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 Is there Anti-Semitism at U.K. University Campuses?

In April, Malia Bouattia won 50.9% of the vote becoming president of the National Union of Students, defeating incumbent, Megan Dunn. This despite an open letter from almost 50 Jewish student leaders saying they were “extremely concerned” by her views amid rising extremism and anti-Semitism on campus. Here are some of her choice quotes:

Ms. Bouattia blocked the union from passing a motion condemning Isil, calling it “Islamophobic.” In a recent talk, she dismissed the threat of “so-called terrorism” in the UK and blamed Government anti-terrorism policy on a “Zionist and neo-con lobby.”

“Zionist-led media outlets” had caused Muslims to have an “obsession of convincing non-Muslims of our non-violent and peaceful nature, so that we’re… dangerously condemning the resistance, branding groups and individuals as terrorists to dissociate from them.”

“We recognize that condemnation of Islamic State appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamophobia.”

This young woman is the president of the National Union of Students.

On October 28th dozens of police officers were called to the University College of London to quell a violent anti-Israel protest when, after being told their safety could not be guaranteed if they left alone, Jewish students barricaded themselves in the  room where a lecture from an IDF Commander was taking place.

Sir Eric Pickles MP and chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, said the incident was “shameful” and “provide[s] another sad insight into the levels of intimidation and harassment that Jewish and Israeli students can experience on university campuses across the UK.”

A spokesman for UCL said: “UCL and UCLU do not condone acts of intimidation or violence under any circumstances and, as a university with a longstanding radical history, we fiercely support the right to exercise free speech within the law. The freedom to debate and challenge views is fundamental to the nature of a university. We also acknowledge the right to peaceful protest. We regret protestors took measures to try to prevent the event from happening but stress that the protest was non-violent.”

The spokesman conveniently glossed over the fact that the protestors were violent. They were prevented from causing harm to the lecture participants only due to a strong police presence.

In January, Ami Ayalon was speaking at King’s College in London. The KCL Israel Society was hosting an event along with London School of Economics. The meeting was disturbed by protestors, from student group, KCL Action Palestine. They gained access to the building in London's West End, threw chairs, smashed windows and set off fire alarms. Eyewitnesses describe a mob throwing chairs and smashing windows, while pictures show officers standing guard outside the building.

In February, Oxford University's Labour Club chairman, Alex Chalmers resigned in protest after claiming that members have 'some kind of problem with Jews' and sympathize with terrorist groups like the Hamas. He said, ‘that despite the Labour club's “commitment to liberation”, it had a “poisonous” attitude toward certain groups’.

In his resignation statement, Chalmers explained that members of the OULC Executive had been “throwing around the term 'Zio' (an anti-Semitic term for Jews from the Ku Klux Klan) with casual abandon”. Senior members of the club had been “expressing their 'solidarity' with Hamas and explicitly defending their tactics of indiscriminately murdering civilians”, he added. The OULC’s decision to endorse Israel Apartheid Week was the reason for his resignation. “The decision of the club to endorse a movement with a history of targeting and harassing Jewish students and inviting anti-Semitic speakers to campuses, despite the concerns of Jewish students, illustrates how uneven and insincere much of the active membership is when it comes to liberation.”

Sir Eric Pickles, said that universities have long “turned a blind eye” to the issue of hostility towards Jews on campus, adding that they must start to “show a bit of gumption”. Jo Johnson, the universities minister, urged academic institutions to “act swiftly” to investigate claims of anti-Semitism and other hate crimes.

Some of Britain's leading universities are becoming no-go zones for Jewish students because anti-Semitism is so rife, says Baroness Ruth Deech, a former senior proctor at Oxford University. She said: ‘a handful of universities are now gaining reputations as institutions where Jews are unwelcome.’ “Amongst Jewish students, there is gradually a feeling that there are certain universities that you should avoid… Institutions may be failing to combat hatred against Jews as they are “afraid of offending” their potential benefactors from Gulf States.’

Spokespeople for Exeter and Oxford both denied the allegations claiming anti-Semitism has no place on their campus.


However, the Community Security Trust (CST) recorded 27 anti-Semitic incidents – involving students, student bodies or academics – between January and June this year, compared to 11 in the same period in 2015.

An interesting response came from Josh Nagli who is Campaigns Director of the Union of Jewish Students. He wrote the daily telegraph his feelings on the matter. ‘Whilst universities and students’ unions should absolutely be concerned about these figures and work to reduce them, Baroness Deech’s comments are alarmist and frankly, wrong. Anti-Semitism is not rife, universities are not “no-go zones for Jewish students” and there are no “certain universities that [Jewish students] should avoid”. To suggest otherwise is to do a disservice to Jewish Societies, who do amazing work to keep their peers safe, promote interfaith relations and facilitate dialogue on political differences.’

‘We must continue to address hostilities towards Jewish students, but it is imperative also to keep those in perspective, which yesterday’s news failed to do.’ 
People other than Jewish students should not explain to them what their campus experience is. I am not discounting the negative experiences that some Jewish students have had, but we support over 8,500 Jewish students on around 60 campuses and ultimately, I’m proud that every day, UJS supports Jewish students across the UK to be themselves.’ Josh Nagli wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

The question to be asked is: What is a tolerable level of anti-Semitism? It should be zero tolerance as all the universities state. This is a great goal; something that we hope will become reality. It doesn’t yet exist.


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