In Brief

Essex University Jewish society sparks anti-Semitism row

More than 200 people voted against letting students start a Jewish society

Essex University has found itself at the centre of an anti-Semitism row, after a proposal to create a Jewish society at the university met with resistance from students.

There are currently more than 60 Jewish societies, commonly known as J-socs, at universities around the country, according to the Union of Jewish Students (UJS).

Law student Amie-Julie Fogiel petitioned to start a J-soc at the Colchester-based institute, whose student body numbers more than 13,000.

“Any proposed new society at the university must gain ratification by winning a vote on the Student Union website, open only to registered students,” the Jewish Chronicle reports.

Although the majority of respondents, 64%, voted in favour of creating a society for Jewish students, more than 200 students rejected the proposal.

In a statement, the UJS said the organisation was “deeply disappointed” by the backlash from a significant proportion of the student body. J-socs “provide a space for Jewish students to celebrate their culture and identity”, they said. “The fact that some students at the University of Essex deem it fit to vote against that is quite simply shocking.”

The Student Union has now said there were “irregularities” in the poll data suggesting that people from outside the university had been able to vote, the East Anglian Daily Times reports. A fresh vote is scheduled to open tomorrow.

Further fuel was added to the fire when it was revealed that a lecturer at the university had complained on Facebook about “Zionists” trying to start a society.

Dr Maaruf Ali, who teaches computer science, also shared a quote by a Holocaust denier as well as a post from a far-right website claiming that a police officer killed in the Charlie Hebdo attacks was actually an agent of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.

The university has said it is investigating the posts. 

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