Oxford University’s student clubs, but nearly everyone will understand the gravity of the decision made by one leader of such a group who, in his resignation notice, called the club on its hideous anti-Semitism.
Perhaps more shocking, sadly, than that the anti-Semitism was so thinly veiled is that the student who resigned from the Oxford University Labour Club, Alex Chalmers, was willing to go public with his denunciation, which he delivered on Facebook on Monday, Feb. 15.
Chalmers, a second year student in Oriel College, Oxford, explained that the trigger for his resignation was the decision earlier the same evening by the OULC to endorse Israel Apartheid Week, which begins next week.
The Oxford student was horrified that the Club chose to endorse Israel Apartheid Week. IAW typically includes the harassment of Jewish students and provides a forum for bringing anti-Semitic speakers to campus. This decision, Chalmers explained, belied the claims some had made that the OULC was interested in improving an increasingly intolerant atmosphere.
Even prior to the vote to endorse the famously distorted annual attack week targeted against Israel were numerous incidents of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel expressions by members of the OULC, including members in leadership positions, cited by Chalmers.
Amongst those incidents were members of the OULC executive committee
throwing around the term ‘Zio’ (a term for Jews usually confined to websites run by the Ku Klux Klan) with casual abandon, senior members of the club expressing their ‘solidarity’ with Hamas and explitictly defending their tactics of indiscriminately murdering civilians, or a former Co-Chair claiming that ‘most accusations of antisemitism are just the Zionists crying wolf.’
Chalmers concluded that a large proportion of both members of the OULC and “the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews.” He claimed that the attitudes held by certain members of the club towards “disadvantaged groups was becoming poisonous.”
Chalmers clearly had ambivalent feelings towards the club, a place in which he said he developed many friendships. He had hoped to be able to move the OULC away from its current trajectory, but found he could not, and now he could “no longer in good conscience defend club policy.”
The co-chair of the OULC, Noni Csogor, responded to Chalmers’ statement and his resignation with sadness and respect for his decision to withdraw. She chose to justify the 18-16 vote by the OULC to support Israel Apartheid Week by explaining that the “OULC and the Labour Party have always been against racism and oppression in all its forms; this must include the policies of the current Israeli government.”
The incident was first publicly reported by former Oxford student Eylan Aslan-Levy in the Times of Israel.