As you may be aware, screenshots of Facebook posts by Daniel Yahia on his personal page have surfaced in which he refers to Jewish Israeli footballer Nir Bitton as “subhuman” “filthy” and likens him to a rat. (For more information please see http://thetab.com/uk/2016/08/09/nus-delegate-posts-extreme-anti-semitic-comments-facebook-13489)
As alumni of the University of Edinburgh and as former committee members of Students for Justice in Palestine at the university, we are writing to state that we both personally and politically are repudiating the language and attitude in Yahia’s comments. Moreover, the movement in which we have been active for years has never embodied such views, and will continue to work in the spirit and aim of equality and liberation.
The language of the post was certainly racialized, harking back to the language of the Nazis during their rise to power, and indeed many other supremacist, right wing, fascist and anti-Semitic movements throughout history. While Yahia has denied the allegation of racism and anti-Semitism on the grounds that he was referring to Bitton as a prominent Zionist (supporter of the state of Israel) and not as a Jewish or Israeli person, the use of racialized language is, nonetheless, racist.
Furthermore, denying the humanity of any person of any ethnic, religious or other identity is fundamentally unacceptable. Historically and contemporarily it has been used in order justify oppression in almost every form, from Chattel Slavery to the Holocaust and from the contempt of Syrian refugees to the millennia of marginalisation that women have faced. These oppressions have been allowed to happen because the marginalised groups have been labelled as “subhuman” and “other” and therefore not deserving of basics rights to life and dignity.
We wish to make it clear that Daniel Yahia’s comments are not representative of the society that we have been a part of since 2010. We also trust that the current committee and membership- motivated by the same anti-racist and anti-oppression values- will act accordingly. We offer them whatever support we can in maintaining a healthy and inclusive movement and society for justice in Palestine.
It is often said by our opponents that pro-Palestine movements do not do enough to tackle racism and anti-Semitism within our own movement, and that is why I have found it necessary to publicly make clear our disgust at the language used and the ideologies they hark back to.
We hope that Yahia takes this as an opportunity for learning, and that he will see that regardless of his intent, what he says echoes within a wider context, in which the same words are used by those on the far right to a much more sinister end.
Our support for the people of Palestine is informed by a rejection of racism and oppression in any form, and is the politics of solidarity, not exclusion.
Sincerely and in solidarity;
Ryan Swan – Member; 2014 – 2016 & President; 2015-2016
Beti Scott – Member; 2011 – 2016 & President; 2014-2015
Rea Marmarinou – Member; 2011 – 2016 & President; 2013 – 2014
Jack McGinn – Member; 2011 – 2013 & President; 2012 – 2013
David Farrell-Banks – Member; 2010 – 2015 & Treasurer; 2012 – 2013
Faatima Osman – Member; 2011 – 2015 & Secretary; 2013 – 2014
Image Credit: Manos Simonides