Thursday, June 14, 2007

Universities urged to combat campus anti-semitism By Donald MacLeod

Student unions must be brought within the Race Relations Amendment Act to protect Jewish students and university leaders must crack down on anti-semitism on campus, Lady Deech, the independent adjudicator for higher education, urged last night.

She told the House of Lords that increasing anti-semitism posed a threat in British universities and strongly condemned the proposed academic boycott of Israel by members of the University and College Union.

She was supported by Lord Moser, the former director of the Central Statistical Office and warden of Wadham College, Oxford, who said he had never been more concerned about the 'rising tide of anti-semitism throughout Europe, including this country' since he escaped from Berlin with his family in 1936."...

"'Zionist' has become a word of opprobrium - all Jews are so labelled - and attacks on Jews rose with the occurrence of the Lebanon war - attacks on Jews in this country and elsewhere, not attacks on Israeli buildings," Lady Deech told peers.

She added: "Once the equation is made between Zionism and Jews, anti-semites then feel free to attack all Jewish students without distinction. Protests start as attacks on Israel and conclude with threats to all Jews." ...

"But students cannot be expected to act in a spirit of dialogue and tolerance if their lecturers do not do so. There are ongoing attempts by the University and College Union to initiate a UK-wide boycott of Israeli academics. Such a biased and unhelpful response to events on the ground in the Middle East cannot be tolerated or supported. There is no justification for such action, which would seek to punish some of the world's finest intellectuals and academic institutions for no good reason," she said.

Lady Deech concluded: "Academic freedom is the first target of tyrannies, and those who ignore attacks on academic pursuits are cooperating with tyranny. They must ask themselves why Jewish students and Israeli academics, alone in the world, are chosen as the targets.

"As my father sadly bore witness, as early as 1923 Vienna University was the focus of assaults on Jewish students and curbs on Jewish professors and on the right to learn; followed by Warsaw University which imposed racial restrictions in the 1930s. British universities have to learn from the history of pusillanimity in the face of racism."

Genteel (as opposed to murderous) public anti-Semitism lost favor for a number of decades following the Holocaust. The taboo seems to be losing its force in much of western Europe, not least in University settings. The result goes far beyond opposition to particular Israeli policies, and is worrying.

No comments: