Jewish Students Oppressed by anti-Israel Activists at Prince William's University

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By Timur Moon | May 16, 2013 2:21 AM EST

Jewish students at St Andrews University held their charity ball in secret and under police gaurd after protesters raised objections.

Jewish students at Prince William's old university say they were forced to stage a charity ball in secret and under a police guard after "intimidation" from pro-Palestinian campaigners.

Plans for the fundraising gala were thrown into jeopardy after an angry stand-off between Jewish students and pro-Palestinian activists forced a succession of venues to cancel the event.

Members of the University of St Andrews Jewish Society had originally hired function rooms at the Golf Hotel in St Andrews, but the booking was later cancelled by the hotel's management after pressure from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and other groups including Scotland's Youth and We Are All Hana Shalabi.  

Activists had threatened to stage a rally outside the hotel in protest at the Jewish Society's backing for two charities, the Friends of Israel Defence Forces and the Jewish National Fund, which they accuse of being an "openly racist" organisations.

Protesters accused the JNF of discriminating against Palestinians on land issues, and described the FIDF as an "occupation force that brutalises, humiliates, kills and maims Palestinians".

A number of threats of violence were also made against hotel staff, though the SPSC denied responsibility for these. Fears were raised after a series of anti-Semitic comments were posted on Facebook, including one which read: "Friday we send them into hell."

Another read: "Mi5 Mossad boot boys don't stand a chance."

Organisers then tried to stage the event at the University's Student Union "Venue 2" premises, but those plans came to nothing after concerns were raised by the university's student union.

At the eleventh hour, the ball went ahead at a secret location on April 26. Guests were not informed of the venue, but were picked up in taxis from pubs and bars around the city, under strict instructions not to tweet, post or otherwise disclose details of the venue.

Plain clothed police officers were present at the ball, along with private security contractors, said organisers of the event, which was held jointly by the Jewish Society and the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, an American group for Jewish students.

A spokesman for Police Scotland confirmed that "appropriate measures" were taken.

"The safety and security of our guests was always our first priority and we worked closely with St Andrews police, a private security firm and volunteers to ensure that the event could go ahead as planned," said a member of the event's organising committee.

"At no point was the event cancelled and we are delighted that it was such a success, both in terms of the amounts raised for charity and the enjoyment of all our guests."

The management of Golf Hotel confirmed it cancelled the event due to security concerns.

Freddie Fforde, president of the St Andrews University's students' association, confirmed he had refused permission for the ball to be held at Venue 2.

"My main concern is the Jewish students who have been threatened. The language used by these groups has eroded any sympathy I have for the protest," he said.

Mick Napier of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: "We spoke to the management of the Golf Hotel, and informed them of our intention to demonstrate  peacefully outside the hotel. We wanted to inform the guests at the charity ball where their money was going, because sometimes people attend these events without looking too closely.

"We lobbied the hotel and they cancelled the booking. We had entirely cordial conversations with the hotel management, saying we had no objections to the event going ahead, but objected who the funds were going to.

"I understand that a couple of individuals wrote inflammatory statements on Facebook, but that was nothing to do with us. Our objection was not to the Jewish Society, but purely its support for the sham charities the JNF and the Friends of IDF. Faced with a peaceful protest, the hotel cancelled the booking."

Paul Morron of the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council, defended the Jewish Society's right to chose which groups it supports. "We regard this as a very serious incident, setting a worrying precedent in Scotland," he said.

"I contacted Inspector Meek, of St Andrews Police, and he told me that they had not had any serious concerns about policing the event. It's not up to others to dictate to the Jewish community what charities they should support. That's just not acceptable."

He criticised the hotel for caving in to pressure from the protesters. "Giving in to bully-boy tactics doesn't do the reputation of the hotel any good at all," he said

Nicola Livingston, chair of the Scottish Jewish Chaplaincy, said the charity event had been needlesslyy politicised.

"Students should be allowed to go about their ordinary business without fear of intimidation," she said. "This was purely a social event. Most of the charities are welfare ones, including Save a Child's Heart, which saves the lives of children from around the world, including Palestinian children.

However, the Scottish Jews for a Just Peace expressed "deep sadness" that the Jewish society had chosen to support the JNF.

"The JNF takes over Palestinian land - including homes of Palestinian refugees and land in the occupied territories - and will not lease or sell land to non-Jews," said a spokesman. "St Andrews Jewish Society claims to be friendly, welcoming and non-political. We ask it to live up to that description."

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