A lecturer at the University of Essex has been suspended over anti-Semitic remarks. Dr Maaruf Ali, who lectured computer science, made the comments in a since-deleted Facebook post following intense opposition to a proposed Jewish Society. Over two-hundred students voted against its creation, joined in their detraction in far more zealous terms by Ali, who wrote “the Zionists next want to create a society here at our university”.
Zionism is a movement for the protection of Israel as the Jewish homeland. While opposition to this movement is not in itself considered anti-Semitic, many in the Jewish community argue that anti-Zionism can be used by anti-Semites to intellectualise their hatred. ‘Zio’ is recognised as an anti-Semitic slur, and age-old anti-Semitic myths about Jews are often re-propagated under the pretence of criticising Zionism or Zionists. For example, the ex-head of the National Union of Students (NUS), Malia Bouattia, drew criticism for a talk she gave in 2014 where she made reference to “Zionist-led media outlets”, a possible allusion to the anti-Semitic idea that Jews control the media.
Dr Maaruf Ali has also been criticised for other Facebook posts that appear to deny the Holocaust, though these posts have since been deleted. On 1st of August last year, for example, he posted a quote from Edgar J Steele, an attorney who the Southern Poverty Law Centere described as “a regular on the anti-Semitic and racist circuit... [who envisioned] a future race war in the U.S., with white Americans forced to retreat to the Northwest”. The quote posted to Facebook is as follows: “In all of German-occupied Europe, there resided 2.4 million Jews before the war, according to the World Jewish Encyclopedia. After the war, 3.8 million Jewish ‘Holocaust survivors’ were receiving pensions from the German government. Tragically, the remaining 6 million were lost”. This statement questions whether 6 million Jews could have been killed in the Holocaust, or possibly even whether the Holocaust happened at all, despite the wealth of evidence that repudiate both viewpoints, including Nazi records, witness testimonies and war crime trials.
Ali’s posts were described as “disgusting” by the Campaigns Organiser at the Union of Jewish Students, a national organisation, and the University of Essex were quick to respond. The chancellor- Essex alumni and House of Commons Speaker John Bercow- had an “urgent discussion” with the university’s management, leaving Anthony Forster, the Vice-Chancellor, to launch a review into the treatment of Jewish people on campus. The week after, an event was held in support of the Jewish Society, attended by over 500 people.
The Vice-Chancellor said “To see the University of Essex associated with anti-Semitism has been a deeply shocking event and one which has filled me with great sadness. Anti-Semitism is antithetical to the values of the University of Essex and has no place at our university. We have a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and hate crime which is at the very core of our values and beliefs”.