Jay Stoll, president of the LSE Jewish Society, was honored for his efforts challenging anti-Semitism on campus at the Union of Jewish Students awards on April 1, 2012.
Jay Stoll led the response when a Jewish LSE student was physically assaulted by his peers on an athletics union university ski trip. He had confronted them for playing a Nazi-themed card game. Mr. Stoll ensured that the university took the incident seriously, with the four perpetrators banned from the student union.
He also oversaw efforts earlier this year to stop hate speaker Haitham Al Haddad from addressing LSE students.
In regard to the Nazi themed card game, Stoll said: “Nazi glorification and anti-Semitism have no place in our universities, which should remain safe spaces for all students. “There is simply no context for what has happened here. Those who believe the game was in good humor need to realize that when a Jewish student is subject to violence and the Nazi ideology glorified it is no joke but a spiteful, collective attack on a community.”
The game took place during a skiing trip to Val d'Isère France organized by the students' union in December, 2011 and attended by 150 students from the university's athletics union. A small group of the students, with positions of captaincy within the School’s Athletic Union, decided to play the drinking game King’s Cup/Ring of Fire, but with a little Nazi twist. For those unfamiliar with the normal game, it involves fanning a deck of cards on a table. Each card is assigned a different meaning and players drink and perform tasks according to what they draw.
According to the LSE’s student newspaper The Beaver, “‘Nazi Ring of Fire’ involved arranging cards on the table in the shape of a Swastika, and required players to ‘Salute the Fuhrer’” among other anti-Semitic behaviors.
Needless to say, this did not sit too well with the Jewish student who was participating in the game. “I feel angry about it now. There’s no doubt it was an affront at my identity, but on a personal level it was extremely upsetting,” the student told the Guardian.
“There was a mix of personal references and general Jewish insults,” the student told the Guardian. “That was after I excused myself from the game. It made me extremely upset. That was the tipping point for me. It was a build-up during the game, and seeing the swastika obviously, but the comments built up to the point where I couldn’t forgive myself if I let it slide.”
Increased tensions eventually spilling over into a brawl, resulting in the Jewish student having his nose broken. Onlookers and fellow teammates merely stood by, clamored for the Rocky theme tune, and proceeded to post events on Facebook.
University officials claim they are taking action to ensure that something like this does not happen again. “A ‘drinking game’ with a Nazi theme could not be further from our values and we condemn the actions of those who participated in it,” Alex Peters-Day, General Secretary of the LSE Students’ Union, explained to The Beaver. “We have a zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism at LSESU and after consultation with LSE, the Union of Jewish Students, the LSE Jewish Society and the LSE Athletics Union, we are all in agreement that the students involved in this incident should face disciplinary action.”
No word on what the disciplinary action will be, but one thing is for sure–turning Nazism into a game is no laughing matter.
Jay Stoll considered the Nazi card game incident as a reflection of the general structure of British society. He said: “Let’s not play dumb to the reality here. The true establishment that should be scrutinized is that of an over-privileged, anti-intellectual culture within a minority of the wider student body. Let’s not pretend we haven’t seen it before, from the same culprits, in the same context, with the same excuses.”
Fresh from their boarding school lives, some of the upper middle classes of Athletics Unions, primed for the future political elites, have displayed a complete disregard to any consequence of their palpably insulting behavior. Athletics Unions and their autonomous social programs may constitute a fantastic facet of many university lives, but this does not excuse blatant violations of society’s basic tenets: cooperation, mutual respect and a zero-tolerance to prejudice.
The event cancelled at the LSE was a talk to be given by Haitham al-Haddad, a London-based Islamic scholar and Muslim community leader. Haitham Al Haddad is alleged to have described Jews as "the enemies of God, and the descendants of apes and pigs" and stated that it is necessary to hate Jews and Christians, was due to speak at the university on Feb. 7, 2012. The event had been organized by the LSE Islamic Society.
Stoll praised the union for calling off the event, but did state that “there is something deeply flawed in the LSE’s procedures on speaker events when someone like Al-Haddad is approved without due consideration.” This was supported by the Union of Jewish Students, who said that “it is our firm belief that freedom of speech within our universities is vital, but not at the expense of student welfare. We should have no truck with those who seek to spread hate on our campuses.”
The problem of extremist speakers being cleared to visit campuses by Student Unions and university authorities is an issue which Student Rights have raised in the past at LSE, for example when the university hosted the anti-Semitic Palestinian Abdel Bari Atwan. The Islamic Society at LSE has also invited Muhammad Bin Adam al-Kawthari to speak, a man who has declared that “it is unlawful for the wife to refuse her husband for sexual intimacy”.
This issue is widespread across the UK however, and should not simply be an accusation laid at the LSE’s door alone. Unfortunately it is often the case that the people tasked with vetting speakers simply do not have enough specialist knowledge on the subject, allowing speakers onto campus without fully checking their background.
This is a step in the right direction, and the cancellation of Haitham Al-Haddad’s talk today is further proof that universities are beginning to accept that just because a speaker does not break the law does not necessarily mean they should be invited onto campus. Student Rights will continue to work to provide university authorities with the information necessary to make the informed decisions required to make British campuses a safer and more inclusive place for all.
Jay Stoll also described the belligerent events that occurred during Israeli Apartheid Week at LSE on Feb. 20, 2012.
1. The Palestine Society put posters up around campus for the Day of Action. Posters include Mandela quote on Palestinian plight. Posters also refer to Israel a racist, apartheid construct from its inception in 1948, directly comparable to South African Apartheid.
2. Mock ‘checkpoint’ erected in front of key University thoroughfare, spanning around 10ft in width, accompanying watchtower.
3. ‘Checkpoint’ surrounded by around 10 students, including LSESU Sabbatical Officers and Part Time Executive officers. Most wearing high visibility jackets with Tsahal, or IDF, written on the back. Imitation guns are brandished at the checkpoint.
4. Students are very briefly delayed entering the thoroughfare, being asked for ID. This is largely peaceful and the protest continues to run its course like this throughout the day.
5. Jewish/Israeli students email complaints that they are being publicly castigated as Israelis, or as ‘students of privilege’ in front of other students, by those wearing the high visibility jackets. Formal complaints are made.
6. The demonstration stages mock conflicts at the “checkpoint”, with Palestine society members, male and female, being dragged along the floor kicking and screaming. This takes place repeatedly.
7. LSE Security Staff warn those running ‘checkpoint’ that there have been complaints, and issues over preventing access.
8. Some SU members attack ‘checkpoint’ with water balloons, party poppers, shouting “death to Israel” and “Hamas” as they do it. The attack partly collapses the wall. Balloons hit several students wearing high-vis jackets.
9. A few students, presumably those running the ‘checkpoint’ charge at those throwing the balloons. Two members proceed to attack the same individual, throwing a water balloon back and then kicking him repeatedly. The LSE Security is there in seconds to break it up.
10. The SU releases a statement, initially with accompanying Palestine Society logo, states all violence should be condemned, defends the right to peacefully protest on campus.
11. Societies, Palestine and Israel, release statements, condemning the actions of one another.
Stoll said: I strongly feel that, if both sides stopped name calling and listened to each other, [demonstrations] wouldn’t become the equivalent of an ill tempered varsity match. As advocates, we have a duty to behave with respect to one another. As University Union Societies, we are not in physical conflict with each other. This is not about “resistance.” The LSE is not a battlefield. We all hope to leave this university with qualifications and a job. We ought to behave, accordingly.
All sensible people will condemn the water balloon throwing and the violent assaults which followed. It is right for all of us to promote our beliefs vigorously, with words and not violence. Both supporters of Israel and Palestine need to accept that the majority in this country is alienated from this quarrel and cringes when it sees what we get up to. A major strategy rethink is long overdue.