Updated February 22
A request to form a Jewish club at a British university was only approved by a narrower-than-expected vote of the student body, with more than 200 people voting against it.
The proposed Jewish Society at the University of Essex had to be approved by the student union, which had recently approved clubs like the “Pokemon Go Society” and the “K-Pop Society.” But only 64% of students voted in favor of approving the Jewish group’s formation, with 36% - comprising more than 200 students - voting no.
“Jewish societies, of which over 60 exist on UK campuses up and down the country, provide a space for Jewish students to celebrate their culture and identity,” the country’s Union of Jewish Students said in a statement. “The fact that some students at the University of Essex deem it fit to vote against that is quite simply shocking.”
The statement also pointed out that a computer science lecturer at the university, Maaruf Ali, had campaigned on Facebook against the formation of the group.
The Jewish Chronicle reported that Ali had also posted memes on Facebook questioning the number of Jews who had died in the Holocaust, and claiming that the Mossad was connected to the January 2015 Islamic terror attack in Paris.
The school’s Amnesty International Society also took issue with the formation of the Jewish Society, citing planned celebrations of Israel’s Independence Day.
A spokesperson for the university, which has more than 15,000 students, told the BBC that the school had a zero-tolerance policy toward harassment and was investigating the matter. The university’s vice chancellor told the Jewish Chronicle that the school was committed to the formation of a Jewish society regardless of the outcome of the vote.