Jewish student in Bristol Uni encampment told to be ‘ashamed’ of their pro-Palestine views

A counter-protestor confronted the Jewish student saying ‘the encampment reeks of antisemitism’

A Jewish University of Bristol student involved in the encampment currently in place on campus was told they should be “ashamed” of their pro-Palestine stance.

The student encampment for Palestine on Royal Fort Gardens has reached its third week after starting on May 1st and has grown in size to over 20 tents, including a small library and de-stimulating area.

This week, a counter-protestor entered the camp where they “called everyone anti-semitic” and targeted one student in the camp who is Jewish telling her she should be “ashamed”

Ellie*, the Jewish student targeted, told the Bristol Tab: “I told this man I was Jewish and that my family were killed in concentration camps in the Holocaust and he said it was, ‘disgusting to see a Jew here, that the encampment reeks of antisemitism, and that we hid behind a mask of compassion’”.

Across the country encampments for Palestine at university campuses are growing in number and size by the day. In response to this Prime Minister Sunak called a meeting with all vice chancellors across the UK to tackle the “rise in antisemitic abuse on campus.”

In response, the UK Jewish Academic Network (UKJAN) has stated its fear over the “weaponisation of antisemitism” in the wake of student encampments, urging the government to protect freedom of speech. On the other hand, the Union of Jewish Students has called the encampments “campus extremism.”

UKJAN made a public statement citing: “Bellicose language with which the government is referring to student encampments recently established in response to what the ICJ has called a plausible genocide in Gaza, echoing the warning raised by over 800 scholars of international law and genocide as early as October 2023.

“We argue that the conflation of such protest with antisemitism does not protect Jewish students or staff.”

The Bristol encampment group said: “There’s a big issue with saying Jewish students feel uncomfortable because it treats Jews as a monolith and there are Jewish students who are part of the camp.”

They believe reports saying Jewish students in general feel unsafe is homogenising and inaccurate and does not accurately reflect the divergence of views between Jewish students.

This aligns with statements from UKJAN who claim the UK government messaging  “paints a false picture of a Jewish community united in its position about the violence in Gaza.”

Last week vice chancellor Evelyn Welch sent a statement to students stating: “I will not make any further public statements on the Israel-Gaza conflict.” Stressing the importance of remaining “impartial” and the role of the university “to enable staff and students to express themselves freely.”

Chris Rossdale a lecturer in SPAIS has openly criticised the vice chancellor’s statement on Twitter by drawing parallels to the statement released in response to Ukraine. Last week he held a lecture at the encampment detailing the university’s ties to arms companies.

A University of Bristol spokesperson said: “We fully respect the rights of our students to peacefully protest within the law. We recognise the distress and impact the ongoing violence and conflict in Israel-Gaza is having on staff and students, our role as a university is to support everyone in our community who may be impacted, whilst ensuring that members of our community are able to express themselves lawfully.

“It is more important than ever that we maintain our shared values of mutual respect, support, and compassion for each other, whatever our individual views on the conflict. Every member of our community should feel safe and included on our campuses and we ask everyone to respect and support each other at this time. There is no place for any form of racism, antisemitism, islamophobia, discrimination, incitement, bullying or harassment at the University of Bristol.

“We will continue to share information on how to get help and support where it is needed and are in close contact with all affected communities, including our student societies, to offer ongoing support as required.”

Related articles recommended by this writer:

Ambitious Bristol University start-ups win a share of £100,000 after exciting competition

Bristol’s student music scene: A sit down with Edward Granshaw, an up and coming musician

‘Green’s my favourite colour’: What do Bristol Uni students think of recent election results