At Oxford, Facebook Post Sets Jew Against Palestinian - and Jew Against Jew

The Palestinian Society's Facebook posting of a link to a crudely anti-Semitic website ignites battle between it - and within - the Israel Society.

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Oxford's Oriel College, where Cowen finished his career.
One of the Oxford colleges.Credit: tejvanphotos

Even at Oxford University, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is inciting breaches of civility – not only between the pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian factions, but within the pro-Israel camp as well.

According to The Oxford Student newspaper, the controversy began with the Palestinian Society's Facebook posting of a link to, a crudely anti-Semitic site. The president of the university's Israel Society, CharlesBlack, posted that he would “not allow them to stoke such an atmosphere on campus. Not on my watch. It's payback time.”

The Palestinian Society removed the post, noting, "The previous post was deleted because it was racist and anti-Semitic [...] such views are not welcome in PalSoc." It also  accused the Israel Society of seeking to "discredit" it by casting anti-Israel views as anti-Semitic.

Ariel Hoffman, a member of the Israel Society, then accused Black of going overboard against the pro-Palestinian group and thereby doing their own group a "great disservice." Hoffman said he was "hoping for some civil discussion but it seems you’re doing everything in your power to throw that out the window."

Black responded by blackballing Hoffman on the grounds that he had violated the Israel Society's commitment to fight all forms of racial or religious discrimination. Hoffman, he said, would be  "far happier" at the Palestinian Society where he "can have 'dialogue with anti-Semites.'"

Among Israel Society members, opinion appeared split on the approach they should take to their pro-Palestinian counterparts. One member asked Black “whether it would be better to engage with some form of dialogue ... they don’t seem unreasonable from what’s on their page.” 

Another, however, advised the group's leader, “You need to encourage them to have more and more intolerant extremists in their midst. The more homophobic, the more religiously intolerant, the more anti-Semitic the better. Makes them all the more easy to discredit.”

Asked to characterize his group's relationship with the pro-Israel organization, the Palestine Society spokesperson said, “As a society, we have no relationship with them and are puzzled as to where this sudden criticism comes from.”