Three responses to defamation of ORF speakers in the student media

We give below the text and full lists of signatories of three letters in support of the Oxford Radical Forum and of one of our speakers, in response to recent coverage in the student media, and comments made by some Oxford students.

This comes at a time when when a number of attempts have been made elsewhere in the UK to silence discussion on campus. We would like to thank all of those who have organised and signed these statements and letters for their solidarity with the Oxford Radical Forum and with our speaker.

1. A statement from supporters of Oxford Radical Forum 2017, in the labour movement and elsewhere, regarding recent coverage in the student media. 

2. A letter from the Fellows of the Middle East Centre, St Antony’s College, Oxford, published in the Cherwell newspaper on 3 March 2017.

3. A second letter signed by over 70 academics and Oxford alumni, published in shortened form with an abbreviated list of signatories in the Cherwell on 3 March 2017. We publish it in full below.


1. Statement from ORF supporters:

“We the undersigned are dismayed at the coverage by the Oxford student newspaper the Cherwell of the Oxford Radical Forum, which has reported allegations of anti-Semitism against invited speakers without providing any credible evidence to justify such coverage.

“The Cherwell articles report accusations that conflate opposition to political Zionism with anti-Semitism and conflate opposition to the Israeli bombing campaign against Gaza with the endorsement of the Hamas charter. The reasons for other accusations are less clear because no evidence is cited.

“All the speakers attacked have made clear their principled opposition to anti-Semitism and all forms of racism.

“We therefore express our solidarity with the Oxford Radical Forum and hope that it continues to contribute to the intellectual life of the University, allowing radical voices to be heard and radical ideas discussed.”

David Radford, International Officer, Oxford City Unison (pc).
John Walker, Chair, Oxford Palestine Solidarity Campaign (pc).
Dr Ghada Karmi, University of Exeter.
Neil Rogall, UCU, Jews for Justice for Palestinians.
Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya, University of East London chair UCU UEL.
David Muritu, Chair of UCU Equality Committee, UCU National Executive.
Robert Wilkinsonm International Solidarity Officer, Berkshire Division NUT
Bill MacKeith, NUJ, Close Campsfield
Mark Ladbrooke, GMB.
Ian McKendrick Communications Officer, Oxfordshire UNISON Health branch.
Kate Bradley BA English, Oriel College, graduated 2015.
Max Leak – BA Modern Languages, Wadham College, graduated 2016.
Martin Platais – BA English Language and Literature, St Edmund Hall, graduated 2015.
Will Searby – BA History, St Edmund Hall, graduated 2015.
Manuel Araújo – D.Phil Student in Mathematics, Christ Church.
Nick Evans – Austrian Academy of Sciences, D.Phil Wadham 2016.
Amy Gilligan (UCU, University of Aberdeen) MEarthSci, Exeter College graduated 2010.
Olivia Arigho-Stiles, BA History, graduated 2014.
Sophie Williams Medical Student, Wadham, graduated 2011.
Fraser Anderson, alumni Somerville College graduated 2012) PhD student KCL.
Saleem Rashid, lecturer, Sheffield College, UCU.
Owen Miller, Lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies.
Jonny Jones, PhD researcher, QMUL.
Pierre Marshall
Steve Rankin MA (Wadham)
Eóin Phillips, Postdoctoral Researcher, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.
Oxford rs21
Communist Party of Britain – Oxfordshire & Berkshire Branch
Jimm Thakoordin, UCU BMSC, Branch Secretary of Beds and Luton Adult and Community Education, and President of Luton TUC.
Kirsten Forkert, lecturer, Birmingham City University. UCU branch secretary (PC).
Pól Ó Ceallaigh, President, Oxford and District Trades Union Council



2. Letter from Middle East Centre Fellows [pdf copy here]:

To the Editors:

We write as the Fellows of Oxford’s Middle East Centre to condemn the groundless allegations of anti-Semitism that have been printed repeatedly in Cherwell against our friend and colleague Dr Miriyam Aouragh.

Unlike the student societies who have been making allegations against her, and the Cherwelljournalists who have covered the story, we know Dr Aouragh personally. She has been an active member of our teaching and research community since 2009. We can assert with confidence that the allegations of anti-Semitism are completely false and groundless.

As scholars committed to promoting and environment for the free exchange of critical thought, we condemn absolutely all expressions of hate speech, and anti-Semitism in particular. However, we believe anti-Semitism to be too serious an accusation to level without clear and certain evidence. Neither the students who have criticized Dr Aouragh nor Cherwell have provided any evidence of words or deeds to substantiate this charge.

In our view, it is the exercise of one’s freedom of expression to attend protest meetings, as it is to write critically about sensitive subjects, as long as one does not cross the boundary into hate speech. It is a pernicious form of censorship to use accusations of anti-Semitism to deny intellectuals their freedom of speech.

We urge Oxford students to drop their baseless accusations against Dr Aouragh, and Cherwelljournalists to understand what it means to publish such grave allegations without verification, in order to preserve our University as a forum for the free exchange of all views – a privilege all the more precious in the current age of intolerance.


Walter Armbrust, Tony Matthiesen, Laurent Mignon, Philip Robins, Eugene Rogan (Director), Tariq Ramadan, Michael Willis, Avi Shlaim (Emeritus Fellow)


3. Letter against the defamation of Dr Miriyam Aouragh:

2 March 2017

Dear Editors

Defamation of Dr Miriyam Aouragh

In the last two weeks you have published three articles which defame Dr Miriyam Aouragh, a speaker at this year’s Oxford Radical Forum, by suggesting that she has, in your words, “anti-semitism ties”, and by publishing a picture of her underneath a headline using those words. The only ‘evidence’ you produce for this outrageous allegation is a reference to the fact that in 2004 Dr Aouragh participated in a demonstration against Israel’s killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and nine bystanders (an atrocity that was condemned by the UN Secretary General and UK Foreign Secretary at the time). It should be self-evident that this in no way corroborates the allegation of anti-semitism.

Unlike those who are setting themselves up as her accusers we have the privilege of knowing Dr Aouragh. She is a respected anthropologist and media scholar, and a valued member of the academic and activist communities in Oxford and abroad. She has a proud record of anti-racist activism and a long history of close collaboration with Jewish scholars and activists – including some of the undersigned.

The attacks on the speakers at Oxford Radical Forum are yet another attempt to shut down critical voices in our universities. This does not happen in a vacuum. The UK Government’s Prevent strategy is the most alarming example, but forms of censorship are manifold. They include the use of false accusations of anti-semitism to discredit or silence critics of Israeli policies, a tactic that has a long history and which is on the rise – as is evident in this case and in current attacks on Israeli Apartheid Week events across the country (“Free speech on Israel under attack in universities”, Guardian, 27 February 2017). We condemn all of these forms of intimidation and censorship.

Your articles state that this baseless allegation of anti-semitism has been advanced by Oxford University Jewish Society. Regardless of who originated this attack upon Dr Aouragh’s character the Cherwell has a responsibility to maintain basic journalistic standards by refraining from publishing wholly unsubstantiated slanders on its front page. We demand you take action to remedy the damage you have done, by retracting your defamatory articles and publishing a prominent apology to Dr Aouragh.

Yours sincerely

Dr Reem Abou-El-Fadl, SOAS, University of London

Professor Gilbert Achcar, SOAS, University of London

Dr Anne Alexander, Research Associate, University of Cambridge

Diana Allan, Assistant Professor, McGill University, Canada

Dr Jamie Allinson, University of Edinburgh

Dr Seda Altug, Bogazici University, Istanbul

Dr Somnath Batabyal, SOAS, University of London

Sarah Bracke, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Amsterdam

Dr Pepijn Brandon, Assistant Professor, VU Amsterdam and Senior Researcher at the International Institute of Social History

Dr Francesca Burke, University of Brighton

Paula Chakravartty, Associate Professor, Department of Media, Culture and Communication and the Gallatin School, New York University

Professor Maurice Crul, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Dr Michael Dahan, Sapir College, Israel

Dr Enrico De Angelis, Free Press Unlimited, Berlin.

Dr Anouk de Koning, Department of Anthropology and Development Studies, Radboud University, the Netherlands

Dr Marina de Regt, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Dr Chihab El Khachab, Junior Research Fellow in Anthropology, Christ Church, Oxford

Nadia Fadil, Assistant Professor, Anthropology, KU Leuven, Belgium

Dr Simon Faulkner, Senior Lecturer in Art History, Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University

Dr Layal Ftouni, Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Dr Paolo Gerbaudo, Lecturer in Digital Culture and Society, Director of the Centre for Digital Culture, King’s College London

Dr Peter Goodwin, Principal Research Fellow, Communication and Media Research Institute, University of Westminster

Dr Erella Grassiani, University of Amsterdam

Dr Seda Gurses, KU Leuven, Belgium

Jaap Hamburger, Chairman A Different Jewish Voice, Amsterdam

Dr. Adam Hanieh, SOAS, University of London

Zahera Harb, Senior Lecturer, City, University of London

Sune Haugbolle, Associate Professor in Global Studies, Roskilde University, Denmark

Dr Sami Hermez, Northwestern University in Qatar

Dr Peter Hill, Junior Research Fellow in Oriental Studies, Christ Church, Oxford

Ashley Inglis, Writer; alumnus, St Anne’s College, Oxford

Russell Inglis, Solicitor; alumnus, St Hugh’s College, Oxford

Dr Adel Iskandar, Simon Fraser University, Canada

Dr Omar Jabary Salamanca, Ghent University, Belgium

Dr Peyman Jafari, University of Amsterdam

Dr Barak Kalir, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam

Dr Athina Karatzogianni, Associate Professor, Department of Media & Communication, University of Leicester

Anastasia Kavada, Senior Lecturer, Westminster School of Media, Arts & Design, University of Westminster

Dr Michelle Kelly, University of Oxford

Prof. Laleh Khalili, SOAS, University of London

Dr Shifra Kisch, Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam

Dr Arun Kundnani, Scholar-in-Residence, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library

Dr Adi Kuntsman, Senior Lecturer, Department of Languages, Information and Communications, Manchester Metropolitan University

Frans Lelie, Blauwe Aanslag, Netherlands

Dr Nancy Lindisfarne, SOAS, University of London

Rima Majed, Assistant Professor of Sociology and University of Oxford alumnus

Dr Winston Mano, Reader and a Director of the Africa Media Centre at the University of Westminster

Professor Upamanyu Pablo Mukherjee, Warwick University

Yasser Munif, Assistant Professor, Emerson College

Professor Annelies Moors, Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam

Dr Jonathan Neale, Writer, Oxford

Hussein Omar, Junior Research Fellow, Pembroke College, Oxford

Mohamed-Salah Omri, Associate Professor of Modern Arabic Literature, Tutorial Fellow, St John’s College, University of Oxford

Nicola Perugini, University of Edinburgh

Dr Winifred R. Poster, International Studies/International Affairs Program, Washington University, St Louis

Vijay Prashad, Professor of International Studies, Trinity College

Dr Mezna Qato, Cambridge University

Kamran Rastegar, Associate Professor, International Literary and Cultural Studies, Tufts University

Srirupa Roy, Professor of Political Science and Modern Indian Studies, University of Göttingen, Germany

Dr. Adam Sabra, University of California, Santa Barbara

Tarik Sabry, Reader at Communication and Media Research Institute, University of Westminster

Dr Yatun Sastramidjaja, Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam

Dr Rosemary Sayigh, Anthropologist and historian, Beirut

Dr Yezid Sayigh, Senior Fellow, Carnegie Middle East Center

Sherene Seikaly, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of California, Santa Barbara

Paul A. Silverstein, Professor of Anthropology, Reed College, US

Professor Colin Sparks, Hong Kong Baptist University

Mr Doug Specht, Lecturer, University of Westminster, UK

Rachel Spronk, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam

Helga Tawil-Souri, Associate Professor, New York University

Dr Rebecca Stein, Duke University

Professor Thijl Sunier, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Daniel Swain, Pianist; alumnus, St Anne’s College, Oxford

Dr Mandy Turner, Visiting Senior Fellow, Middle East Centre, London School of Economics

Professor Mattijs van de Port, University of Amsterdam

Dr Farida Vis, Faculty Research Fellow, Information School, University of Sheffield

Dr Mayida Zaal, Professor of Education, New Jersey US