Report: Quarter of top UK universities released potentially antisemitic comments

A quarter of Britain's leading universities published potentially antisemitic statements at the height of the recent war between Israel and Gaza, according to a new report.

The Pinsker Centre, a UK-based think tank, claims that student unions or faculty bodies at 12 of the country's top 40 universities published "highly partisan" anti-Israel statements that might have breached the widely-agreed working definition of antisemitism.

It claims the statements include accusing Israel of "apartheid" and of being a "colonial" state.

The report says these "partisan statements" might be fuelling antisemitism on campus, and calls on the Charity Commission to update its guidance to student unions to better protect Jewish students.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition on antisemitism, adopted by the UK government, lists calling Israel a "racist endeavour" or "applying double standards" as examples of what could be antisemitic, depending on the context.

All but three of 12 the universities criticised in the report have adopted the IHRA definition.

Jonathan Hunter, Pinsker Centre chairman, said: ‘‘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, and our report calls for universities to take tougher measures to ensure the wellbeing of Jewish students.’’

The report follows a rise of antisemitic abuse in the UK during the recent 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, in which at least 242 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

The Community Security Trust recorded 116 antisemitic incidents during the conflict, compared to just 19 in the 11 previous days - a five-fold increase.

The Pinsker Centre report says there is "an extremely high possibility of a strong correlation between the publication of highly emotionally-charged statements on the Israel-Gaza conflict, and reports of antisemitism on campus".

In one example, a 15th May Instagram post by University College London's student union referred to Israel's "internationally recognised apartheid".

On 21st May 39 members of the University of Sussex's department of international relations signed a letter accusing Israel of "colonial injustice".

Both universities were contacted for comment.

The report looked at 15 of the UK's 165 higher education institutions, including 13 of the top 40 universities.

It concluded that 12 of the 15 universities - all of them among the top universities - published "partisan statements" on the conflict.

However, the report notes: "While the partisan statements are critically treated, this report does not in itself provide judgment on whether any particular publications are antisemitic."

It instead defers to the IHRA definition of what could be antisemitic when considered in its "overall context".

The report recommended that universities adopt better disciplinary frameworks to enforce the IHRA definition with sanctions, and said the government should consider cutting funds for universities that fail to do this.

It also calls for universities to publicly disassociate themselves from the anti-Israel statements and teach student union officers about being sensitive to Jewish students.

A Charity Commission spokesperson said: "It's concerning to hear these reports. Our guidance makes clear our expectations of all trustees around political activity and campaigning.

"We will carefully assess the contents of this report in line with our risk and regulatory framework."

Source: Telegraph