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The Academic Friends of Israel
The Academic Friends of Israel

7 October 2006                                                                                     

This morning the All –Party Parliamentary inquiry into antisemitsm published it long awaited report.  Below are extracts from the 66 page report, including the section on antisemitism on campus and the committee’ summary of conclusions and recommendations. 

Extracts from the first page of the report  

The inquiry was established to investigate the belief, widely held within the Jewish community, that levels of antisemitism in Britain are rising. Following an investigation, we have reached the troubling conclusion that this belief is justified.

 

 Defining antisemitism 

We take into account the view expressed in the Macpherson report of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry that a racist act is defined by its victim. I It is not acceptable for an individual to say 'I am not a racist' if his or her words or acts are perceived to be racist. We conclude that it is the Jewish community itself that is best qualified to determine what does and does not constitute antisemitism. 

Broadly it is our view that any remark, insult or act the purpose or effect of which is to violate a Jewish person's dignity or create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him is antisemitic. This reflects the definition of harassment under the Race Relations Act 1976. This definition can be applied to individuals and to the Jewish community as a whole.

 

 Antisemitism on Campus 

Introduction 

191. Among the evidence that particularly concerned us, one theme was the issue ofantisemitism on campus. Jewish students are integrated into university life and the majority are able to proceed with their studies uninterrupted. However, we heard evidence from the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) that the current situation in the Middle East is causing tensions between student bodies on some campuses and, in the worst cases, Jewish students are being intimidated or harassed. "Jewish students have become increasingly alarmed by virulent and unbalanced attacks on the state of Israel and the failure of student bodies and organisations to clearly and forcefully condemn antisemitism when it occurs." 

192. The UJS informed us that the Young BNP claims to be active on at least fifteen university campuses and their aim is usually to overturn No Platform policies in order that their leadership can speak on campus. Although this is of concern, the student body is united in its condemnation of the far right. 

193. However, when left wing or pro-Palestinian discourse around the Middle East is manipulated and used as a vehicle for anti-Jewish language and themes, the antisemitism is harder to recognise and define and Jewish students can find themselves isolated and unsupported, or in conflict with large groups of their fellow students. 

194. We look for high standards in our universities because they have a public role andtherefore a public duty to be responsible for the welfare and learning of their students. 

No Platform Policies

 195. We received evidence from the UJS that a number of university campuses are being used as recruiting grounds by extremist groups which have a history of antisemitic rhetoric and behaviour. 

196. The NUS No Platform policy is designed to prevent racists and fascists from speaking on university campuses and abusing the right to free speech but the implementation of this policy is not always straightforward. 

197. Individual student unions are responsible for passing No Platform policies. A student from University College London (UCL) submitted that the university has not done this and it has resulted in an inability to deal with extremist elements on campus. 

198. He submitted that in 2005 spokespeop1e for Hizb ut- Tahrir were invited to the campus to give presentations. Although UCL has an equal opportunities policy, without a No Platform policy the University was unable to prevent them from speaking. The student had spoken to sabbatical officers at UCL who sympathised with the concerns of Jewish and other minority students, including Muslim students who had also raised concerns, but the University did not take any action. 

199. Although they are banned from most campuses under the NUS No Platform policy, Hizb ut- Tahrir have reappeared under a number of aliases. A 2003 BBC Newsnight documentary exposed their activity at Kingston University and they have also been active at UCE Birmingham and Queen Mary, University of London amongst others.  

Visiting Speakers

 200. It can be a matter of some controversy, and sometimes even a trigger for antisemitism in universities, when pro or anti-Israel speakers are invited on to campus by the student societies. We received evidence from the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) that relations between Jewish students and the Students' Union at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London have been particularly strained and in the past the Israel Student Society was banned by the Union. In February 2005, the SOAS Students' Union attempted to ban Mr Roey Gilad of the Embassy of Israel from addressing the University's Israel Society. He was allowed on campus after negotiations between the SOAS management and Jewish students but 300-400 protesters attempted to stop the proceedings and the Chair of the CRE, who happened to be present on campus, intervened personally in order to ensure that the meeting went ahead. 

201. The UJS gave evidence that the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK was banned in 2004 because of the racist, anti semitic and homophobic material which appeared on its website, but in December 2005 MPACUK organised a debate at Westminster University entitled "Zionism: The Greatest Enemy of the Jews".

 Some of the speakers were known to have expressed antisemitic opinions on previous occasions and the university authorities cancelled the event. MPACUK posted a response on its website which equated 'Jewish Societies' with 'Zionist Societies' and accused Jewish students of working for Mossad, and another response with a picture of Spiderman drawing on the classical anti semitic motif of Jews 'spinning a web' of control.

 202. Concerns were expressed about this lack of consistency in tackling extremism on campus. It is left to individual Vice Chancellors to decide who should and should not be allowed to speak on campuses, and there seems to be a lack of centrally-formulated policies to guide them. This can lead to minority students feeling vulnerable and unprotected. A further issue is that although the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 places a positive duty on education and public authorities to promote racial equality, it is not clear whether students' unions are bound by this obligation. 

Student Union Motions 

203. Tensions and incidents on campus often peak around students' union votes concerning Israel and Zionism. In 2002 the University of Manchester Students' Union proposed a motion that anti-Zionism or criticism of Israel was not antisemitism, and that Israeli goods should be boycotted. The Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester told us that a leaflet from the General Union of Palestinian Students, quoting from a neo-Nazi propaganda forgery entitled 'Prophecy of Benjamin Franklin in Regard of the Jewish Race', was distributed amongst students queuing up to vote. The leaflet reproduced historic anti semitic slander describing Jews as vampires, and warning that unless they were expelled from the United States they would enslave the country and control its economy. Further incidents occurred following the defeat of the motion - a brick was thrown through the window of a Jewish student residence and a poster bearing the words "Slaughter the Jews" was pasted on its front door. A knife was stuck in the door of another Jewish student's residence. A series of similar motions were proposed across the country, six of which were passed, comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and calling for a boycott of Israeli goods. 

204. Jewish students naturally feel threatened by such motions as they could, if enacted, restrict the activities of the Jewish society as well as Jewish students' ability to practise their faith and take part in Jewish cultural activities. A ban on Israeli goods, for example, would restrict the availability of kosher food on campus, whilst a ban on 'Zionists' could mean that Jewish speakers would be unable to come on campus even to speak to students about Jewish issues that do not relate to Israel. After an Israel-related motion was passed at SOAS, intervention became necessary to ensure that a Jewish Society was permitted to exist. 

205. We recommend that Jewish organisations like the eST and the UJS set up reporting facilities that allow unchallengeable, evidenced examples of abusive behaviour especially on universities. University Authorities should also record all examples of students reporting behaviour, statements, speeches, or acts which they consider to be antisemitic.

 Academic Boycotts 

206. We received evidence regarding the attitudes of a small number of academics whose critical views of Israel have adversely affected their relations with Jewish students. Particular tension has been caused by rare cases of academics who have crossed the line between personal interest or activism, and academic abuse of power. We also received evidence concerning the collective activities of academic teachers' unions. 

207. At its annual conference in 2005 the Association of University Teachers (AUT) passed a motion boycotting two Israeli universities, Haifa and Bar Han. The panel heard oral evidence on this from Dr Jon Pike, Chair of Engage, an organisation that successfully opposed and overturned the boycott. 

208. In May 2006 a motion was passed at the annual conference ofNATFHE, the larger of the two higher education unions, calling upon members to boycott all Israeli academics. The motion criticised "Israeli apartheid policies, including construction of the exclusion wall, and discriminatory educational practices", and invited members to "consider their responsibility for ensuring equity and non-discrimination in contacts with Israeli institutions or individuals and to consider the appropriateness of a boycott of those that do not publicly dissociate themselves from such policies". Three days later NATFHE merged with the AUT to create a new union, the University and College Lecturers Union (UCU). The policy is not binding upon the UCU and it is expected that a boycott motion will be debated by the new union in 2007. 

209. Some witnesses noted that even though the motivations of the boycotters may not in themselves be antisemitic, the effect of their actions would be to cause difficulties for Jewish academics and students. The majority of those who have institutional affiliations to Israeli universities are Jewish, and thus the consequences of a boycott would be to exclude Jews from academic life. A boycott would have a detrimental effect on Jewish studies departments in the UK leaving them potentially unable to continue teaching. Jane Ashworth, Director of Engage, has also spoken publicly on this issue, pointing out that policing such a boycott, for example monitoring email contact with foreign universities, would in effect target Jewish academics since they would be most likely to have contact with their Jewish counterparts. 

210. The singling out of Israel is also of concern. Boycotts have not been suggested against other countries. Also of particular concern to witnesses was the concept of a 'loyalty test' for Israeli Jews, described by some as 'McCarthyite', signifying as it does the assumption of collective responsibility and collective guilt. 

211. Dr Pike told us that the discourse around the boycott debate gave cause for concern, as it moved beyond reasonable criticism into antisemitic demonisation of Israel. He commented on the continual use of Nazi analogies and suggestions that Israel was "a fascist state". After the boycott had been overturned, Engage was falsely described as a well-funded and well-organised Zionist operation, organised through a Zionist Federation meeting in Manchester. It was said that the "Zionists" turned up in large numbers to block the boycott, that the "campus Jews" had turned out purely to block the boycott, and that they were not considered to be "proper trade unionists". 

212. A side-effect of the attempt to boycott Israeli universities is that it has the effect of closing down debate on Israel within the Jewish community. British Jews can feel under siege and this leads to a desire among many to show a united front and defend Israel in the face of demonisation. Instead of organising debates on the two-state solution and encouraging free discussion, Jewish student activists are forced to spend the majority of their time confronting efforts to delegitimise both Israel and their own presence on campus.

 213. We conclude that calls to boycott contact with academics working in Israel are an assault on academic freedom and intellectual exchange. We recommend that lecturers in the new University and College Lecturers Union are given every support to combat such selective boycotts that are anti-Jewish in practice. We would urge the new union's executive and leadership to oppose the boycott. 

Good Practice

 214. There are, however, positive examples of university authorities responding to student concerns, for example the Vice Chancellor of the University of Westminster's decision to cancel the MPACUK debate in 2005. 

215. We also heard evidence that the University of Birmingham now has a policy that the Students' Union must give the University two weeks' notice of any external speaker coming to the campus so that they can respond to concerns. The Union has an electedpress council that deals with complaints about published material. In the light of a controversy surrounding academics whose web pages contained links to antisemitic websites or material, the University now has a policy restricting the content of academics' websites to matters related to their work. 

216. We received a letter from Professor Colin Bundy, the Director and Principal of SOAS, detailing the positive steps that the School has taken regarding Students' Union activities with a strong emphasis on equality and diversity, including ensuring that Students' Union sabbatical officers are briefed by a legal firm on the Higher Education Act and the Race Relations Act and on the nature and limits of freedom of speech. New Student Union Societies guidelines have been introduced and society officers are expected to sign up to the School's Code of Conduct for meetings held on its premises. Professor Bundy met with the Board of Deputies of British Jews and an officer from the NUS last year, and was pleased to receive a comment from the Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies that the atmosphere in the student body had shown a marked improvement.  

217. It seems that the manner in which accusations of antisemitism on campus are dealt with depends very much on the views of individual Vice Chancellors. The Chair of the CRE, Trevor Phillips, acknowledged that dialogue with university authorities is 'patchy' to say the least. There is no central policy guidance to which students have recourse when they feel that their concerns or complaints have not been taken seriously. Witnesses suggested that this leads to Jewish students feeling that not enough is being done to protect them on campus. In his oral evidence the then Home Secretary, Rt Hon Charles Clarke, told us that he was aware of the concerns and problems faced by some Jewish students on campus. He expressed the view that a firm lead is needed both from Vice Chancellors and from presidents and executives of Student Unions. 

218. We conclude that consistent attempts to boycott and delegitimise Jewish Societies and their activities on campus have diverted the attention and resources of Jewish students away from opportunities to conduct internal debates on Jewish issues, including Israel. These discussions should be encouraged and facilitated. 

219. We conclude that Jewish students feel disproportionately threatened in British universities as a result of antisemitic activities which vary from campus to campus. Attacks on Jewish students and their halls of residence, and a lack of respect shownfor observant Jewish students and their calendar requirements amount to a form of campus antisemitism which Vice Chancellors should tackle vigorously. Whilecriticism of Israel - often hard-hitting in the rough and tumble of student politics ­is legitimate, the language of some speakers crosses the line into generalised attacks on Jews. 

220. We conclude that lecturers and university authorities have in some cases reacted firmly to examples of anti-Jewish activity on campus but we agree with the CRE Chair, Trevor Philips, that the response of Vice Chancellors is at best 'patchy'. We recommend that Vice Chancellors take an active interest in combating acts, speeches, literature and events that cause anxiety or alarm amongst their Jewish students. We recommend that Vice Chancellors set up a working party to make clear that British universities will be free of any expression of racism, and take robust action against antisemitism on campus. 

Summary of Conclusions and Recommendations 

1. We recommend that the EUMC Working Definition of antisemitism is adopted and promoted by the Government and law enforcement agencies. (Paragraph 26)

Antisemitic Incidents

2. We recommend that the Home Office provides a greater level of support in addressing the security needs of British Jews, especially with reference to their places of worship and schools. (Paragraph 36)

3. Given the potential value of police data on anti-Jewish incidents, we conclude that it is a matter of concern that only a minority of police forces in the United Kingdom have the capability to record antisemitic incidents. (Paragraph 48)

4. We conclude that given that all police forces in the United Kingdom are required to have the capacity to record racist incidents and provide annual data to the Home Office irrespective of the size of minority ethnic communities in their areas, it is inexcusable that there is not a similar requirement for the recording of antisemitic incidents. (Paragraph 51)

5. We recommend that the police should have one universal and comprehensive recording facility rather than leaving it to the discretion of individual forces and that the model adopted by the Metropolitan Police of categorising incidents as both racist and antisemitic should be introduced across all police forces in the UK. (Paragraph 52)

6. We recommend that the Home Office directs research resources to the extent of antisemitism and reports annually to Parliament. (Paragraph 53)

7. We conclude that the Community Security Trust performs a valuable role and recommend intensified co-operation between the police and the CST, with particular focus on tackling dual reporting. (Paragraph 54)

8. We recommend that the Crown Prosecution Service investigates the reasons for the low number of prosecutions and reports back to Parliament. (Paragraph 69)

9. We recommend that the Crown Prosecution Service conducts a review of cases where prosecutions for incitement to racial hatred have been brought, in order to see what lessons can be learned. (Paragraph 70)


Antisemitic Discourse

10. We conclude that ethnically and religiously motivated hatred, violence and prejudice, wherever they occur, should earn unconditional condemnation; sympathy and support for the victims should not be conditional on their alleged behaviour or political convictions. It is increasingly the case that, because anger over Israel’s policies can provide the pretext, condemnation is often too slow and increasingly conditional. Regardless of the expressed motive, Jewish people and Jewish institutions are being targeted. (Paragraph 89)

11. We conclude that the correlation between conflict in the Middle East and attacks on the Jewish community must be better understood if the problem is to be tackled and would welcome academic research on this issue. (Paragraph 110) Sources of Contemporary Antisemitism

12. We recommend that all providers of online payments systems adopt Offensive Material Policies which they undertake to actively police and that these organisations have clear mechanisms for members of the public to report any breaches of the policy. In addition we also recommend these providers strengthen their links with organisations such as Searchlight, which monitor the presence of racist, including antisemitic, material online, and respond quickly to any reports that their systems are being used to disseminate this material. (Paragraph 121)

13. We conclude that the overt threat from the far right towards Jews may not be as significant as it once was, but there is no room for complacency. Holocaust denial and Jewish conspiracy theories remain core elements of far right ideology. Any gains in popularity for the BNP are damaging to society as a whole. They seek to stir up tensions between communities and undermine the values of tolerance and multiculturalism that have allowed the Jewish community, and other minorities, to flourish in Britain in the past. (Paragraph 122)

14. Given the links between the BNP and similar antisemitic, anti-Muslim and xenophobic political parties in Europe we recommend that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office reports on far right activity as part of its published political reporting to Parliament – possibly as an annex in its annual human rights report. (Paragraph 123)

15. We conclude that a minority of Islamist extremists in this country do incite hatred towards Jews. The undoubted prejudice and difficulties that British Muslims feel and their justified sense of increasing Islamophobia cannot be used to justify antisemitic words and violence. (Paragraph 146)

16. We note that the boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day is not motivated by antisemitism but we conclude that it gives out the wrong signals. We call upon the MCB, under its new leadership and as a representative body of British citizens of Muslim faith, to rethink its approach to this national event which seeks to commemorate the victims of genocides throughout history as well as the Holocaust. (Paragraph 157)

17. We recommend that the Electoral Commission draws up a contract of acceptable behaviour which outlines the duty of all election candidates to exercise due care when addressing issues such as racism, community relations and minorities during political campaigning. (Paragraph 170)

18. We conclude that a discussion needs to take place within the media on the impact of language and imagery in current discourse on Judaism, anti-Zionism and Israel and we call upon them to show sensitivity and balance in their reporting of international events and recognise that the way in which they report the news has significant consequences on the interaction between communities in Britain. (Paragraph 179)

19. We conclude that whilst many have pointed out that criticism of Israel or Zionism is not necessarily antisemitic the converse is also true: it is never acceptable to mask hurtful racial generalisations by claiming the right to legitimate political discourse. (Paragraph 180)

20. We recommend that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office examines ways of convincing the governments of countries where antisemitic internet sites originate to take action to close them down. The United States in particular has been slow to take action in this area. We conclude that a new approach is needed in terms of freedom of expression that allows some limit on the public dissemination on the internet of material aimed at stirring up race hate and antisemitism. (Paragraph 189)

21. We recommend that the relevant Government departments convene an international conference to agree a clear position on the current situation and to discuss objectives for targeting offensive material received in the UK from overseas sources. (Paragraph 190) Antisemitism on Campus

22. We recommend that Jewish organisations like the CST and the UJS set up reporting facilities that allow unchallengeable, evidenced examples of abusive behaviour especially on universities. University Authorities should also record all examples of students reporting behaviour, statements, speeches, or acts which they consider to be antisemitic. (Paragraph 205)

23. We conclude that calls to boycott contact with academics working in Israel are an assault on academic freedom and intellectual exchange. We recommend that pro-democracy lecturers in the new University and College Lecturers Union are given every support to combat such selective boycotts that are anti-Jewish in practice. We would urge the new union’s executive and leadership to oppose the boycott. (Paragraph 213)

24. We conclude that consistent attempts to boycott and delegitimise Jewish Societies and their activities on campus have diverted the attention and resources of Jewish students away from opportunities to conduct internal debates on Jewish issues, including of Israel. These discussions should be encouraged and facilitated. (Paragraph 218)

25. We conclude that Jewish students feel disproportionately threatened in British universities as a result of antisemitic activities which vary from campus to campus. Attacks on Jewish students and their halls of residence, and a lack of respect shown for observant Jewish students and their calendar requirements amount to a form of campus antisemitism which Vice Chancellors should tackle vigorously. While criticism of Israel – often hard-hitting in the rough and tumble of student politics – is legitimate, the language of some speakers too often crosses the line into generalised attacks on Jews. (Paragraph 219)

26. We conclude that lecturers and university authorities have in some cases reacted firmly to examples of anti-Jewish activity on campus but we agree with the CRE Chair, Trevor Philips, that the response of Vice Chancellors is at best ‘patchy’. We recommend that Vice Chancellors take an active interest in combating acts, speeches, literature and events that cause anxiety or alarm amongst their Jewish students. We recommend that Vice Chancellors set up a working party to make clear that British universities will be free of any expression of racism, and take robust action against antisemitism on campus. (Paragraph 220) Addressing Antisemitism

27. We recommend that both the Home Office and the Department for Communities and Local Government should work together to combat the antisemitism we have reported on and consider setting up a cross-departmental task force to achieve this. (Paragraph 227)

28. We conclude that community cohesion is vital to combating antisemitism and recommend that increased levels of public funding should be directed towards promoting good community relations projects that encourage an environment of respect and understanding. (Paragraph 242)

29. We recommend that the Department for Communities and Local Government takes the lead in commissioning an annual survey investigating attitudes and tensions between Britain’s communities and produces a report on the trends over time, to be monitored by the Commission for Racial Equality. (Paragraph 243)

30. We recommend that the Jewish and Muslim communities and interfaith groups promote joint leadership programmes for young Muslims and Jews. (Paragraph 244)

31. We believe that the Government has a critical interest in and role to play in ensuring that interfaith dialogue is undertaken by key leaders in all minority communities. We recommend the Department for Communities and Local Government supports the work of the Faith Communities Consultative Council and uses it to facilitate bi-annual meetings between the leaders of all the major faith communities, with special emphasis on improving understanding between the Board of Deputies, the Muslim Council of Britain and other, newer leadership groups. (Paragraph 252)

32. We conclude that initiatives such as twinning schemes between schools in different communities can have a lasting impact on cross-cultural understanding and recommend that the Government, through the DfES and the DCLG, take a lead role in ensuring that there is a duty on schools to promote contact, engagement and joint curricula. (Paragraph 263)

33. We conclude that there is a new awareness of the need to explain to school-children the history of antisemitism. We recommend that the Department for Education and Skills, working with the Commission for Racial Equality, should update its guidance to local authorities and place upon them a greater duty to provide effective anti-racist education. (Paragraph 266)

34. We conclude that international treaty-based organisations like the OSCE, the EU and the Council of Europe are fully seized of the problem of contemporary antisemitism and we welcome the appointment of an OSCE Special Representative on antisemitism. We recommend that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office gives full support to this work and avoids the temptation to bury the specific problem of antisemitism in a wider context of anti-racism. We recommend that the Prime Minister appoints a special envoy on antisemitism from amongst serving parliamentarians who can co-ordinate this work and represent the UK worldwide and in Britain. (Paragraph 273)

35. We recommend that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Home Office issue a joint statement annually to the House of Commons in order to update Members on the progress made in the UK in implementing the objectives of the Berlin Declaration. (Paragraph 274)

 

 

 

 Patron:

The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks 

Advisory Board:

  Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld - Chairman of the Board of Fellows, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Henry Grunwald Q.C. - President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews

Amir Lev

John D A Levy - Director of the Academic Study Group on Israel and the Middle East

Andrew R. Marks, M.D. - Columbia University, USA

Dr Robin Stamler

Professor Leslie Wagner CBE

Rt Hon Lord Young of Graffham 

 

The Academic Friends of Israel Ltd is limited by guarantee and registered in England No 5297417.