Apartheid Week ban her­alds fight­back

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY LEE HARPIN AND ROSA DO­HERTY

A BRI­TISH univer­sity has can­celled an Is­rael Apartheid Week event be­cause it was deemed to have con­tra­vened the gov­ern­ment’s newly adopted def­i­ni­tion of an­tisemitism.

The Univer­sity of Cen­tral Lan­cashire blocked an event sched­uled to fea­ture prom­i­nent anti-Is­rael ac­tivists af­ter de­cid­ing it was “un­law­ful” un­der the In­ter­na­tional Holo­caust Re­mem­brance Al­liance’s def­i­ni­tion of what con­sti­tutes an­tisemitism.

The panel ses­sion, which was sched­uled to take place next Tues­day, was to in­cluded anti-Is­rael ac­tivist Ben White, who once said he could “un­der­stand” why peo­ple are an­ti­semtites.

Other uni­ver­si­ties — in­clud­ing Es­sex, Liver­pool and Sus­sex — are also giv­ing ac­tive con­sid­er­a­tion to sim­i­lar bans, with nu­mer­ous events sched­uled to take place on cam­puses over the next two months un­der the an­nual Is­rael Apartheid Week ban­ner.

Last week the Uni­ver­si­ties Min­is­ter, Jo John­son, wrote to Uni­ver­si­ties UK re­mind­ing the of­fi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive body of its obli­ga­tion to tackle an­tisemitism on cam­pus ahead of Is­rael Apartheid Week fol­low­ing the adop­tion of the IHRA def­i­ni­tion. A spokesper­son for the Univer­sity of Cen­tral Lan­cashire con­firmed it had de­cided that the event, en­ti­tled ‘De­bunk­ing Mis­con­cep­tions on Pales­tine’, “con­tra­venes the new def­i­ni­tion and fur­ther­more breaches univer­sity pro­to­cols for such events, where we re­quire as­sur­ances of a bal­anced view or a panel of speak­ers rep­re­sent­ing all in­ter­ests.”

He added: “In this in­stance our pro­ce­dures de­ter­mined that the pro­posed event would not be law­ful and there­fore it will not pro­ceed as planned.” The JC has learned of se­ri­ous con­cerns over Is­rael Apartheid Week events at many uni­ver­si­ties. In pre­vi­ous years, Jewish stu­dents have com­plained of in­tim­i­da­tion, threats and abuse dur­ing ac­tiv­i­ties which run for a week at a time at dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions.

A Univer­sity of Es­sex spokesman said it was look­ing at events, which in­clude dis­cus­sions with ti­tles such as ‘The Pales­tinian Right To Re­turn’ and ‘Im­pe­ri­al­ism and Apartheid and A Short His­tory of Is­rael’, to as­sess

whether they vi­o­lated the IHRA def­i­ni­tion. “We are mak­ing sure the event or­gan­is­ers un­der­stand the univer­sity’s poli­cies in re­la­tion to events and ex­ter­nal speak­ers and the im­pact of the gov­ern­ment’s re­cently adopted def­i­ni­tion of an­tisemitism on free ex­pres­sion within the law,” the spokesman said.

The Univer­sity of Liver­pool said it was con­duct­ing a “risk as­sess­ment” of forth­com­ing anti-Is­rael events.

And Adam Tick­ell, the vice-chan­cel­lor of Sus­sex Univer­sity, said he had writ­ten to all stu­dents and staff recog­nis­ing “the lan­guage of apartheid is deeply up­set­ting to many mem­bers of the Jewish and non-Jewish com­mu­nity”.

Mr Tick­ell said he was hav­ing meet­ings with the Union of Jewish Stu­dents on cam­pus about forth­com­ing Apartheid Week events. He added that while he would pro­tect free­dom of speech and was not seek­ing to pre­vent any events tak­ing place, “any be­hav­iours that go be­yond rea­son­able de­bate and into the realm of in­tim­i­da­tion will be sub­ject to dis­ci­plinary sanc­tions”.

Sir Eric Pick­les, the gov­ern­ment’s spe­cial en­voy for post-Holo­caust is­sues, warned last Sun­day at a Board of Deputies meet­ing that it would be un­wise of any univer­sity chan­cel­lor to think it was “busi­ness as usual” fol­low­ing the gov­ern­ment’s adop­tion of the IHRA def­i­ni­tion of an­tisemitism.

Ac­cord­ing to that def­i­ni­tion, an­tisemitism in­cludes “deny­ing the Jewish peo­ple their right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion, eg, by claim­ing that the ex­is­tence of a state of Is­rael is a racist en­deav­our.”

It also says an­tisemitism in­cludes “us­ing the sym­bols and im­ages as­so­ci­ated with clas­sic an­tisemitism (eg, claims of Jews killing Je­sus or the blood li­bel) to char­ac­terise Is­rael or Is­raelis” and “draw­ing com­par­isons of con­tem­po­rary Is­raeli pol­icy to that of the Nazis”.

But a spokesper­son for Cambridge Univer­sity re­fused to con­demn a wall erected by its Pales­tine So­ci­ety, which claims to mimic Is­rael’s se­cu­rity wall — and has been daubed with slo­gans com­par­ing the Jewish state to that of apartheid-era South Africa.

The spokesper­son said the univer­sity was aware of con­cerns but that it “re­spects the rights of so­ci­eties and its mem­bers to peace­ful protest” and the wall was small enough not to ob­struct any­one.

Board of Deputies Pres­i­dent Jonathan Arkush said: “While pro­mot­ing free speech, uni­ver­si­ties should re­mem­ber their duty of care to all stu­dents and be mind­ful of the gov­ern­ment’s adopted IHRA def­i­ni­tion in as­sess­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of in­di­vid­ual events.”

Con­tro­ver­sial speak­ers sched­uled to ap­pear across UK cam­puses over the next two months in­clude Pro­fes­sor Farid Es­sack, the chair of South Africa’s BDS

Be­hav­iours be­yond rea­son­able de­bate will be sub­ject to sanc­tions’

PHOTO: PA

Jo John­son: warn­ing

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