The Jewish Chronicle

UCL academics speak out to defend IHRA

- BY MATHILDE FROT

MORE THAN a dozen academics at University College London (UCL) have criticised their colleagues’ opposition to the IHRA definition of antisemiti­sm.

The group of 19 staff members supported the definition, which was adopted by UCL in 2019, in an open letter to the JC on Wednesday. It remains “an important safeguard” amid growing harassment and intimidati­on of Jewish students, they warned.

They were responding to a move by UCL’s academic board, which voted this month to pressure the university’s governing council to come up with an alternativ­e definition. The group of 19 said this week that the decision was guided by a “deeply flawed report, presented as a balanced investigat­ion”.

The letter’s signatorie­s — all academic board members — said the report consulted just two Jewish students and ignored broad support for the definition among university Jewish societies.

ISRAELI MILITARY analysts have discovered that Iranian scientists have been working on a new form of plantbased car fuel that has been described as “revolution­ary”.

Leading Israeli environmen­talist Mordechai Nathansky said the invention could transform transport across the world. Included among the documents seized by Israel from a warehouse in Tehran in April 2018 was a small folder labelled “Tasch”.

The Israeli analysts had ignored the documents, considerin­g they had no connection to Iran’s covert nuclear weapons programme.

But by chance, one of the analysts, physicist Esther Hamanstein, opened the folder and was astonished by what she saw.

She said: “It was a design for a small hatchback which appeared to be powered by crushed poppy seeds. We assumed it was some kind of child’s doodle, but for amusement my lab assistants followed the designs and built a version of it and it worked.

“We drove over one kilometre on one batch of seeds.”

It is not known how advanced the Iranian poppy seed car programme is, but Israeli companies are already examining the details of the plans to see how they can begin manufactur­e.

CHIEF RABBI Ephraim Mirvis has backed a report that calls on the government to further target extremists by introducin­g new laws.

A review by the Commission for Countering Extremism concluded that gaps in existing legislatio­n allowed groups, including Neo-Nazi organisati­ons that spread Holocaust denial and antisemiti­c conspiracy theories, to “operate with impunity in Britain”.

The review, led by Sir Mark Rowley, the former Met Police Assistant Commission­er for Specialist Operations, said that existing hate crime and counter-terrorism legislatio­n failed to tackle those who openly glorify violence and groom young recruits. The study, published on Wednesday, detailed how it is still possible to publish material to intentiona­lly stir up racial or religious hatred, so long as the content avoids being seen as threatenin­g, abusive, or insulting.

The inability of the government to effectivel­y address extremist behaviour was exemplifie­d by the activities of hate preacher Anjem Choudary, the report said.

Responding to the study, Chief Rabbi Mirvis said: “I commend the work of the Commission for Countering Extremism in shining a spotlight on hateful extremism and seeking to redress worrying gaps in the law. I welcome this conversati­on and hope that, upon further exploratio­n, gaps identified can be closed, so that hate-ridden

Existing legislatio­n is not capable of addressing the problem ’

behaviour is severely curtailed in its ability to unpick our precious social fabric and undermine our democracy.”

Former prime ministers Tony Blair and David Cameron also said they supported the findings of the new report, along with religious leaders including Justin Welby, the Archbishop of CanThe terbury, and Imam Qari Muhammad Asim, Chair of Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board.

The report highlighte­d how hateful extremist activity should be examined through the lens of Article 17 of Schedule 1 to the Human Rights Act 1998, which it said was a robust tool to protect against extremist activity.

Examples include Islamists who recruit youngsters to support a repressive theocratic caliphate threatenin­g to undermine our democracy.

The language of implied violence and intent to overturn democratic norms is clear, the report says.

Mark Gardner, chief executive of the Community Security Trust, which provides security for the British Jewish community, said: “The report makes a compelling case that existing legislatio­n is not capable of addressing the problem.

“This is especially the case when it comes to online incitement on extremist social media channels. ”

At the launch of the report, Sir Mark Rowley referenced a recent study that showed that 15 per cent of young people believed the official account of the Holocaust was exaggerate­d or incorrect. He said:

“This is a very depressing number with the antisemiti­sm dynamic … extreme left, extreme right and Islamists all have antisemiti­c content with what they produce.”

He said that while reputable companies took steps to remove hateful material, social media outlets such as BitChute were “providing a deliberate home for it”.

report warned that there had been a legislativ­e failure under successive government­s to address hateful extremism. This failure is creating an ever-bigger pool from which terrorists may recruit.

It also criticised previous and continuing attempts to focus on hateful extremism through the lens of counter-terrorism legislatio­n, which should not be expected to capture the breadth of the problem.

Ms Khan said: “Since the 2005 London bombings, one of the long-standing conundrums for the British government has been how to deal with extremist groups or individual­s who are not caught by counter-terrorism legislatio­n, but who are creating a climate that is conducive to terrorism and other societal harms.

“Our report shows how it is possible to square this circle. We have charted a path the government can take which will ensure protection of freedom of expression while restrictin­g the dangerous activity of hateful extremism.”

The report called on the government to commit to devising a legal and operationa­l framework to capture the specific activity of hateful extremism.

Sir Mark added: “Not only have our laws failed to keep pace with the evolving threat of modern-day extremism, current legal boundaries allow extremists to operate with impunity.”

Mr Blair said the proposals put forward by the Commission “deserve serious considerat­ion by the Government”. Mr Cameron added: “The fact that someone like Anjem Choudary was able to radicalise and poison the minds of so many people with such tragic consequenc­es for so long without apparently breaking the law demonstrat­es that the law needs changing.”

 ?? PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES ?? Flower power: The design for the seed-fuelled hatchback was seized from a Tehran warehouse
PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES Flower power: The design for the seed-fuelled hatchback was seized from a Tehran warehouse
 ?? PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES ?? ‘Poisioning minds’: Hate preacher Anjem Choudary
PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES ‘Poisioning minds’: Hate preacher Anjem Choudary
 ??  ?? Support for Commission: Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Support for Commission: Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

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