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The West’s multi-racial societies cannot survive the woke doctrines being promoted on campuses

The West’s multi-racial societies cannot survive the woke doctrines being promoted on campuses
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Try a little thought experiment. Imagine that, instead of protesting against Israel, student demonstrators were demanding a crackdown on immigration. Suppose that, in place of Palestinian flags, they were waving St George’s Crosses. How do you think the university authorities would respond?

We are peculiarly susceptible to the fads of America’s identitarian Left. Just as BLM protests in Minnesota catalysed the risible spectacle of white British protestors shouting “hands up don’t shoot” at unarmed Met coppers, so it was only a matter of time before the anti-Israel unrest that has disfigured US campuses spread to our universities.

As I write, there have been sit-ins at Aberdeen, Belfast, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Sheffield and various London campuses. There is evidently an element of co-ordination. The identical pop-up tents and keffiyehs seem to come from the same source, and it was reported this week that the protesters had signed a common statement of aims.

So, to return to the opening question, how would our universities react to anti-immigration protests? We can guess the answer, can’t we? They would claim that the demonstrators were creating a hostile atmosphere for ethnic minority students, and send in the police. They would not care if there were non-white students among the demonstrators (just as the pro-Palestine crowds sometimes include anti-Zionist Jews). Nor would they be swayed by the argument that being anti-immigration doesn’t make you anti-immigrant. No, they would declare that their EDI policies were being violated, and press for expulsions so that “no student should feel unsafe”.

Why don’t these concerns apply to Jewish students? Again, we can guess the answer. Anti-racism, in its campus form, is not about treating people equally; it is about treating people differently. The essence of wokery is that, rather than seeing society as a community of individuals, it categorises us by sex, sexual identity and, above all, race, slotting us into an imagined place in a pyramid of hierarchy. A century ago, Jews might have been categorised as an oppressed minority. But the success of the state of Israel means that, to the woke mind, Jews are now white colonisers.

Campus activists insist that they are anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic, and most of them mean it. But the distinction has been tougher to maintain since the massacre of 7 October, which prompted crowds on the other side of the world to start chanting “gas the Jews”.

Yes, it is possible to oppose anti-Semitism while critiquing Israeli policies. But those of us who are not Jewish should observe the same norms and courtesies that we would with any other minority. We should acknowledge, in other words, not just that Israel is central to Judaism as a religion, but also that, even for the most secular Jews, Israel represents a safe space, a last-ditch sanctuary from persecution.

We have the right to free speech. We are free, if we want, to criticise religions and say all sorts of things that others would find insulting. But civilisation depends on understanding that some things are legal while still being profoundly anti-social.

Now consider the behaviour that American campus authorities have allowed on grounds of free speech. Protesters have stopped Jewish students and asked them to disown Zionism. They have shouted “Go back to Poland.” They have chanted “Globalize the Intifada”. (What can that mean except carrying the fight against Jews outside Israel?)

A woman at Columbia stood next to a group of Jewish students with a sign reading “Al-Qasam’s Next Targets” – a reference to Hamas’s military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, which carried out the 7 October abominations.

Now you might argue that students should toughen up. Sticks and stones and all that. Unless the pro-Palestine protesters cross the line into actual violence, should they not be allowed to be as obnoxious as they wish?

OK, fine, I’d be on board with that if there were the slightest prospect of it becoming the rule on campus. But there isn’t. These protests are happening in institutions that have spent a decade insisting that antiquated language, inappropriately directed laughter or asking where someone is from are forms of violence.

In 2014, Columbia sternly warned its students against the “racial insensitivity” of dressing up in foreign costumes. That’s how woke works. You go in one decade from banning sombreros to being nervous about wearing kippahs.

There is, I’m afraid, every sign that this unequal application of the law is crossing the Atlantic. And not just in our universities. On St George’s Day, the police used batons and horses against nationalist demonstrators who had strayed beyond their designated course – a response that it is hard to imagine being used against pro-Palestine crowds, whatever their behaviour.

“Laws,” observed Hayek, with admirable economy, “must be general, equal and certain”. When, for example, we cracked down on anti-lockdown protests while allowing BLM protests, we undermined, not just the police, but the legitimacy of the state.

Something similar is happening with anti-Israel protests. More than two months have passed since a woman deliberately destroyed a portrait of Arthur Balfour, the former Conservative prime minister, in Trinity College, Cambridge, methodically spray-painting the canvas before slashing it to ribbons. Still no prosecution.

Again, imagine if equivalent damage had been done by inebriated rowers after a bump supper. Or that an angry white man had defaced an image of George Floyd. There would have been immediate retribution from both the college and the police.

Which brings us to the nub of the problem. The students think they are demonstrating against university authorities, but those authorities are with them in spirit. Indeed, our institutions of higher education inculcate the world-view that lies behind the demonstrations.

I visited the protest site in Oxford earlier this week. It was (as these things usually are) smaller and tamer than when seen through a camera lens. Most of the students were ducking out to attend tutorials and to eat in hall. What was interesting was their choice of venue. Their encampment was outside the Pitt Rivers museum, which houses a collection of anthropological curios.

They had picked the spot, partly for reasons of convenience, and partly because the Pitt Rivers symbolises the colonialism they believe they are protesting against in Gaza. Let’s leave aside the flaws, both in seeing Israel as a settler-colonial state, and in the whole notion of restitution by museums. Listen to how the museum itself sees things:

“At the Pitt Rivers Museum, we condemn racism in the strongest terms; we work towards becoming an anti-racist institution and stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We express our solidarity and our recognition of how museums like ours, and collections like ours, cannot be separated from the ongoing violence and systemic racism happening in Oxford, in the UK, in the US, and elsewhere.”

As in the US, universities are rushing to appease the protesters. Some American colleges have promised to disengage from Israel and offer scholarships to students from Gaza. Trinity College Dublin says it will boycott selected Israeli companies and academics. How long before British universities follow suit?

This is not really about Gaza, whose agonies should disturb every person of conscience. It is about the intolerant, illiberal and ultimately violent doctrine of identity politics as expressed through state-funded EDI.

Sooner or later, the government whose cash underpins our universities will have to cut deep and extract the tumour. There is no other way to preserve our successful multi-racial society. 



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