Written by Student Rights on 18 December 2009 at 3pm

UPDATED: Questions raised over purported racism at event on SOAS campus

Updated: It appears this event has created an argument regarding whether the abuse that Jonathan Hoffman encountered was racist, or due to his ideology.  There were various other Jewish members of the audience and panel members, who did not encounter similar treatment.  While Student Rights make note of this point raised across several blogs, the fact remains that the man was denied the right to speak and to have his question answered, and statements shouted at him like, "Jewish!" and "not welcome here," makes for uncomfortable viewing.

A Jewish man was booed and jeered at during an event entitled “The Case for Sanctions and Boycott” being held at SOAS. He was further told he was not welcome when he asked why the speaker Bongani Masuku, who had been condemned as an anti-Semite by the South African Human Rights Commission was invited.  A spokesperson from SOAS said that nobody broke hate speech rules however it can be seen from this recording that the audience erupted after he said his German-Jewish origin name with calls of “Jewish” and "not welcome here".  

He asked the question “Why does the University and College Union (UCU) invite somebody who practises hate speech?" The chair of the debate, Tom Hickey, the University and College Union’s (UCU) director asked the speakers to ignore the question.  UCU are to put on seminars about the dangers of anti-Semitism in January 2010 who ironically are being hosted by the same Dr Hickey.  SOAS university refused to comment on whether they condoned the appearance of Mr Masuku.

Raheem Kassam, of student anti-racism campaigners Student Rights commented to the BBC: "The overpowering racist jeering as displayed by some audience members at the event is a stark and chilling revelation of what can happen when extremism is allowed to take root in universities."