UK chief rabbi: Universities failing in anti-Semitism fight

Jonathan Sacks says school authorities “turning a blind eye and a deaf ear” to increasing inflammatory campus speeches.

December 15, 2010 02:30
2 minute read.
Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

rabbi sacks UK 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

LONDON – Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks accused university authorities on Tuesday of “turning a blind eye and a deaf ear” to the increasing number of inflammatory speeches taking place on campuses across the country.

Speaking at the Department for Communities and Local Government ahead of a report being launched on anti-Semitism in the UK, the chief rabbi accused the universities of not doing enough to combat anti-Semitism on campus, in sharp contrast to the political leadership of all parties who take “an unequivocal and a firm stand against anti-Semitism.”

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He warned that there was an increasing number of events held at UK universities where Jewish students were suffering abuse.

The chief rabbi alluded to an event that took place last week at the London School of Economics, where Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the Arabic daily Al-Quds al-Arabi, delivered a talk titled “How Much Influence Does the Zionist Lobby Exert on US/UK Foreign Policy?”

“If this were an isolated event, I would say no more, but it isn’t,” he said. “It’s part of a process that has been going on now for almost a decade. There has been incident after incident in which Jewish students have been intimidated, and verbally and physically abused.”

Berating the university authorities, Sacks said that “if they have acted at all, have done too little, too late.” He stated that if similar actions had been directed at any other group or ethnic minority, action on the grounds of incitement would have been initiated.

“Let me be blunt. I believe that the inflammatory public speeches being allowed to take place on university campuses would, in any other context and directed against any other group, be prosecuted under the law forbidding incitement to racial and possibly religious hatred,” he said.

He urged university authorities to “take decisive and unequivocal action to prevent the intimidation of any students – Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, gay or any other group at risk – so that academic freedom can return to universities and students can express their views without abuse and without fear.”

Sacks said his concern had led him to conduct a tour of campuses.

“So concerned am I that a few weeks ago I did a national tour of university campuses speaking to Jewish students, because over these last few years they have become despondent and demoralized at the failure of university authorities to take firm and decisive action.”

The chief rabbi – who, it has been revealed, is retiring in 2013 – also thanked Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove for the £2 million in funding he is providing for the security of Jewish schools, announced last week.

President of the United Synagogue Simon Hochauser announced on Tuesday that the chief rabbi would step down after 22 years in the role.

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