Every year at universities across the country, ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ sees a flurry of antisemitic speakers and demonstrations on British campuses. Each year, we are contacted by Jewish students who are unsure of their rights, what they can do, and how we can help them.
Following a great deal of work by Campaign Against Antisemitism, Sir Eric Pickles and others, the British government became the first in the world to formally adopt the International Definition of Antisemitism in 2016, following which the then Minister of State for Universities reminded all universities of the definition and their obligation to protect their Jewish students. Although it offered no new measures, his call was backed by the Prime Minister.
Some universities such as the University of Exeter and the University of Central Lancashire showed principled leadership and banned ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ events, whereas others, like the University of Sussex, rolled out the red carpet.
Last year, by the end of ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’, which often runs for more than one week, students were making videos complaining about problematic events being cancelled. We hope that there might be similar successes in stopping extremist, antisemitic or abusive events this year, despite unhelpful comments by the former Minister of State for Universities in December 2017.
Universities and students’ unions are governed by complex rules and laws, including the government’s Prevent counter-extremism strategy, the public sector equality duty, charity law and numerous other requirements. It can be complicated to enforce the law, but we are here to help. Today we have sent a simple guide to students explaining how we can help them to enforce their rights. The guide has been sent to Jewish Societies directly but it can also be downloaded by anybody from our website.
To be perfectly clear, Campaign Against Antisemitism has no objection to robust political discourse about Israel, but there must be zero tolerance for antisemitic discourse disguised as political criticism. We call on universities to abide by their moral and legal obligation to protect Jewish students. We are keen to hear from students who are experiencing antisemitism on campus, or who are aware of recent and future events of concern via e-mail at [email protected].