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25th January 2019

SU Gen Sec: BDS protests can make Jewish students a “target”

Abid’s comments come around Holocaust Memorial Day, following her participation in the Lessons From Auschwitz programme
SU Gen Sec: BDS protests can make Jewish students a “target”
Image: UoM BDS Campaign

Fatima Abid, General Secretary of the University of Manchester Students’ Union (SU), has said that the lack of “understanding and knowledge surrounding the distinct difference between Israel’s illegal settlements and the faith of Judaism” can lead to Jewish students becoming a “target” by anti-Israel protesters.

Abid’s comments come in a clarifying statement, in which she stated that she “completely supports the BDS campaign at the university”, following an interview with The Mancunion about her participation in the Lessons From Auschwitz programme, where Abid said that “when there are protests which are anti-Israel, Jewish students get caught up in [it].”

Abid went on to say she wanted to include more Jewish students in “conversations within in the Union” and to “see how we can help them more.”

The BDS motion was passed by a slender majority in a December 2016 Senate session, in which one anti-BDS speaker said that “participation in BDS will make me personally, and other members of Jewish Society, feel unsafe.”

Another said at the time that “a lot of Jews on campus don’t feel comfortable saying ‘I am Jewish’.”

In a statement, The University of Manchester BDS movement says “The BDS campaign at the University demands that the University divests its £millions of its own students’ tuition fees from companies which sustain Israel’s illegal occupation, such as Caterpillar, a company condemned by the UN and international human rights organisations for their illegal demolitions of homes, schools, murder of activists, and involvement in the building of illegal settlements.

“In no way does campaigning for divestment and Palestinian human rights compromise the safety of any student. We are against all forms of oppression, and stress our commitment to ensure that it adheres to its own Socially Responsible Investment Policy, in which it states it will not invest in any companies which are complicit in human rights violations.”
A University spokesperson said:  “The University works closely with its investment managers to ensure our portfolio complies with the University’s published Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) policy and considers Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues as well as financial factors.

“The SRI policy we have developed allows the University to pursue an ethical investment approach, whilst minimising any potential negative impact on its investment returns.”

Abid’s comments come just after Holocaust Memorial Day, which encourages people “to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, the millions of people killed under Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.”

Another SU figure who participated in the Lessons From Auschwitz programme was Education Officer Meisl, who said that because of the trip, “student leaders are going to make far more effort now… about marking [the Holocaust] and talk about about antisemitism on campus.”

“We learned a lot about where antisemitism comes from, and the tropes that get rolled out, and the importance of students challenging them.”

“If you see something that you feel is uncomfortable, or bad discourse about people of the Jewish faith or the Holocaust, then you can always come to us [for advice] and speak to the Speak Up, Stand Up campaign as well.”

If you’ve experienced discrimination of any kind, the SU Advice Service is always available for free, confidential help with your experiences. You can contact them on 0161 275 2952 or on their website.

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