Bear-baiting was banned in 1835. But Jew-baiting continues. It’s called “Israel Apartheid Week.”
I was at four Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) events in London as well as another program that was identical in all but name (a SOAS University lecture by Palestinian lawyer Raja Shehadeh). I saw fake maps which denigrate Israel and heard that Israel is far worse than apartheid; that it arrests five-year-old boys for no reason; that it shoots Palestinians and assassinates those it ‘doesn’t like’; that Israel in 1948 was as bad as ISIS today; that it doesn’t want peace; that it won’t allow child cancer patients out of Gaza, unless their accompanier is over 55 years old. That Israel is the Great Satan is assumed: IAW is simply a recruiting sergeant for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Don’t get me wrong. These lies have their place – in the outer reaches of the internet. Where they do NOT belong is in universities, which are supposed to welcome seekers after truth, not snake oil merchants. Of course it’s much worse. IAW stirs up hatred of Jews, in particular students. Imagine if students wanted to start a ‘Muslim Sex Abuse Week’ each year with captions such as ‘Remember What Happened in Rotherham’ and speakers such as Geert Wilders?
Is the government standing idly by? No – there is a Titanic struggle with the vice chancellors. The Universities Minister wrote to Nicola Dandridge, CEO of Universities UK, underlining the obligation to tackle antisemitism, particularly in the IAW context. But buried in a classic piece of bureaucratic gobbledegook, Dandridge responded: ‘We do not believe that the government’s recently adopted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism precludes IAW events from going ahead, providing they are properly handled and remain within the law.“ She proved just how out of touch she is, by saying that the PSC is ‘committed to combatting antisemitism’ – that’s the PSC, 45% of whose supporters appear to be hard core antisemites, according to blogger David Collier. Just how much bigotry are Dandridge and the vice chancellors prepared to overlook in the interest of ‘free speech’? And what about the universities’ equality duty to Jewish students? And their ‘Prevent’ duty not to encourage extremism? And the discrimination between Israel Societies – who have to find an independent academic chair for their events – and Palestine societies – who had hopelessly biased chairs for the events I attended?
Welcoming Anti-Semitism on Campus
If you saw SOAS Principal Baroness Amos on the BBC’s Sunday Politics, your blood pressure will have risen – like mine. There she was, claiming, “We are not going to allow racism, antisemitism on our campus” while at the same time attempting to justify rejection of the IHRA Definition. Moreover just three days after I had witnessed her welcoming Raja Shehadeh and thanking him for his tirade of antisemitic venom.
It’s not all bleak. There have been some advances. The University of Central Lancashire cancelled an IAW event, citing the IHRA Definition. Exeter also cancelled an event. A Manchester event was disrupted and an ‘apartheid wall’ removed. Leeds University asked Craig Murray to submit a speech in advance. IAW meeting arrangers have also had to jump through many more organisational hoops. Some events have been poorly attended, with the majority of the audience therefore being Muslim. The response of some Jewish students has also been magnificent.
But the government is fighting a war of attrition. In 2018 it will be harder still to organize these events. Fortunately, there is no chance in coming years of a change of government: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would be significantly less committed to fighting the cause (an understatement!). But in some cases (SOAS), more forceful intervention is justified.
After Brexit, EU students will be reluctant to study in the UK because of the sharp rise in fees. Do vice chancellors really want to see increasing numbers of Jewish students going to the US? And shunning SOAS, Manchester and Exeter, to avoid having to run the obnoxious gauntlet of the Israel Haters?
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