A charity ball organized by the University of St. Andrew's Jewish Society, guarded by plain-clothes police officers, was held in secret last week after threats were made against staff at the original venue. The increasing security and secrecy surrounding this annual student event is an illustration of the sentiments aimed at Jewish students in Scotland.
The ball was originally supposed to be held at the Golf Hotel in St. Andrews, a small University town on the east coast of Scotland. After a campaign organized by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, a number of threats were directed at the hotel's staff, and a number of violent comments were posted on social media, with one protester writing: "Friday we send them into hell."
The Golf Hotel cancelled the event over "safety concerns." One member of the Jewish student society said that the decision to cancel the event was "pathetic…. They [the Golf Hotel] had no right to violate their part of the contract. The Golf Hotel is scared of them. A victory does not come from bullying people into submission, it comes from engaging people and opening their minds."
Although activists from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign [SPSC] were able to pressure the hotel into cancelling the charity ball, it was held secretly at another location, and raised over three times the amount of money for its nominated charities.
The SPSC offers a free book to all new members: Shlomo Sand's The Invention of the Jewish People -- a book the central argument of which is that the Jewish people, as a single collectivity, do not exist. Last year, the group also protested in support of a student at St. Andrews, Paul Donnachie, who was charged and found guilty of racially abusing a Jewish student.
In 2006, the SPSC commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day by performing a reading of "Perdition," a play that claims the Holocaust was a joint venture between Zionists and Nazis. In 2009, the group commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day by running an event with Azzam Tamimi, a spokesperson for the terror group Hamas. And in 2010, the group reproduced the winning entry from Iran's offensive Holocaust cartoon competition of 2006.
Senior SPSC member John Wight has previously promoted a website called the "Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust." Wight has said: "As soon as the scales fall from the eyes of international Jewry with regard to the racist and fascist ideology that is Zionism, the world will begin to emerge from the iron heel of war and brutality in the Middle East."
Similarly, Edinburgh PSC chair Mike Napier has referenced a number of neo-Nazi websites in an article that vindicated the murder of eight Jewish students at a religious school in Jerusalem, on the grounds that the school is "the main educational and training centre of the fanatical Israeli settler movement," and that the students are taught to regard Gentiles as cattle and to use Arabs for "medical experiments" and to send "Arabs to the gas chambers."
The "We are all Hana Shalabi Network" also supported the protest against the St. Andrews Jewish Society. This group campaigns in support of Hana Shalabi, a member of the Palestinian terror group Islamic Jihad. In 2012, Shalabi visited Tehran as part of a delegation from the Islamic Jihad movement. In front of the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Shalabi spoke of her commitment to "jihad and resistance" and praised the Iranian revolution in 1979 as the "beginning of a new era."
Across Scotland, Jewish students regard the line between anti-Israel activism and anti-Jewish incitement as wearing dangerously thin. Several months ago, a number of Jewish students the University of Edinburgh abandoned their courses because of the "toxic atmosphere" on campus.
Moreover, the University of Glasgow is a participant in a European Union-funded program, "Lifelong Learning in Palestine," in which the Islamic University of Gaza is one of the main beneficiaries. The Islamic University of Gaza is the "the brain trust and engine room of Hamas," the Palestinian terror group that rules Gaza. In 2008, Hamas was using the University to build explosives and rockets for use against Israeli civilians.
In 2011, security guards had to step in to protect Arab-Israeli diplomat Ishmael Khaldi at the University of Edinburgh, after a student mob surrounded him while screaming "Viva, Viva Palestina."
Increasingly, Jewish students' choice over which university to attend is influenced by the potency of anti-Israel sentiment. The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities has reported a rise in the number of inquiries from parents and potential students in the US and Europe about the safety of Jewish students.
In 2011, the British ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, claimed that the image of Universities being "hotbeds of anti-Israel sentiment" was false. University authorities also downplay the extent of the campus extremism. Last month, Baroness Warsi, the Minister of State for Faith and Communities, and Nicola Dandridge, the head of Universities UK, both claimed that the problem of university extremism is greatly exaggerated. The facts, as we have seen, tell a rather different story.
The greatest obstacle to tackling anti-Jewish incitement is the denial that there is any such problem.