A pro-Palestinian student group at the School of African Studies (SOAS) University in London has drawn condemnation by Jewish groups after announcing an event which aims to separate Judaism and Zionism and as such distance anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism.

The SOAS Palestine Society intends to hold a discussion titled “Decoupling Judaism and Zionism in Palestine Advocacy” this Thursday on the university campus.

The description of the event from the SOAS Palestine Society Facebook page says:

“The SOAS Palestine Society invites everybody to this important Jewish-led discussion that seeks to examine the borderline between Judaism and Zionism in the debate over Israel-Palestine. It is particularly important and relevant in light of frequent claims made by supporters of Israel that pro-Palestinian activism is antisemitic and that support for Israel is intrinsically connected to being Jewish, as well as the recent spate of antisemitism-related incidents surrounding the Labour Party and Israel-Palestine. This discussion will look to answer key questions regarding the role of Jewish allies in the struggle for justice for Palestinians, whether anti-Zionism is indeed antisemitic, the link between Zionism and antisemitism, and where to draw the line between combating the weaponisation of antisemitism and identifying real instances of antisemitism on the left and elsewhere.”

Speaking to the Jewish Chronicle, Marie van der Zyl, the vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “It is outrageous that any outside group would take it upon themselves to redefine antisemitism for hostile political ends.

“For the vast majority of British Jews, political, cultural and religious affiliation with the state of Israel is a fundamental part of their Jewish identity.

“In suggesting that this is somehow a politicised or contrived relationship is outrageous. We utterly condemn this event and give our full support to SOAS Jewish Society and the Union of Jewish Students in standing up for the rights of Jewish students.”

A Union of Jewish Students spokeswoman said: “It is unfortunately no surprise that this event is taking place on a campus which in recent years has held many similar events that have concerned Jewish students.

“This discussion is further proof of some in the student movement denying Jewish students the right to define antisemitism and their own relationship with Israel.

“It is extremely concerning that such an event is being held without any consultation with or involvement from SOAS J-Soc, the recognised representative group of Jewish students at SOAS.

“We are working with SOAS J-Soc to ensure an appropriate response to this event so that Jewish students’ concerns are listened to and appropriately addressed.”

The SOAS Palestine Society have previously caused controversy. Last year, for example, students hosted a “vigil” for “Palestinian Martyrs” at the entrance to the university. Those they were honouring included Palestinian terrorists who had killed innocent Israeli civilians.

CUFI Thought: It is important to note that SOAC Pal-Soc updated their wording to say “Jewish-led” after they were questioned by Jews on social media who said it was highly offensive if Jews were not leading this discussion.

However, whether it is Jewish-led or not, clearly the vast majority of Jews in Britain are supporters of Zionism and would strongly argue that Judiasm and Zionism are interconnected. 

It is also extremely important to say that if there was such a discussion to take place about the connection between Judaism and Zionism then it should be up to Jewish leaders and the Jewish community to raise this issue and discuss it themselves. It should in no way be a discussion for non-Jews and especially not people who are anti-Israel, who display anti-Semitic attitudes and are using it for a political agenda.