University of Bristol adopts IHRA definition of antisemitism

Jewish student groups: adoption of definition is an important first step in helping the university tackle anti-Jewish racism

Bristol University from Cabot Tower (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Bristol University from Cabot Tower
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The University of Bristol in the UK confirmed this week that it had adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism in full.
This comes after questions were raised on whether the university would adopt the IHRA definition in full that led to Jewish students staging a protest outside the building where the Board of Trustees was discussing the issue.
Following the decision, a university spokesperson said that the university had “adopted in full the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. We will also start to consult on the adoption of additional definitions relating to other minority groups that may also feel vulnerable to discrimination and hatred. All such definitions will be applied by the university in a manner that is consistent with our legally binding commitments to freedom of speech, and to the rights of all students and staff to discuss difficult and sensitive topics, provided that this right is exercised responsibly, within the law, and with respect for others who may have differing views.”
The university added that it was taking this opportunity “to restate that there is no place for any racism, bullying or discrimination at the University of Bristol, and that this should be a place where all feel safe, welcomed and respected, regardless of gender, gender identity, religion, race, sexual orientation, disability, age or social background.”
Jewish groups on and off campus praised the decision, saying that the university had listened to their Jewish students.
“The University of Bristol has not been free of antisemitic incidents, and the adoption of this definition is an important first step in helping the university tackle anti-Jewish racism,” the Union of Jewish Students and Bristol’s Jewish Society said in a joint statement. “We now expect the university to use this definition in outstanding disciplinary cases. We look forward to working with the university in other ways to tackle antisemitism on campus.”
It also welcomes the university’s plan to work with other minority groups regarding definitions of other forms of racism, and thanked the Bristol Students’ Union for their support “and those who stood with us in urging the university to take this step.”
Board of Deputies of British Jews vice president Amanda Bowman echoed these sentiments, saying the university “has taken an important first step toward protecting Jewish students, academics and staff in adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism in full. The definition, with its examples, is a useful yardstick to determine whether specific actions are or are not antisemitic.”
The university was caught up in a storm of controversy in September after Jewish students accused the institution of mishandling a complaint regarding a lecture claiming the “Zionist movement” as one of the “five pillars of Islamophobia.”
Earlier this year, sociology Prof. David Miller claimed in a slide-show presentation that the “Zionist movement (parts of)” is one of the “five pillars of Islamophobia,” in addition to the “neo-conservative Right,” some of whose founders and leaders were Jewish. Examples included Norman Podhoretz and Irving Kristol.
At the time, the university said it had “taken action in response to this to ensure that the lecture material in question is accurate, clear and not open to misinterpretation.”
The spokesperson added that there’s “no evidence to suggest that Jewish students feel unsafe here at Bristol,” but called for those who felt discriminated to reach out to its support services.
Idan Zonshine contributed to this report.