Posted Thursday, September 18, 2003

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Received from an anonymous source, Thursday, September 18, 2003

In Defence of the Junior Common Room of St. Anne's College, Oxford

"In Defence of the Junior Common Room of St. Anne's College, Oxford University, and other British student bodies, against the implication of anti-semitism by many parties, including, Dame Ruth Deech, currently the Principal of St. Anne's College and a Governor of the British Broadcasting Corporation."

16th September 2003

THIS is an anonymous letter written by a former undergraduate student of St. Anne's College, who was a member of the college in the early-to-mid 1980's. Anonymity has been used as a precaution against potential retaliation by the college senior body in the event of the author ever requesting to study there again.

I gained a place at St. Anne's and have no regrets about doing so. I had no bad interactions with the college authorities. In fact, quite the opposite. I always had the impression that the Senior Members of St. Anne's did not carry with them any airs and were not officious or obnoxious in the way that some of the Senior Members were of some of the more older, more wealthy, more male, and more well-known Oxford Colleges.

Ruth DeechThe fact that St. Anne's was pleasant in that regard is a reflection of its Senior Members at that time, who included Ruth Deech (right). Ruth Deech is now the Principal of the College, a member of the Board of Governors of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and a Dame (courtesy of Her Most Excellent Majesty Elizabeth The Second).

I never studied under Ruth Deech. I remember her as a lady who would smile at one when one passed her in the corridor. I had the impression that she was a popular, competent, and demanding tutor. If I had known that she would become a British establishment figure, and indeed a Dame, then I would perhaps have passed her in the corridor in more awe than I did at the time. As one of the songs in the musical "South Pacific" tells us, there is nothing like a dame, and indeed there is nothing like a British Dame.


THE Junior Common Room of St. Anne's in the early-to-mid 1980's probably closely reflected in party politics the majority of other British student bodies: it was left-wing and Labour Party supporters out-numbered Conservative Party supporters. I can recall the JCR passing motions against apartheid, the policies of the state of Israel, Value Added Tax on books, racism, student debt, and other bug-bears of the British student left of the time.

When I have looked back at my time at St. Anne's I have never been struck by the thought that the politics of the vast majority of the student body were in any way anti-semitic.

Negativity towards the state of Israel was just a part of the political agenda of the British student left at the time. The same is true today. It is driven by a political awareness of current and past political events in the Middle East. It is not driven by anti-semitism.

The BBC's biography of Ruth Deech describes her as being born in London in 1943 and gives a summary of her academic career.

Not mentioned in the above biography, nor in the similar notes on the St. Anne's College web site, nor in the main-stream British press, is that she is an activist and high profile figure within the British Jewish community, a staunch Zionist / supporter of the State of Israel, and a strong critic of the British media coverage of Israel.

At the Board of Deputies of British Jews' "Seeing Clearly" First Annual Conference, 21st June 1998, the closing speaker was Ruth Deech, who was introduced as Principal of St Anne's College. A summary of her speech (primarily on British Jewish leadership and the role of women) can be found:

  • "calling herself a product of all the Jewish experiences under discussion during the conference: holocaust survival; poor Jewish education; a youth movement; a period in Israel; Hillel and university Jewish studies."
  • "Mrs Deech stated 'we are all relativists in a multicultural society with no banner of absolute truth to guide us'. She lamented the assimilation and anti-Zionism of most Jewish intellectuals who dominate university syllabuses, with very few notable exceptions who combine academic distinction with communal involvement."

Dr. Yitzchok Levine, 8/13/2003, quotes her as saying (on the attempted British academic boycott of Israel): "Speaking to the Jerusalem Post on 19 July, Dame Ruth Deech of St Anne's College, Oxford, said, 'Sadly, it's almost as if anti-Semitism has been repressed and not respectable for the last 50 years and that effect has worn off. Israel has provided a pretext for people with that sort of feeling. One cannot separate anti-Israel from anti-Jewish, when you look at the result: as soon as Israel is said to behave badly, the retaliation is to bomb a synagogue, or to attack Jews in the street.' "

  • The [Shamash] site adds to the above quote of her: "One can name so many countries where human rights have been denied on a systematic basis.. Israel has been singled out for this sort of action- why no boycott of Zimbawe or Burma?"
  • Totally Jewish - News Channel at stated: "Newly-appointed BBC governor Dame Ruth Deech vowed to fight media bias against Israel as she collected Jewish Care's woman of distinction accolade last week."

In the above quotes, Ruth Deech, when speaking within the British Jewish community, and also when speaking to an Israeli newspaper, is always referenced as being "the Principal of St. Anne's College."


AN example of the racist facts of life in Israel (in the academic sphere in this case) can be seen at:

The Open University of Israel (which is based on the British original of the same name). The web site is in English, Hebrew, and Russian, but not Arabic. The organisational (i.e.the officers and senior members) structure shown on the same web site shows no apparent Arabs. Nor does the associated web site for the American Friends of The Open University of Israel. This is despite the fact that the CIA World Fact Book gives for Israel-proper (i.e. not the West Bank and O.T.s) "non-Jewish 19.9% (mostly Arab) (1996 est.)".

Israeli Arabs are certainly taught there as students, and indeed some classes are taught in Arabic, but Arabs have no significant representation in the senior body of the university despite making up a fifth of the Israeli citizenry.

There are plenty of Israeli civil rights organisations and their web sites, run by Jews, Arabs, and sometimes both, which document racist discrimination in the funding of Israeli Arab schools for pre-university age students.

Racial discrimination against Israeli Arabs, in economic, educational, legal, and other spheres, is a basic fact of Israeli life. It is something that is not publicly criticised by Britsh Jewish leaders.

For Ruth Deech to say "One cannot separate anti-Israel from anti-Jewish" carries the implication that the Junior Common Room of her own college, and other British student bodies, are anti-semitic. This is an unfair and untrue implication. It is also misleading as regards the state of British society and its politics when published in an Israeli newspaper. The first thing that Dame Ruth Deech should say whenever speaking within the British Jewish community or talking to an Israeli newspaper, is that Israeli Jewish mistreatment of Arabs is morally wrong.

THAT would be female British Jewish LEADERSHIP.

EX-St. Anne's College, Oxford

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