Zachary Confino, 21, a Jewish third year Law student and president of the Union of Jewish Students at York University in the UK, received an apology and payment of £1,000 from the University of York Students’ Union after two years of battling anti-Semitism from students while studying at the university, The Telegraph reported.
Although the nature of the anti-Semitic abuse is not specified in the apology, the report says that “It is understood that Mr Confino, who narrowly missed out on a first class degree and had suffered with stress, had been racially abused and bullied.”
A spokesperson for the University of York said in a statement, “The University of York acted as mediator to resolve a long-running complaint brought by a student against the University of York Students’ Union. This involved an apology by the Students’ Union to the student and a token payment of £1,000.”
Joint statements had been signed with both the Jewish Society and the Islamic Society on campus.
Confino’s experience caught the attention of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who called on government to intervene to stop the rise of “poisonous hate” on campuses. In a letter to Confino, Lord Williams said he had written to Jo Johnson, the universities minister, because of the “muted” official response so far to rising anti-Semitic behavior. Williams described anti-Semitic incidents in a growing number of universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, the London School of Economics and York.
Williams added: “Anyone concerned (as I am) about Islamophobia here and elsewhere needs to be scrupulously alert to the risk of scapegoating and demonizing other religious communities, especially Jews; and anyone with even the least bit of historical sense ought to hear the echoes of past bigotry and violence towards Jewish people in Europe.”
The former Archbishop of Canterbury also said he was “dispirited” by the failure of Christian chaplains at York to support Mr Confino. “You’d expect a more simply empathetic engagement,” he wrote.
Zachary reported that one York student posting on Facebook compared Israelis to Nazis, but when he raised this with the Students Union, he was told that there was nothing the Union could do. Zachary says he has received hateful anonymous messages online, as have other Jewish students. One message said, “Hitler was onto something.” He has been called a “Stupid Israeli [expletive]” and a “Jewish [expletive].”
Zachary told The Tab that the attacks on him escalated about five months ago, after he had launched a campaign against a play put on by the Palestinian Solidarity Society. According to Zachary, his communications with the Students Union bordered on the absurd: “We entered into a debate on what is and what isn’t anti-Semitism with people who clearly don’t understand what Jewish hate is,” he said. “It’s adding insult to injury. I’m experiencing anti-Semitism and then getting told it isn’t anti-Semitism.”