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Anti-Semitism has exploded in British universities

Some of our most prestigious academic institutions have become hotbeds of Jew hate.

Helena Ivanov

Topics UK

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It is no secret that anti-Semitism is on the rise in the UK. Following Hamas’s massacre in southern Israel on 7 October, the atmosphere for British Jews has become significantly more hostile.

Not even our most prestigious academic institutions have escaped this rising tide of anti-Semitism. In fact, universities have emerged as hotspots for its spread. On campuses across the UK, students have followed the example of their American counterparts in holding ‘pro-Palestine’ protests and setting up tent encampments. Many of these are not simply demonstrations of solidarity with the people of Gaza, but have morphed into hotbeds of anti-Jewish hostility.

At Oxford University last month, a group of both Jewish and non-Jewish, Israeli and non-Israeli, students and staff wrote to the vice-chancellor about the alarming situation on campus. They listed over 100 anti-Semitic incidents that allegedly took place this past academic year. In one, an Israeli fellow claimed he was told that Jews run all the banks in the world. In another, an Israeli student was reportedly told that ‘you guys control the American government’.

Unfortunately, Oxford is not alone in this. In our latest report published this month, we at the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) shed light on the grim rise of campus anti-Semitism. Through one-on-one interviews, workshops and surveys, HJS found that anti-Semitism is now rampant.

In a survey of 105 students across the UK, 67 said they personally experienced anti-Semitism on campus since 7 October. Ninety-seven said they encountered anti-Semitic disinformation. And 101 argued that the prevalence of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic disinformation has increased since 7 October.

In interviews, students recounted harrowing details of their campus experiences. One student at an unnamed university described being pelted with red juice and told that Jews are terrorists who should go back to Europe. This student also recounted a staff member who, during a webinar, claimed that no Israeli women were raped on 7 October. Due to security concerns related to the pro-Palestine encampments on campus, the student stopped attending university in person and felt compelled to relocate to a different city.

Another student from a different university explicitly stated they no longer feel safe on campus. Jews are steering clear of certain areas, while some opt to avoid campus altogether. The student told us how academic staff are increasingly involved in the encampments. Allegedly, some professors even participated in protests where calls for the deaths of Jews were made. Despite this, the university has failed to take any steps to address the problem.

It’s not just Jewish students who are being intimidated and harassed at their institutions, either. Jewish academics are also being silenced. ‘Unless a Jewish person disavows Israel’, one professor told us, ‘and explicitly states that it is apartheid and genocide, they are considered complicit… So much of academia is anti-Semitic that some training sessions will not help.’

Why are universities so reluctant to address the appalling treatment of Jewish staff and students? Some have cited concerns about curtailing the right to protest or limiting free speech. Of course, universities must not chill these fundamental rights. But these same institutions have rarely had qualms about censorship before, often standing behind students when they hound lecturers or speakers off campus for holding views they consider ‘problematic’.

Clearly, there is something else going on here. Universities have reached a critical point where they are failing in their essential duty – to provide education for everyone and to prevent significant discrimination against their students and staff.

Yes, pro-Palestine students have the right to protest. But when this crosses the line into action, into Jewish staff and students being harassed and intimidated, it must be stopped. Universities are allowing Jews in academia to feel increasingly isolated. It is unacceptable that this particular brand of racism has been completely normalised on campus. Anti-Semitism must not be allowed to fester in our places of learning.

Dr Helena Ivanov is an associate research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics UK

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