British campuses are not as anti-Semitic or anti-Israel as they are popularly portrayed and perceived in the Jewish state, and Israeli students should go study there, British Ambassador Matthew Gould said Tuesday.
Gould, in a Tel Aviv briefing with journalists, lamented that the number of Israelis opting to study in the UK was dropping, with one of the main reasons being a feeling that the campuses there were hostile to Jews and Israelis.
Currently, he said, there are only 680 Israeli students at the more than 100 British campuses, a decline from previous years.
Gould said that in Israel the British universities were suffering from “reverse deligitimization,” with “all British universities tarred with the same brush, and genuine problems of a few universities [wrongly] described as problems with them all.”
In recent years there have been numerous reports of British universities spearheading boycotts of Israel, and of Jewish and pro-Israel students on certain campuses being harassed or intimidated into silence. For instance, an online survey conducted between October 2010 and February 2011 among 9,229 students across the UK by the National Union of Students found that 31 percent of Jewish respondents said they had been victims of a “religiously-prejudiced incident” at their institution.
While not denying that there were isolated instances of anti-Semitism on campus, Gould said the true picture was much different than the one portrayed in Israel. That image, he said, prompted an Israeli grandmother to tell him that she did not want her granddaughter to study at a British school because she was concerned about the girl’s safety. In reality, he said, there were a total of two incidents of violent anti-Semitism on British campuses in 2011.
“I have been with senior Israelis who say it is not safe to defend Israel in British universities, and that is wildly exaggerated,” he said. “The message I am trying to give is that there are problems in a half-dozen universities, but at the same time there are 100 universities in the UK, and in the vast majority the student body has more important things to deal with than the Middle East,” he said.
Gould declined to mention the names of the few problematic campuses.