While I haven’t been a student at Swansea for some time now, it’s true that there was a fair degree of student activism on campus. I took part in campaigns for the abolishment of university tuition fees, to prevent the closure of university departments and on behalf of the Socialist Workers’ Party against the war in Afghanistan.
At around the same time, a motion was put before the student union council to boycott Israeli academics and institutions because of acts being committed by the Israeli state against Palestinians. These were the days of Ramallah and Jenin where crimes against humanity were carried out by the Israeli army.
The main critics of the motion to boycott Israeli academics and institutions were American and Jewish students, understandably fearful that the left wing of the student body were turning to an anti-Semitic position. A synagogue was damaged in an attack in 2002 – and though it was never proven that this was connected with Muslim or socialist students – the suggestion was that the socialists had helped to create a culture of hatred in the town.
Naturally, I think that this was the wrong conclusion. At a time when the BNP were trying to claw their way into local politics, race riots were taking place in Bradford and Leeds, the US had started its racist war against Muslims in Asia, there were a lot of violent and malicious incidents occurring. I believe that the intellectual boycott brought about by the student union was one of the best considered political acts I have witnessed. It was absolutely not anti-Semitic, and I find it personally insulting that whenever there is any discussion of the wrongs that have been committed on either side of the Palestinian conflict, accusations to that effect will be made.
The reason I have brought this up is that I have a sneaking suspicion that Swansea’s ‘extremism’ and ‘Islamic’ will be found to be intrinsically linked with the boycott of Israeli academics and institutions – which just isn’t the truth. As ought to be expected in the climate of fear that the British government is doing its best to create, any free thinking or direct action is automatically challenged as a threat to security.
Anyone familiar with Swansea university, Swansea City Council and the Swansea Police’s attitude towards leftist student activism will already be aware of the attempts made to silence lecturers, terrorise students and prevent demonstrations. It seems that the next attempt might be to refer to Muslim student activists as ‘terrorists’. This is exactly the sort of thing warned about before, throughout and after my brief time in Swansea.
The defamation of any politicised student or worker body has reached such a degree of acceptance in the UK that we may well have gone beyond the point of no return. It’s imperative that anyone who can, speaks out against this attitude.