University chiefs have seen the writing on the wall for Israel Apartheid Week after the UK Government’s newly-adopted definition of anti-Semitism led to fears they could be breaking the law.
It follows the University of Central Lancashire’s cancellation of an event on campus, saying: “[We] determined that the proposed event would not be lawful and therefore it will not proceed as planned.”
Other universities have been warned against breaching the working definition of anti-Semitism, set by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) and adopted by Theresa May in December.
A spokesman for UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) said: “These events typically apply double standards towards Israel that are not applied to other countries and effectively deny Israel any right to exist by treating it as an inherently racist endeavour. As such, they conflict with the IHRA definition.”
Speaking to Jewish News, the university said: “We believe the proposed talk contravenes the new definition and furthermore breaches university protocols for such events, where we require assurances of a balanced view or a panel of speakers representing all interests.”
UKLFI said that any university hosting Israel Apartheid Week activities could also mean they were in breach of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) in Section 149 of the Equality Act.
Under this, universities “must have due regard to the need to eliminate harassment and victimisation, and to foster good relations between persons of different nationality,
ethnicity or religion”.
In a letter sent to several universities, Baroness Ruth Deech said: “Although student societies may not intend to be anti-Semitic, the effect of their anti-Israel rhetoric may be to harass those students who support Israel, most of whom happen to be Jewish.”
Earlier this week, Israel-Britain Alliance director Michael McCann, whose organisation launched the campaign against Israel Apartheid Week earlier this month, urged universities not to use campus facilities to host “false propaganda” and that students supporting IAW were now anti-Semites according to the new definition.
IAW organisers say the events around the world “seek to raise awareness of Israel’s settler-colonial project and apartheid system over the Palestinian people and to build support for the growing BDS movement”.
Following the scrapping of the event at Central Lancashire, there have been calls for other institutions to cancel events. Jewish News contacted universities about the issue, including King’s College London, UCL, LSE and Goldsmiths in London, as well as Birmingham, Manchester, Cambridge, Oxford.
Oxford chiefs said they respect “the rights of societies and its members to peaceful protest” and that “permission was given to the University Palestinian Society to hold a one-day exhibition and protest event on a small area”.
Among speakers expected to tour university campuses ahead of IAW is Farid Esack, who is due to address students at King’s, Manchester and Sussex. He gained notoriety after saying he “would not pray” for Jewish victims of the Paris attack on a kosher deli, having previously hosted Palestinian terrorists.
He was banned last year from speaking at Paris-Sorbonne University, and pro-Israel activists are calling for a similar ban in the UK.