In early November, CAMERA on Campus Fellow and University of Birmingham student Anthony Bolchover launched his campaign for the UK Union of Jewish Students Presidency. Among other things, Anthony’s manifesto pledged to defend Zionism and unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism on British campuses. Unfortunately, Anthony’s campaign became the subject of coordinated online harassment by anti-Zionist activists within the community. He was accused of “combating anti-Jewish racism while being racist to people of color,” and at one Q&A was asked, “Why do you hate Palestinian people?”
Na’amod, a British group that claims to be “united by our opposition to an occupation which deprives Palestinians of their freedom, dignity and human rights, is contrary to Jewish values,” was particularly active in the campaign of distortion against Anthony. The group was founded after a 2018 event in Parliament Square where they said Kaddish for casualties who were confirmed to be members of the genocidal terrorist group Hamas.
During a Nov. 22 hustings, a Na’amod activist tweeted that Anthony was “allowed to make racist comments about ‘anti-Semitism in the black community’ unchallenged.” It is clear in the full video of the hustings that Anthony did nothing to promote racial hatred, but did quite the opposite by pressing that we ought to tackle anti-Semitism wherever it rears its head.
On Dec. 2, the official Na’amod Twitter page posted a thread that falsely and unfairly accused Anthony of promoting Islamophobia, anti-black and anti-Palestinian racism due to his condemnation of anti-Semitic elements in certain sections of these communities.
In a statement posted to Facebook, Anthony wrote: “It is to the Jewish community’s shame that nearly all of the attacks came from members within the Jewish community, including official representatives of UJS. … I was not the first Jewish student to be bullied or harassed in this way, and I fear that I will not be the last. I want to be absolutely clear: I was targeted and harassed because I hold mainstream beliefs. Because I am a strong supporter of Israel, and a strong opponent of anti-Zionism and [former Labour Party leader Jeremy] Corbyn’s brand of anti-Semitism.”
Michael McCann, director of the Israel Britain Alliance and former Labour Member of Parliament for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow from 2010 to 2015 told me, “If Anthony Bolchover is guilty of anything, it’s bringing an adult topic to student politics. The disgraceful attacks upon him are an example of political immaturity being hijacked by political extremism. I wasn’t brought up in the financial circumstances where university was an option, but as a trade-union official, Labour councillor and MP, I have fought racism and discrimination all of my life, and I am now continuing that work at the Israel-Britain Alliance advocating against the same extremists who attack Anthony. Black Lives Matter is a noble cause, but ironically, there are racists hidden within its ranks. The people who are prepared to capitulate to that racism need to take a good look in the mirror.”
Millie Walker, CAMERA on Campus UK Associate & University of Leeds student said “the conduct of groups such as Na’amod during the election was disappointing to put it lightly. Zionism is a key part of Jewish belief, and targeting someone purely because of this belief is absolutely abhorrent. UJS [the Union of Jewish Students] is meant to be an inclusive body which represents all Jewish students in the United Kingdom, including Zionist students. Anthony conducted himself with grace throughout the election, and it is a great shame he has been singled out in this way.”
UJS member and University of Nottingham student Daniel Marcus noted that “it speaks to the narcissistic immaturity of Na’amod and these other online bullies that they would rather manufacture lies about Anthony’s beliefs than engage with his perspectives and criticisms in a fair and honest way. These are cowardly tactics employed by groups too afraid of forthright and honest speech to use it themselves against those they disagree with.”
Although it is unsurprising that Na’amod—a group that was founded during a Parliament Square event in which Kaddish was said for anti-Semitic terrorists—was comfortable disseminating such flagrant distortions of the truth regarding a proud Zionist candidate, we implore British students to continue to stand strong in the face of abuse, knowing that the facts are on our side. Anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism, no matter who or where it comes from, and our mission will not be swayed by those who deliberation seek to intimidate and distort the conversation.
Georgia Leatherdale-Gilholy is a CAMERA on Campus UK Associate.