Free speech, Islamic anti-Semitism and Israel in British universities
MEASURES to tackle antisemitism in British universities will be unveiled this week amid concern about rising discrimination.
The government will warn vice-chancellors they must not ignore antiJewish activity on campuses and must prevent prejudiced lecturers, guest speakers and extremist political organisations stirring up hatred against Israel.
A recent Commons report highlighted attacks on undergraduates, a lack of respect by lecturers and tutors for the needs of observant Jewish students and a growing tolerance of extreme language against Israel during student debates on the Middle East.
There is particular concern about so-called “Islamic” antisemitism, with radical Muslim clerics, or their followers, being allowed to preach antiJewish hatred in universities.
Phil Woolas, the communities minister, labelled the findings of the all-party parliamentary report on antisemitism “very worrying” and warned that the government was ready to take radical action.
Woolas said: “Our response will be far tougher than anticipated. We are very worried about Islamic antisemitism on campuses. In this country we tend to see it as something of the past. It is not.”
Although the government will not announce legislation this week Woolas said it had not been ruled out.
Detailed measures to tackle antisemitism were agreed last week after a meeting with the prime minister. Police forces must now keep records of antisemitic attacks, the Foreign Office will be required to raise the issue with Arab countries such as Egypt and Jordan, which produce some of the most extreme antisemitic material, and a taskforce will be set up to combat antisemitism.
Guidelines for universities are expected to say that campus authorities should record all complaints of antisemitism made by students, including statements or speeches. University vice-chancellors are also expected to be warned not to tolerate academics whose critical views of Israel “cross the line” from personal interest or activism to abuse of power.
The government is also expected to criticise the boycotting of contact with academics working in Israel by some university departments and say lecturers who oppose boycotts must be supported.
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