A quarter of the UK’s leading universities published potentially anti-Semitic statements during the recent 11-day conflict between Israel and Gaza.
The Pinsker Centre think tank revealed that student unions and faculties at a quarter of Britain’s top 40 universities published “highly partisan, anti-Israel statements”. In report called for more robust enforcement of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism and other changes to protect Jewish students on campus.
The think tank highlighted in its report several examples of statements about the conflict from groups at the UK’s leading universities.
It also warned of a “potential link between highly emotionally charged statements on the Israel-Gaza conflict” and allegations of anti-Jewish racism on campus.
Some of the reactions could be construed as breaching the IHRA definition, the report said.
A letter signed by at least 39 academics at the University of Sussex referred to “racial apartheid” and “genocide”, the think tank said, while another statement from students, staff and alumni at the London School of Economics backed rescinding the adoption of the IHRA definition.
The report also highlighted an open letter backed by more than 1,600 students, societies and academics at the University of Cambridge calling on the institution to condemn “the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem” and assaults against Palestinians.
The widely adopted IHRA definition has been backed by the UK government, Jewish groups and dozens of countries and universities, though some critics on the left say it stifles free speech.
“It is increasingly clear that adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism at universities has limited effect in the absence of strong disciplinary frameworks for its enforcement,” said Pinsker Centre chairman Jonathan Hunter.
“Our report calls for universities to take tougher measures to ensure the wellbeing of Jewish students.”
Changes should include strong sanctions for university officials found to have breached IHRA and for the Charity Commission to update its student union guidance on political statements.