Israel-Gaza violence ‘fuelled rise in UK campus antisemitism’, report reveals

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Israel-Gaza violence ‘fuelled rise in UK campus antisemitism’, report reveals

New Community Security Trust campus report shows university-related antisemitic incidents rose by 22 per cent over the past two academic years,

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Students calling on the University of Bristol to adopt IHRA definition at protest outside Wills Hall Conference Centre (Credit: Union of Jewish Students / Twitter)
Students calling on the University of Bristol to adopt IHRA definition at protest outside Wills Hall Conference Centre (Credit: Union of Jewish Students / Twitter)

University-related antisemitic incidents rose by 22 per cent over the past two academic years, a new report has revealed.

There were a total of 150 university-related antisemitic incidents reported to the Community Security Trust (CST) across the past two academic years covered in the report – between 2020/21 and 2021/22.

Fifty-five of the 150 university-related antisemitic incidents took place in a single month, May 2021, when there was a significant escalation of conflict in Israel and Gaza.

This was a period when national levels of anti-Jewish hate crimes increased, and university campuses were disproportionately affected.

In one incident, a Jewish student was called a “neo-Nazi white supremacist”.

Overall, in the last two academic years,93% of university-related incidents were categorised as Abusive Behaviour, totalling 140 incidents.

This category includes all forms of verbal and written antisemitism both online and offline, other than those that include direct threats.

Seven threats were made to Jewish students in the 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 academic years. Four of them were online and the other three were offline, all of which took place off campus.

There were three instances of assault, one each in Lancaster, Birmingham and Bristol. In one case, a Jewish student was hit with a rubber bat as they were returning to their student accommodation.

On three occasions, the comments made by academics directly targeted or mentioned students or student organisations.

In one case, an academic at the University of Glasgow tweeted that he had received an “email from the lobby” after a student journalist requested a statement for an article they were writing.

CST Chief Executive Mark Gardner said:“Antisemitism at our universities has been a running sore for decades and these new findings show that far too many Jewish students suffer hatred and bias.

“This study also reinforces last week’s National Union of Students’ own report into antisemitism, including the link between anti- Israel hatred and racist treatment of British Jews.

“Students’ Unions and university authorities need to better support their Jewish students, taking concerns seriously and acting against antisemitism, whether it comes from students or academics.”

The higher number of incidents occurring in London, followed by Bristol, Birmingham, Oxford, Coventry and Nottingham.

London incidents took place at University College London (12), Queen Mary University of London (4), Brunel University London (4), London Southbank University (4), Royal Holloway (2).

In total 95 incidents occurred in the year 2020/21 – a record high for any academic year in CST’s records, and 55 in 2021/22.

For comparison, there were 123 university-related antisemitic incidents across the two previous academic years, 2018/19 and 2019/20.

The report shows the spread of university-related antisemitism across the UK, with incidents recorded by CST during this period taking place in 30 different towns and cities across the UK, on campus and off campus, online and offline.

Universities across the United Kingdom are home to nearly 9,000 Jewish students.

As of this year, a total of 73 established Jewish societies offer a wealth of opportunities for an overwhelmingly positive experience on campus and engagement with Jewish life.

Supported by the Union of Jewish Students and other organisations like Chabad and the University Jewish Chaplaincy, students can get involved with a wide range of events, including Friday night dinners, lunch and learns, socials, guest speaker events, debates and much more.

Responding to the report HM Government’s Independent Adviser on Antisemitism, Lord Mann, said:“Antisemitism on campus has long been a concern for parents and students, and the reported rise in university-related antisemitic incidents over the past few years is both worrying and unacceptable.

“It is imperative that more is done to protect Jewish students and staff from the scourge of antisemitism and both the Community Security Trust and the Union of Jewish Students are at the forefront of this work.”

UJS President Joel Rosen said: “Jewish students living away from home for the first time have the right to be who they are and to feel safe where they live and study.

“These incidents have a detrimental impact on the community, leading some to hide their identity and disengage from parts of university life. Jewish students are resilient and won’t let themselves be defined by the prejudice of others.

“In spite of the odds, Jewish life on campus continues. Our answer to those who would uproot our thriving student communitiesis to ensure that they continue to grow and flourish.”

Professor Kathy Armour, UCL’s Vice-Provost (Education & Student Experience) told Jewish News: “We thoroughly condemn racism and prejudice in all its forms, and are deeply concerned and saddened by the reports of antisemitism, highlighted by the CST.

“As part of our ongoing commitment to raise awareness and understanding of antisemitism within our community, as well as combat it, we have recently appointed a dedicated antisemitism programme manager.

“We encourage all members of our community to report any concerns or incidents of racism, including all forms of antisemitism, to UCL’s Report + Support tool, which can be done anonymously. Staff, students and members of the public can also report an incident through our formal complaints process. We will take firm action against anyone who is found to have carried out any form of discrimination.

“We also have a comprehensive range of support and wellbeing services for anyone who has experienced harassment, abuse or discrimination which is available seven days a week.”

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