MPs slam univer­si­ties over race-hate

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY LEON SY­MONS

AN­TISEMITISM ON cam­pus and the in­ter­net were the main tar­gets dur­ing a de­bate on an­tisemitism in the main cham­ber of the House of Com­mons last week.

MPs from all sides of the House took the chance to ex­press their views and com­ment on the gov­ern­ment’s per­for­mance in act­ing on the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Par­lia­men­tary All-Party An­tisemitism re­port.

An in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence on an­tisemitism, sup­ported by the For­eign Of­fice, is to be held in Lon­don in Fe­bru­ary next year.

The con­fer­ence will be the first event or­gan­ised by an in­ter­na­tional par­lia­men­tary coali­tion ded­i­cated to fight­ing an­tisemitism, it was an­nounced by Labour MP John Mann, chair of the par­lia­men­tary All-Party An­tisemitism group, dur­ing the de­bate. The coali­tion com­prises Mr Mann, Pro­fes­sor Ir­win Cotler, the for­mer Cana­dian jus­tice min­is­ter; Gert Weis­skirchen from the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Se­cu­rity and Co-op­er­a­tion in Europe; United States Con­gress­man Chris Smith; and Is­raeli min­is­ter Isaac Her­zog.

Paul Good­man (Con, Wy­combe), who praised the ini­tia­tive of hold­ing the Com­mons de­bate, pointed out that an­tisemitism had adapted to new tech­nol­ogy and called on the gov­ern­ment to sign the Coun­cil of Europe’s con­ven­tion on cy­ber-crime.

He also joined crit­i­cism of the De­part­ment for In­no­va­tion, Univer­si­ties and Skills for drag­ging its heels over a pro­posal from the Com­mu­nity Se­cu­rity Trust that it should set up a sub-group on an­tisemitism in higher ed­u­ca­tion. “When will min­is­ters take a de­ci­sion on that?” he de­manded.

John Spel­lar (War­ley, Labour) backed him, say­ing: “I should like to high­light the ex­cel­lent work of the Holo­caust Ed­u­ca­tional Trust, which means that stu­dents ar­rive on cam­pus much more aware of the dan­gers. How­ever, is there not a con­sid­er­able re­spon­si­bil­ity on univer­sity au­thor­i­ties to take more ac­tion? The is­sue is not just about crime, but about that telling phrase, which I re­mem­ber from my North­ern Ire­land days, ‘the chill fac­tor’ — that is, not nec­es­sar­ily crime, but mak­ing peo­ple feel that they are un­wanted. Do univer­sity au­thor­i­ties not have a greater role to play in mak­ing their cam­puses wel­com­ing to peo­ple, so that we can have gen­uine aca­demic free­dom?”

Com­mu­ni­ties min­is­ter Par­mjit Dhanda, lead­ing for the gov­ern­ment, agreed: “My Rt Hon friend is ab­so­lutely right. The pow­ers are al­ready there in leg­is­la­tion, but it must be in­cum­bent on in­di­vid­ual univer­si­ties to take this is­sue and those pow­ers se­ri­ously.”

He said that was the rea­son for guid­ance pub­lished ear­lier this year by Bill Ram­mell, min­is­ter for life­long learn- ing, who also met Jewish stu­dents to see how the work could be taken fur­ther. But Mr Dhanda ad­mit­ted: “Al­though a great deal of work has been done, I ap­pre­ci­ate that there is much more to do.”

Not­ing that he had seen the graf­fiti in Hack­ney last week call­ing for ji­had against Is­rael, Mr Dhanda said: “This is not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the views of the vast ma­jor­ity of Mus­lims in this coun­try who are equally ap­palled by such graf­fiti.”

Mark Pritchard (Con, The Wrekin) sug­gested that a his­tory of Jews in the United King­dom should be in­cluded when the gov­ern­ment draws up its state­ment of Bri­tish val­ues as an ex­am­ple of tol­er­ance in Bri­tain.

He asked whether some­one could be anti-Is­raeli but not an­tisemitic and vice-versa — some­thing that af­fected me­dia bias. He called again for the pub­li­ca­tion of the Balen re­port on the BBC’s re­port­ing on Is­rael, and also called on other faiths to speak out more on an­tisemitism.

Bar­bara Kee­ley (Lab, Wors­ley) be­lieved that the over­all rise in in­ci­dents recorded by the CST was be­cause there was bet­ter mon­i­tor­ing, as well as more prose­cu­tions, in Greater Manch­ester, where her con­stituency is.

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