New higher education report reveals Jewish students ‘underlying fear of being targeted’

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New higher education report reveals Jewish students ‘underlying fear of being targeted’

New parliamentary Taskforce on Antisemitism in Higher Education report says it is 'commonplace' for students not to wear 'certain clothing or jewellery around campus because it would make them visibly identifiable as Jewish'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Jewish students “repeatedly” spoke of an “underlying fear of being targeted” over their backgrounds and of being “expected to answer questions about Israel”, a report by the parliamentary Taskforce on Antisemitism in Higher Education has confirmed.

The report adds that it is “commonplace” for students not to wear “certain clothing or jewellery around campus because it would make them visibly identifiable as Jewish.”

Other students also confirmed they were reluctant to attend seminars or lectures around issues such as Israel “for fear of personal interrogation”.

The taskforce, established by the Government’s Independent Adviser on Antisemitism, Lord Mann, with support from members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, also said they were “shocked” to learn some staff kept their Jewish identity secret to avoid “negativity” from other colleagues at work.

The Taskforce held meetings with over 50 Higher Education institutions, Jewish students and other HE stakeholders to gather information about the current experience of Jewish students and staff on campus. 

MPs and Lords from across a number of political parties – including the Conservative MP Nicola Richards and Labour’s Dame Margaret Hodge – met with and took evidence from numerous stakeholders in higher education and from within the community in order to compile the report, published on Monday.

It confirmed that “Jewish students generally have a positive university experience” but recognised the rise in antisemitic incidents on campuses “relating to Zionism or Israel.”

Its key recommendations included the implementing and embedding the IHRA definition of antisemitism into all processes, which the taskforce said was  “essential for building trust between Jewish students and staff and their institutions”.

It was also concluded that level of religious provision for Jewish students and staff is “fundamental to whether Jewish students attend their universities and feel fully welcomed”.

The report argued there must be better conformity across the sector for reasonable adjustments for religious students and staff.

It also called for university complaints procedures to be reviewed” to ensure that they are robust, transparent and impartial and to increase student and staff confidence in these processes.”

Lord Mann said the report -which is accompanied by a ‘Good Practice Guide’  taking examples of best practice from various institutions to demonstrate how universities can best support Jewish students and staff on campus – “evidences how allowing free speech on campuses and protecting Jewish students against antisemitism do not contradict each other if universities have clear definitions, good systems and have included Jewish students and staff in creating a safe space on campus.  ”

Nicola Richards MP and Catherine McKinnell MP, Co-Chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, said:  “Our campuses should be places of exploration, education, and investigation; a place to challenge and be challenged. 
“Too often, they have been a breeding ground for anti-Jewish racism. The report we publish today shows some of the excellent practices taking place on UK campuses, but also the frightening experiences to which Jewish students and staff have been subjected. ”

Dame Margaret Hodge MP added: “It was good to see a positive picture emerge from our review, with so many active Jewish societies flourishing in so many universities. However, one case of antisemitism is one too many, and we came across some egregious cases that were shocking. ”

Joel Rosen, President of the Union of Jewish Students, said: “This report makes clear the importance of listening to Jewish students and their elected representatives such as Jsocs and UJS when combatting antisemitism.  The report details the complex picture across fifty six campuses and  offers deliverable recommendations which, if implemented, will have a tangible impact on Jewish students’ experience of university.”

The Community Security Trust (CST) recently released a report demonstrating that antisemitism on campus has risen by 22% in the last two years. 

The National Union of Students (NUS) was also recently subject to an independent, KC-led investigation which found that there was a long history of antisemitism within the Union, and that it was a ‘hostile environment’ for Jewish students.Last week Goldsmiths announced another barrister led investigation into antisemitism claims.

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