Alex Chalmers

Alex Chalmers found the atmosphere at his Oxford University Labour Club anti-Semitic and irreparable, and ultimately decided to leave it.  

After encountering open and repeated anti-Semitism at his Oxford student club, Alex Chalmers decided to leave it.

Announcing his resignation as Co-Chair of the Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) on Sunday in a Facebook post, Chalmers, a second year student in Oriel College, Oxford, said he made this move “with the greatest regret” after the club decided to endorse Israel Apartheid Week, a week-long event aimed at defaming Israel as a racist state.

“The club I had invested an extraordinary amount of time, energy, and emotion in during my first two terms at Oxford, which had given me a network of close friends, was becoming increasingly riven by factional splits, and despite its avowed commitment to liberation, the attitudes of certain members of the club towards certain disadvantaged groups was becoming poisonous,” he wrote.

He said anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments and actions have become a prevalent part of the club’s identity. “Whether it be members of the Executive throwing around the term ‘Zion’ (a term for Jews usually confined to websites run by the Ku Klux Klan) with casual abandon, senior members of the club expressing their ‘solidarity’ with Hamas and explicitly defending their tactics of indiscriminately murdering civilians, or a former Co-Chair claiming that ‘most accusations of antisemitism are just the Zionists crying wolf’, a large proportion of both OULC and the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews.”

He explained that the club decision to endorse Israel Apartheid Week, “a movement with a history of targetting and harassing Jewish students and inviting antisemitic speakers to campuses, despite the concerns of Jewish students,” illustrates how “uneven and insincere much of the active membership is when it comes to liberation.”

While he had hoped that during his tenure as Co-Chair he would be able to move the club away from “some of its more intolerant tendencies”, he sadly conceded “it only continued to move away from me, to a place I could no longer hope to retrieve it from. I am now in a position where I can no longer, in good conscience, defend club policy.”

Shock and Support for Chalmers’ Brave Move

Responding to his announcement, a fellow student thanked him for “sticking up for us Jews (I’m glad someone is!! You taking a stand is really appreciated),” and said she was “really sorry” that his term had to end like this.

“It’s awful that OULC is moving in this direction, but at the same time incredibly heartening to see that there are still people in the club who are willing to stand for what’s right and fight against this growing current of anti-Semitism. Well done indeed,” another student responded.

Labour Students, a national student organization which is affiliated with the Labour Party, said they were “deeply troubled” to hear reports of anti-Semitism at “one of our most prominent Labour Clubs.”

The organisation said in a statement to UK’s Telegraph: “We unequivocally condemn any form of anti-Semitism” adding that it takes the allegations “very seriously.”

“We will do whatever is necessary to ensure every Labour Club is a safe space for Jewish Students,” a spokesman said. “We are proud of the long history we have of working with the Union of Jewish Students and the National Union of Students to protect Jewish students on campus and this will always be a top priority for Labour Students.”

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel Staff