Calista Toner is President of the Glasgow University Conservative and Unionist Association, and a policy fellow at the Pinsker Centre.
Many students believe the terror attacks of the 7th of October in Israel require some moral equivalence: that they were justified and that Israel “had it coming”. That Hamas are militants, rightfully reacting to the oppression of 75 years of Israeli colonialist rule. That Israel should not exist but, while it does, Israelis must understand that civilians will be slaughtered. Babies will be murdered, women will be raped, and others will be kidnapped – all in the “justified” fight against oppression. After all, decolonisation is never peaceful.
These sentiments have, in recent weeks, been expressed loudly on my campus, and on campuses across the United Kingdom. This is the sort of evil that too many of our youth believe. Indeed, according to a YouGov poll conducted only six days after the atrocities, a staggering 49 per cent of 18–24-year-olds in the UK ‘don’t know’ whether Hamas is a terrorist organisation. This is obscene and abhorrent.
Glasgow University Conservative and Unionist Association (GUCUA) felt it necessary to counter this, and vocally to support Israel and our British-Jewish community. This is why I collaborated with the Pinsker Centre to draft our recent open letter and why the whole board of GUCUA agreed to sign it.
We cannot allow university campuses to become unsafe for Jewish students. We have already seen an outrageous UCU motion calling for ‘intifada until victory’ – an explicit call for violent uprising – almost debated at Oxford and Cambridge. Now, more than ever, we are united with our colleagues across the country in our support of Israel during its darkest hour. Indeed, this is why GUCUA and I have joined with 11 other Conservative Associations from across UK universities, and signed this open letter.
The lack of moral clarity amongst some on the left has sadly begun to seep into the national conversation We have already seen Labour shadow ministers attempt to coerce Keir Starmer into calling for a ceasefire. Humza Yousaf, the leader of the SNP, is already doing so.
Worse still, far-left protestors are turning central London into a no-go zone for British Jews, as increasingly extreme chants and imagery are plaguing London’s streets. We have heard calls to “globalise the intifada” alongside the now normalised “from the river to the sea”. If there were ever a time to show that the British Jewish community is not alone, and that there are decent citizens who will never stand for such hateful intimidation, it is now.
We call on our Conservative Government to stay proudly on the right side of history. Rishi Sunak should continue to “employ all available diplomatic means to support Israel in its efforts to destroy Hamas’s operational ability and secure the release of the hostages”. Similarly, the Government must ensure that “innocent Palestinians do not pay the price for Hamas barbarism”.
As stated in our letter, we welcome the additional £10 million announced in aid for the Palestinian Territories. We commend the Prime Minister for demonstrating steadfast support for Israel alongside a deep commitment to protecting the lives of innocent civilians. We must renounce the idea that it is one or the other. Hamas must be removed from Gaza for the benefit of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.
Conservatives can, and should, lead the fight for Israel. We must, likewise, stand with our British-Jewish community, many of whom feel isolated and afraid. It is unacceptable that this community has suffered an unprecedented rise in antisemitic hate crimes. These crimes must be prosecuted. Israel is fighting not just for its people – but in defence of our shared values. The United Kingdom has long defended the tenets of democracy and freedom. Now, more than ever, we must stand firm in our commitment to these beliefs. We Conservatives should be proud to support Israel.
The open letter is also supported by