The Labour peer charged with investigating claims of anti-Semitism at the Oxford University Labour Club has finally made public her full report – but acknowledged that many would find the document a “great disappointment”.
Baroness Jan Royall was brought in by the party after the Club’s co-chair resigned claiming many members had “some kind of problem with Jews,” but until now the party had only published her executive summary.
The peer, who has been praised by community leaders for her efforts, was again left frustrated last month after no mention of the Oxford probe was included in Shami Chakrabarti’s wider report on anti-Semitism.
In the report, revealed yesterday, she wrote: “It is clear to me from the weight of witnessed allegations received that there have been some incidents of anti-Semitic behaviour and that it is appropriate for the disciplinary procedures of our party to be invoked.
“However it is not clear to me to what extent this behaviour constituted intentional or deliberate acts of anti-Semitism. This is particularly true of historic hearsay evidence.” No individuals are named.
She suggested an educational rather than punitive approach to past incidents, saying: “I see no value in pursuing disciplinary cases against students who may be better advised as to their conduct.”
It comes after Alex Chalmers, the Club’s co-chair, resigned in February, accusing members of casually using the derogatory term “Zio” and of accusing Jews of “crying wolf,” on the day the Club voted to endorse Israel Apartheid Week.
Royall reiterated that there is “no evidence that the Club is itself institutionally anti-Semitic” but acknowledged a “cultural problem in which behaviour and language that would once have been intolerable is now tolerated”.
She denounced a “lack of systematic reporting” and “the fears of victims in coming forward,” noting that “some Jewish members do not feel comfortable attending the [OULC] meetings, let alone participating”.
However, she said she heard from over 40 Club members and said “much of the evidence I have received about anti-Semitic behaviour relates to their actions outside of the Club activities”.
In realising her threat to release the report herself, she said: “It will, I have no doubt, be a great disappointment to the Jewish community for which I have a very high regard.” She felt some would be disappointed because “many people have demanded greater action”.
Labour Students initially conducted its own investigation into Oxford. It’s now hoped that too will be published.
However, Royall tried to remain upbeat about the potential impact of her report. “As it was adopted by the [Labour Party] National Executive Committee, we should be able to ensure that each and every one of the recommendations is implemented and, in doing so, we should be able to bring about the necessary change in culture.”
Reacting to the report, a spokeswoman from the Union of Jewish Students said: “Many Jewish students at Oxford are likely to be disappointed. The report does not reveal much that wasn’t already thought to be the case. This raises questions as to why the report was initially suppressed, and we believe it is vital that there is full transparency as to why this happened.”
Chalmers said: “The findings confirm my belief that OULC has a serious cultural problem that makes Jewish students feel unwelcome and I hope that the club makes a substantial effort to improve its atmosphere.”
Labour Friends of Israel expressed appreciation for the work Baroness Royall put into the report. Director Jennifer Gerber said: “Now the allegations of anti-Semitism have been proven to have taken place, it’s absolutely vital that the party takes swift action to ensure those responsible face the appropriate disciplinary action.”
Aaron Simons, Jewish Labour Movement and former President of Oxford Jewish Society, said: “It is right that the Royall report has now been published in fuller form, and should never have been suppressed. Jewish students subjected to anti-Semitism at Oxford are owed justice by the party. This represents a real test of the principles the Chakrabarti report called for.”
Jon Trickett MP, shadow business secretary and member of Labour’s NEC, said Royall’s report made a “significant contribution to helping the Party develop and implement policies to make sure that as a party we respect the culture and traditions of everyone who wants to be involved”. Although there was no explicit mention of the Club in Chakrabarti’s report, he insisted “much of her work was integrated into the ‘Shami Chakrabarti Report’ that has been fully accepted by the Labour Party. It’s now time for the Labour Party to deliver on the recommendations of both Baroness Royall and Shami Chakrabarti”.