In a statement, Dr Michael Spence, president and provost of UCL, said university security was working with local police to “ensure an increased presence around the perimeter of the Bloomsbury campus.”
While this month’s conflict may have been the catalyst for the current wave of abuse, campus tensions were simmering long before. In recent years, a wave of “cancellation culture” has swept through universities, but anti-Semitism appears to remain the lingering face of prejudice. In 2018, anti-Semitic graffti was discovered in a café on the Royal Holloway campus. In the same year, members of a Coventry University sports club were suspended for wearing T-shirts bearing swastikas and other anti-Semitic slogans; the year before, the Conservative Society of Plymouth University had been suspended after some members were implicated in a similar incident.
Earlier this year, the University of Bristol launched an investigation into David Miller, professor of political sociology at the university, after calling for an end to “Zionism as a functional ideology of the world” and claiming that members from the Jewish Society at the university, which complained that his words were “used as political pawns by a violent and racist foreign regime engaged in ethnic cleansing.”
A statement from the University of Bristol said the investigation into Professor Miller was’ confidential ‘but added:’ We recognize that this issue has caused deep concern among some in our community, and also people. have very different views on the issues raised. ” Following Prof. Miller’s comments, however, some Bristol students signed an open letter supporting him, and Support campaign spokesperson David Miller said: “Prof. Miller enjoys broad support from academics and students from Bristol and beyond. Any vexatious complaint that has been brought against him should be treated with contempt. “
Sabrina Miller, 21, a third-year English student at the University of Bristol, who has started a petition of 8,500 to have Professor Miller fired, was horrified at the level of abuse she received in response . “The volume was shocking: there were messages calling me a ‘Zionazi’. Someone even edited a TikTok video of me dancing to say, “Real footage of Sabrina dancing on Palestinian graves.” This all happened when I was trying to write my thesis; I had to take time and go home because it was too much.
This time around, she says the anti-Semitism she’s witnessed feels more “subtle”, as it comes from fellow students, many of whom “you wouldn’t expect.” Often times, this takes the form of infographics and memes about the conflict claiming that “the Zionist Rothschilds want to claim Israel for oil.”
She adds that many Jewish students like her feel forced out of progressive spaces at university because there are “blind spots” around anti-Semitism on the left. “Some social movements are popular on campuses and the Palestinian conflict is very popular. This doesn’t take away the important message that Palestinians are suffering horribly in the West Bank and Gaza, but it does mean that a lot of people are sharing things on social media without understanding what they really mean, ”she said.