Anti-Semitism at St Andrews University
On the left is 20-year-old Gentile Paul Donnachie; on the right is 18-year-old Jew Chanan Reitblat - both students at St Andrews University.
On the evening of March 12th, a drunken Mr Donnachie entered Mr Reitblat's room in the halls of residence, rubbed his genitals and then wiped his hands on an Israeli flag displayed proudly upon Mr Reitblat's wall. Mr Donnachie said: "Whilst in the room at the student residences of an individual who I considered a friend, Chanan Reitblat, I placed my hands down the front of my jeans and onto an Israeli flag which belonged to him, accompanied by comments to the effect that Israel is a terrorist state, and is guilty of many civilian deaths."
He continued, "The action was not malicious. However, it sparked a great deal of political debate amongst our group of friends within our Hall of Residence, whereby the nature of the State of Israel was discussed."
But Mr Donnachie has been found guilty of racial abuse, and has been expelled from St Andrews University.
Cupar Sheriff Court in the county of Fife is not really a happening kind of place, but it was packed throughout the two-day trial, with friends of the plaintiff and members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) among those in attendance. There were cries of 'shame', 'disgrace' and 'scandal' from the public benches after Mr Donnachie, who described himself as a 'political activist', was found guilty by Sheriff Charles Macnair.
Sentence has been deferred until September 13th, with Mr Donnachie vowing to appeal the verdict. He maintains that he was protesting against the state of Israel rather than offending any individual.
The case turns on whether or not critism of the Israeli flag amounts to anti-Semitism. According to artist Carlos Latuff, the Star of David is a legitimate target when placed on the Israeli flag:
Since visiting the West Bank in 1999, Latuff has become known for his support of the Palestinian cause; some campaigners claim his work is antisemitic. “Part of the supposed ‘evidence’ for my antisemitism is the fact that I’ve used the Star of David, which is a symbol of Judaism,” he says wearily. “But check all my artworks – you’ll find that the Star of David is never drawn alone. It’s always part of the Israeli flag. Yes, it’s a religious motif, but in Israel it has been applied to a state symbol; and it’s the institutions of the state – the politicians and the army – that I’m targeting. Including the flag of Israel in a cartoon is no more an attack on Judaism than including the flag of Turkey would be an attack on Islam.”But Harry's Place exposes the lie: Latuff is a high-grade anti-Semite, and the prejudice just pours out of his artwork.
The St Andrews case is indeed interesting, not least because the University's own Chaplaincy Centre has a web page to advise Jewish students, which warns: 'A continuing and on-going concern of all Jews is the manifestation of anti-semitism.' They didn't quite expect to find it with their own halls of residence. But despite the Sheriff stating that the case has a 'significant and very legitimate' public interest dimension, you'll only find the story reported in a local newspaper or in the Jewish press. When you consider all the fuss and bother (and cash) expended on campus 'Islamophobia', is it not rather anti-Semitic of the mainstream media (pace the BBC) not to have dedicated just a few column inches to the story?