Rampant anti-Semitism is turning some of Britain's leading universities into “no-go zones” for Jewish students, a leading academic and member of the House of Lords warned on Friday.
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One reason the universities may be failing to fight antagonism towards Jews may be because they are “afraid of offending” potential donors from Gulf states, said Baroness Ruth Deech in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.
Deech is leading academic and member of the House of Lords who formerly headed the national office dealing with student complaints. She is also a former senior proctor at Oxford University and Principal of Oxford’s St Anne's College.
Her comments come in the wake of several incidents in which Jewish students at some of the United Kingdom’s top universities have reported being verbally abused or physically attacked. The academic community, the Telegraph points out, is at the forefront of calls to boycott Israel.
“Many universities are in receipt of or are chasing very large donations from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and so on, and maybe they are frightened of offending them,” she said. “I don’t know why they aren’t doing anything about it, it really is a bad situation.”
The late crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Sultan bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, gave two million pounds sterling (9 million shekels, $2.45 million) to the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University in 2005. The ruler of Sharjah, an emirate in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has given more than 8 million pounds to Exeter University over two decades.
The situation today is that a number of universities are regarded as institutions where Jews are unwelcome, Deech said. “Amongst Jewish students, there is gradually a feeling that there are certain universities that you should avoid.”
She named the University of London SOAS (The School of Oriental and African Studies), Manchester University, Southampton University, Exeter University “and so on.”
Universities U.K., the organization that represents Britain’s universities, denied Deech’s statements, saying that there was "no place" for anti-Semitism. SOAS, Exeter and Southampton universities denied that Jewish students feel unwelcome on their campuses, while Manchester could not be reached for comment, the newspaper said.
Southampton University was forced to cancel a conference on Israel’s right to exist last year following criticism from opponents who described it as “giving legitimacy to anti-Semitism.”
At Exeter University, students were photographed earlier this year wearing T-shirts with racist and anti-Semitic slogans, while SOAS is currently under investigation for an event hosted by the Palestine Society last month during which a speaker described the creation of Israel as “racist” and “fascist” and linked the “cult” of Zionism to the Nazis.
Previously popular with Jewish students, the University of Manchester has becoming unwelcoming in recent years after its student union started adopting motions perceived as hostile against Jews, including endorsing the boycott, divest and sanction campaign against Israel.
Earlier this year the co-chair of the Oxford Labour Club resigned in protest at its members’ “problem with Jews” and sympathy with terrorist groups such as Hamas, sparking an intervention from the Universities Minister Jo Johnson who urged the university to investigate.