Sheffield Labour Students cancels anti-war meeting, citing police investigation of anti-Semitism allegations
12 November 2018
The vote by Sheffield Labour Students (SLS) to “indefinitely postpone” a Stop the War Coalition (STWC) event at the University of Sheffield is a major attack on freedom of speech on university campuses.
Labour Party MP for Derby, Chris Williamson, a key backer of party leader Jeremy Corbyn, was due to address a November 8 meeting titled, “Stop bombing Yemen. Stop Arming Saudi Arabia.” But the SLS executive effectively banned the event after the London Metropolitan Police announced the opening of an investigation into 42 allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
The SLS’s decision followed complaints from the Sheffield Jewish Society (JSoc), which falsely accused Williamson of “encouraging a culture of anti-Semitism.” In a statement issued on October 30, JSoc (comprising students from Sheffield Hallam and University of Sheffield) claimed, “Williamson has repeatedly defended, and shared platforms with, anti-Semites expelled from the Labour Party and he has called anti-Semitism allegations in the Labour Party ‘proxy wars and bullshit.’ As such, any society inviting him onto campus, for any reason, is a betrayal of Jewish students in Sheffield and the Jewish community as a whole.”
Initially, the SLS executive rejected JSoc’s demands, voting to uphold their invitation to Williamson (six voted in favour, three against, and one abstained). Meeting on October 30, members of the executive said there was “no evidence that Chris Williamson is anti-Semitic” and that the accusations were based on “hearsay.” It would be “unprofessional and unfair” to rescind the invitation simply because the speaker…