First, it was said that ‘a large proportion‘ of the Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) specifically and the Oxford student left in general ‘have some kind of problem with Jews’; indeed, that the ‘student left’ is ‘institutionally antisemitic‘. John Mann MP condemned ‘rife’ and ‘[o]vert’ antisemitism ‘amongst certain elements at Oxford University’. ‘It’d be so much easier if these were just two rogue cases’, Jonathan Freedland sighed, but the allegations implicate ‘many’, while ‘Jews themselves… have been warning of this phenomenon for years, lamenting that parts of the left were succumbing to views of Jews drenched in prejudice’. It was noted back then that there were multiple grounds for scepticism about the allegations, not least among them that, at the time of writing,
the only verifiable allegation… is a fabrication. It was claimed that an OULC member had been ‘formally disciplined by their college for organising a group of students to harass a Jewish student and shout “filthy Zionist” whenever they saw her’. But according to the (late) Principal of that college, the student in question was never the subject of complaint or disciplinary proceedings, for antisemitism or anything else.
Then, a formal review of ‘300 pages of evidence from over 40 members of OULC’ as well as multiple interviews found that, even though there is ‘not… institutional antisemitism within OULC’, and notwithstanding that there is ‘no evidence that the Club is itself institutionally antisemitic’,* still, ‘behaviour and language that would once have been intolerable is now tolerated’, while ‘there have been some’ unspecified number of ‘incidents of antisemitic behaviour’. (Royall Report, May 2016)
Then, in January 2017, the Jewish Chronicle reported that Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) disputes panel had decided to take no action against two individuals who had been accused of antisemitism in connection with the OULC scandal. The outrage was immense. ‘I am deeply disappointed by the outcome and fear it will… [confirm] a widely held view that we do not take antisemitism seriously’ (Baroness Royall); ‘This [shows an] inability or unwillingness to confront what is a serious problem [of antisemitism]’ (Board of Deputies); ‘They have let Jewish students down and in doing so, they have created an atmosphere in which antisemitism may thrive’ (Union of Jewish Students); ‘The decision rides roughshod over concerns and experiences of our student members… [who] have confronted the impact of antisemitism at OULC first hand’ (Jeremy Newmark, Jewish Labour Movement). John Mann MP declared: ‘This decision brought shame on the Labour party’.
Now, the Jewish Chronicle reveals (while trying its best to conceal)** that it was not Labour’s NEC but the Compliance Unit that cleared the two individuals. In both cases, the Compliance Unit found that there was ‘no case to answer on the counts of antisemitism‘.
From ‘institutional’ antisemitism, to an unspecified number of ‘incidents’ of antisemitism, to ‘no case to answer’: from beginning to end, and like the broader ‘Labour antisemitism’ hysteria for which it served as Exhibit A, the scandal of antisemitism at the Oxford University Labour Club was a fraud.
* My emphases.
** The Jewish Chronicle article – headlined ‘Exclusive: Unions were behind Oxford antisemitism probe cover-up’ – is presented as an exposé of how three pro-Corbyn NEC members conspired to ensure the two accused individuals escaped censure. But the JC does not convincingly explain how three NEC members were able to determine the decision of a meeting of ‘around 20’ (‘there was a lot of talking’, it quotes one traumatised participant, ‘It was very problematic’). Nor does it register that it was the Compliance Unit – not the NEC and not the ‘Unions’ – which found there was ‘no case to answer on the counts of antisemitism’. The JC article refers to ‘two students who were accused of engaging in repeated antisemitic acts’. Shouldn’t it refer to them, per its own account, as ‘two students cleared of engaging in repeated antisemitic acts’?
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[…] None of this featured in Freedland’s article. However, he did refer to one hair-raising story that had not appeared in the original resignation statement: “The case of one club member who organized a group to shout ‘filthy Zionist’ at a Jewish student whenever they saw her.” An earlier article in the Guardian about the Oxford controversy, on which Freedland relied as a source, described this as an allegation. In Freedland’s telling, it became an established fact, without having passed through any process of verification. Neither the Labour Party’s disciplinary unit nor the college authorities could find any evidence to back it up. […]