In a last meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair before he leaves office, Jewish community leaders expressed concern over the dangers facing Jewish students on UK campuses, which have become more potent following renewed attempts to boycott Israel.
In a meeting at Downing Street before Blair steps down next month, representatives of the community from across the spectrum called on the prime minister and the government to take firm action to ensure the welfare of Jewish students on UK university campuses.
Henry Grunwald QC, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said, "Our community has been able to rely on the support of the Prime Minister throughout his tenure and he has repeatedly proved to be a true friend of Israel as well. However our community is now facing a different type of threat - a recent attempted boycott of Israel by members of the University and College Union will result in Jewish students being harassed and bullied on campus. There is need for direct action - not just on the floor of union debates but also on university campuses themselves. We are grateful for the Prime Minister's robust criticism of such boycotts and we call on him to do whatever he can to secure the safety of Jewish students' on campus."
The meeting was attended by an array of influential Jewish leaders and representatives including Lord Levy, Lord Janner, Sir Trevor Chinn, Sir Ronald Cohen as well as community heads such as Gerald Ronson, chairman of the Community Security Trust; Nigel Cole, chairperson of the Movement for Liberal Judaism; Barbara Goldstone, president of the Jewish Representative Council of Manchester; Michael Grabiner, chairperson of the Movement for Reform Judaism; Simon Hochhauser, president of the United Synagogue, Nigel Layton, chairman of World Jewish Relief; Jonathan Levy, chair of the Union of Jewish Students; Robert Yentob, presidential delegate of the Sephardi Community and Stephen Zimmerman, chairman of Jewish Care.
Speaking about the University and College Union boycott motion in the House of Commons earlier this month Blair reiterated his opposition to the boycott, saying, "â€¦I very much hope that that decision is overturned because it does absolutely no good for the peace process or, indeed, for relations in that part of the worldâ€¦the only solution ultimately is to re-launch the framework for a negotiated peace with a two-state solution at its heart, and we will work on that."
Blair is set to leave office on June 27 after 10 years as Prime Minister. There is speculation that he will be made the Middle East envoy reporting to the Quartet. A Downing Street spokesman said, "There is a lot of speculation about what the Prime Minister will do after June 27, we're simply not commenting on it."