The motion after amendments by SU President Fergus KirmanSU motion seen by Varsity

Jewish students have condemned a Cambridge SU motion, debated earlier this evening, which called for a “mass uprising” in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, likened by the proposer to “the first Intifada”.

The University Jewish Society (JSoc) have labelled the SU’s decision to table the motion as a “disgrace,” as criticisms of Cambridge’s handling of events in Israel and Gaza intensify.

Fergus Kirman, SU Undergraduate President, heavily amended the original motion, saying that he was “astonished and appalled” by the submission, before encouraging attendees to “consider how it would make students with relatives in Israel feel”.

The motion was proposed by a student member of Cambridge Marxist Society at a meeting of the SU’s Student Council, and called for “a mass uprising on both sides of the Green Line and across the Middle East”.

When pressed about the intended meaning of “mass uprising”, the student admitted that there had been “some controversy” over the phrasing, but claimed this had emerged from ”misinterpretations”.

“I was talking about a mass movement, not about October 7th but about the democratic general strikes of 2021”, they said, before adding that they were also thinking "back to the first Intifada.”

The first Intifada was a 1987 uprising in the Occupied Palestinian Territory against the Israeli authorities.

Einav Grushka and Tani Volk, Israeli students who co-authored a letter demanding the university condemn Hamas earlier this month, described the reference to the Intifada as “directly inciting violence and murder” and said that the proposer should be “investigated by the University.”

The proposer of the controversial motion told Varsity that they had "sought legal advice" and had been informed that "using the word 'Intifada' is not incitement to violence".

The student also condemned the October 7th Hamas attacks, saying they were "the exact opposite of what we stand for as communists".

"I explained this clearly and explicitly, and do not know how anyone could misunderstand it", they added.

JSoc suggested that the motion’s phrasing amounted to support for “acts of terror” committed at the beginning of October.

The October 7th attacks by Hamas, a Palestinian organisation of Islamist militants, killed 1,400 people in Israel. Hamas is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the United States, the EU and the UK, as well as other powers.

Referring to the original motion, SU President Fergus Kirman admitted that he “took most of it out”. His amended copy was virtually unrecognisable from the original text.

The amended version resolved to “support all students affected by violence across Israel and Palestine,” while the original text declared its “solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people against occupation”.

The SU President's changes also removed calls for “mobilising and campaigning against companies, banks, and institutions that aid the manufacture and delivery of arms to Israel”.

The Council chair brought the debate to an early close, after the student started being pressed on their mention of the Intifada.


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The chair concluded by saying: “We would not like to put a student in a position where to answer a question they would have to incite violence.”

Ultimately, the motion was not passed by the Student Council, as there were not enough voting members in attendance.

Varsity spoke to Jewish students at the debate.

One student described the general atmosphere of life at the University since October 7th, saying they have been “afraid to be a Jewish person in Cambridge”.

The University has been embroiled in scandal over its response to events in Israel and Gaza, following widely signed letters of condemnation by both Israeli and Palestinian students.

Large pro-Palestinian demonstrations have also been held at the University.

Retaliatory Israeli airstrikes have been hitting Gaza for sixteen days, and more than 5,000 people have been killed in Gaza over that period.

The University’s position does now acknowledge the “loss of innocent lives in Israel”, after pressure from Jewish and Israeli students, and the vice-chancellor has stated that the University Security Section will be on “alert” for “any activity that might make members of the Jewish community feel unsafe”.

But one Jewish student, after exiting the debate, criticised how the University has conducted itself even since the vice-chancellors shift in position, saying “too little too late.”

“It’s been a smear on Cambridge's reputation as an academic institution”, they added, before another student said that there has still been “very minimal support to Jewish and Israeli students”.