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Written by Student Rights on 12 April 2016 at 10am

Warwick student Palestine activist in antisemitism row

Over the weekend, Aysegul Gurbuz, a student at the University of Warwick and Labour councillor in Luton, was in the spotlight after a series of antisemitic tweets she had made were exposed.

These revelations, which have seen Gurbuz resign, follow a series of scandals involving students and antisemitism, including allegations made against Oxford University Labour Club.

Student Rights has long argued that there has too often been a blurring of the lines between pro-Palestine activism and antisemitism, and Gurbuz’s case appears to be no exception.

During her time at Warwick, she played a leading role in the student union’s Friends of Palestine society, serving as Events Coordinator and then President.

In 2011, before starting university, Gurbuz had tweeted: “Adolf Hitler = greatest man in history” and later, in January 2013, posted: “‘The Jews are so powerful in the US it’s disgusting.”

She also referred to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then Iranian President, as “my man”, and went on to say: 

“LOOOOL IRAN ARE GOIND TO HAVE THEIR OWN NUCLEAR WEAPON AND ARE GOING TO WIPE ISRAEL OFF THE MAP #TEAMAHMADINEJAD”

However, Student Rights can also reveal that during this period, the Friends of Palestine society promoted events featuring speakers and organisations with a history of antisemitism or of supporting terrorist groups.

Just after Gurbuz was elected President, the society promoted a university event featuring Ken O’Keefe, an antisemitic conspiracy theorist, on its Facebook page.

This was despite O’Keefe being condemned by a number of student Palestine Societies a year earlier after he claimed that “Israel and Mossad were directly involved in 9/11”.

In response to this criticism, he suggested he was being attacked for standing against "the Jewish supremacism that is of dire consequence to our world" and claimed:

"Israeli Mossad worked with high treason traitors in the US government to set explosives in the twin towers and building 7 on 9/11". 

Meanwhile, in January 2015, the Friends of Palestine society invited Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA) founder, Ismail Patel, onto campus.

FOA had a record of publishing writers with a history of antisemitic views such as Gilad Atzmon and Israel Shamir, as well as the Holocaust denier Paul Eisen.

Patel has also claimed that “Hamas is no terrorist organization...we salute Hamas for standing up to Israel”.

At the time, Gurbuz was listed as the events coordinator on their website, and likely played a role organising Patel’s visit.

While universities are supposed to be places of open debate where extreme views face scrutiny, it seems Warwick Friends of Palestine did little to challenge the prejudices of one of its leading members.

The society has since issued a condemnation of Gurbuz’s remarks, and Gurbuz has apologised, saying her tweets were “ill-judged and offensive”.

However, her history with Warwick Friends of Palestine is another reminder of how extreme views can proliferate within university societies, and highlights the importance of challenging such views wherever they are found.