Antisemitism accusations dog SU election at LSE

Last month, we reported on the serious allegations of antisemitism made against members of Oxford University Labour Club (OULC).

At the time, we argued this problem was not isolated to one university or student society, citing our reports of antisemitism on campus over the years, and we have since released a briefing detailing further examples of the issue.

Now, more evidence of the extent of the problem has come to light in an article revealing “Jew-hate claims” at the London School of Economics (LSE), with Rayhan Uddin, vice-chair of the LSE Labour Society, at the centre of allegations published by the Jewish Chronicle.

Uddin, who is running to be General Secretary in LSE Student Union’s forthcoming elections, is accused of lobbying another candidate, Samiha Begum, to pull out of the race as “leading Zionists” were attempting to influence the election.

Begum was at the centre of controversy herself in January 2015 after she defended comments comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, as well as repeating the same trope on Twitter and stating: “the problem [with Israel] is the disgusting Zionist child killing theology”.

In an email to Begum seen by the Jewish Chronicle, Uddin wrote of Harry Maxwell, also standing for election:“We discussed the other day how he is backed by Jay Stoll and other leading Zionists around the country because they want to win back LSE and make it right wing and Zio again.”

He went on to claim that “the Zionists at LSE have two priorities” – ensuring the election of 2014-15 Israel Society President Josh Seitler as UJS President and Harry Maxwell as LSE General Secretary – and said:“The first has already happened. If the second happens too, not only will it be awful for Muslims and pro-Palestine activists at LSE, but for Muslims and pro-Palestine activists across the whole country”.

Alarmed by these comments, LSE SU Jewish Society released a statement condemning Uddin’s use of the term “Zio” and his suggestions that there is a Zionist conspiracy on campus. They went on to say:“…the remarks of this candidate are concerning and must be seen in the context of a broader, and deeply worrying trend of rising Antisemitism on campuses across the UK. We don’t want LSE to be a place embroiled in such antics – and there is no reason it should be. We call on the SU to fully condemn the language used, investigate this as a matter of urgency, and to take steps to address our concerns.”

Since the publication of the story Uddin has issued an apology, focusing in particular on his use of the word “Zio”, for which he has said:“I have since learned this word is associated with far-right anti-Semitic groups, something I was totally unaware of at the time I wrote that message. I would like to take this opportunity to apologise unreservedly to the Jewish community.”

However, he has stood by his comments relating to the interest shown by “leading Zionists” in the election, and says:“What I cannot accept, however, is the innuendo that my simply stating that Zionists and anti-Zionists alike will be taking an interest in the campaign is tantamount to alleging a ‘Zionist conspiracy’.”

Here at Student Rights, we are glad to see that the LSE student union will be investigating this incident, and hope that it is taken more seriously than the previous investigation carried out by the organisation following complaints from Jewish students.

It is clear from Uddin’s statements that the lines between pro-Palestine activism and antisemitism continue to be blurred on-campus, and it is vital the LSE and the student union step up to the plate and challenge these divisive narratives.

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