At Large

The Limits of Evenhandedness

At the London School of Economics, racism is in the eye of the beholder.

By 1.21.09

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LONDON -- While a unilateral Israeli cease-fire has at least temporarily brought some calm to the recent conflict in the Holy Land, the same cannot be said about the tensions on the campus of the London School of Economics.

Since students returned to campus to begin the Lent term earlier this month, supporters of the Palestinian cause have organized protests, rallies, and (hilariously) an occupation of one of the main lecture halls on campus. The Students Union also passed a resolution condemning the Jewish state.

The "Defend Gaza, Condemn the Israeli Massacre" resolution stipulated, among other things, that of the "The knowing endangerment of civilians is illegal, immoral and unacceptable and that our Union has a moral obligation to stand against such action whenever it occurs."

The knowing endangerment of civilians is, of course, the modus operandi of Hamas. Anybody want to take bets whether the LSE Students Union has upheld its "moral obligation" to condemn that terrorist organization for its endangerment of civilian life? Or for that matter, how many resolutions has the LSE Students Union passed condemning the numerous dictatorships around the world that routinely brutalize civilians? It should be noted that the resolution does not mention Hamas rocket attacks against Israel even once.

Third-year international history student Joseph "Seph" Brown was the "proposer" of the Students Union's anti-Israel resolution. Articulate, smart, and seemingly well read in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Brown is a member of the Palestine Society and the Anti-Racism officer of the Students Union. An impressive fellow, he is the type of politically active person LSE is famous for producing. While he won't say that he plans to be a politician one day, you get the sense he hasn't rule out the possibility. Unfortunately, Brown has a terrible propensity to explain away evil.

"I just want to make one very clear statement," Brown tells me, taking some time away from his occupation of the Old Theatre to meet with me in an old pub. "I do not support Hamas' tactics and I am not a Hamas sympathizer or a member."

Okay. But as the Anti-Racism officer, I asked him, would he condemn an organization like Hamas, which has this genocidal clause in its constituting charter: "The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him."

Brown bristled at the clause and while he was happy to condemn it, he was not willing to condemn the organization that was founded upon it. "I would not condemn an organization which is founded primarily not on the destruction of Israel, not on the destruction of Jews, but on the suffering and the grievances of the Palestinian people."

Brown continued rationalizing away Hamas's charter, suggesting that it is no longer relevant, and repeating that while he disagrees with some of its statements, he cannot condemn the organization itself even as he ardently insists that he is not a supporter or a sympathizer of the terror group.

"What I do know is that there are aspects of their constitution which they have negated by their actions," he protested. "This one," Brown said of the genocidal provision in Hamas's charter, "we will never be able to prove until they start trying to wipe out every Jew on Earth." Thanks for clearing that up.

Meanwhile, many Jews at LSE aren't feeling very safe these days according to Patrick Jones, the General Secretary of LSE's Israel Society. A third-year student at LSE, Jones hails from that bastion of Jewish culture Wheeling, West Virginia. Before coming to LSE, Jones told me, he "never cared a single bit about Israel or anti-Semitism" because "growing up, anti-Semitism was something in our history books." At LSE, he discovered that anti-Semitism wasn't quite yet relegated to the dustbin of history.

While pro-Palestinian students are freely penning articles condemning Israel in the student newspaper, Jewish students publish their opinion pieces anonymously out of fear for their safety. According to Jones, there have been over a dozen incidents of intimidation of Jewish and pro-Zionist students on campus in recent weeks, allegedly ranging from verbal assaults, to a student getting spit on, and to even one being pushed to the ground.

Jones thinks that Brown has placed himself in a "sticky predicament" as an active participant in the campus protests against Israel while maintaining his position as Anti-Racism officer.  "What [Brown] has done, I believe, has already spurred and reinvigorated the anti-Semitism that was lying beneath the surface," Jones said. "What he has done has only stirred it up and that is what we are facing."

As you would imagine, contributing to stirring up hate, even unintentionally, is not the mission of the Anti-Racism office. Unfortunately, even as hostilities calm down in the Middle East, it is not clear that they are going to cool down on the campus of LSE anytime soon.

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About the Author

Jamie Weinstein is a senior editor at the Daily Caller.