Cambridge academic accused of racism over Palestine demo comments

LONDON: A Cambridge University professor has been accused of racism for comments about a pro-Palestine demonstration.

The university’s Palestine Solidarity Society and Middle Eastern North African Society said Dr. James Orr’s comments about protests in central London, of which he said “Import the Arab world, become the Arab world,” were “obviously racist.”

Orr, a member of the Faculty of Divinity, made the remarks on social media below a video of demonstrators praying on Kensington High Street in the capital, waving Palestinian flags and setting off flares.

They came just hours after Palestinian group Hamas entered southern Israel in an orchestrated attack on Oct. 7 that left at least 1,200 Israelis dead.

Cahir O’Kane, a Cambridge University professor of genetics, responded to Orr: “You could have commented on this post or the responses to the shocking Hamas atrocities in any number of reasonable ways. But you tweeted a derogatory racist comment that targets Arabs.”

A Divinity Faculty member told the university newspaper Varsity: “This clearly falls well short of the standards expected of an academic at a public university. But it falls especially short of an academic in a religious studies department, with members of varying ethnicities and religious affiliations.

“It is unthinkable that Orr can continue to enjoy the confidence of students and colleagues to teach, examine and collaborate without discrimination.”

Elsewhere, a number of students and academics in the UK risk police investigation for expressing support for Hamas, which is illegal in the country as the group is outlawed as a terrorist organization.

In separate incidents, one academic at University College London is under investigation for claiming the Hamas attack was “entirely justifiable,” while another academic at a separate London university claimed murdered Israelis died as a “consequence” of “partying on stolen land.”

UK Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has urged vice chancellors of British universities to do more to safeguard Jewish students and stop hate speech on campuses, claiming Jewish students needed to be “(free to) pursue their studies without fear of harassment or intimidation.”

The letter read: “We have seen evidence of a number of student societies that support Palestinians sending out inflammatory messages that show support for Hamas, which is, as you know, a proscribed terrorist organization.

“Not only are such statements of questionable legality, but they are also deeply troubling and hurtful to Jewish people, given that so many have friends and family based in Israel.”

It added: “We are asking that you do whatever you can to actively provide Jewish students with the reassurance they need, now and in the weeks and months to come, to go about their lives, and pursue their studies, without fear of harassment or intimidation.”

UK Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said the government plans to deport any foreign nationals found guilty of antisemitism or supporting Hamas, in a move echoing a similar announcement made by France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. Three people have already been deported from France for such offenses following the attack in Israel.

A spokesman for the Union of Jewish Students told the Mail Online: “It is unconscionable for anyone to seek to justify the murderous and barbaric actions of Hamas, a proscribed terrorist group.

“There is never a legitimate reason to rape, murder and kidnap innocent civilians.”

Prof. Anthony Glees, a security and intelligence expert at the University of Buckingham, condemned universities for allowing the expression of sentiments in support of Hamas.

He told Mail Online: “It reeks of hypocrisy that universities will allow academics and students to back a terror organization, but yet they are so quick to no-platform academics.

“Young impressionable minds are being manipulated under the guise of academic freedom. They (universities) are pandering to extremism.”

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