Former UK Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks Says Only Time During Tenure He Felt ‘Genuinely Afraid’ as a Jew Was Lecturing at Oxford
The former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth revealed that the only time during his tenure that he felt “genuinely afraid” was when he gave a talk at Oxford University, the Jewish Chronicle reported on Friday.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks recounted the incident to which he was referring in a cross-party debate at the House of Lords Thursday on the recently released House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) report on antisemitism.
“Just before the start of my lecture, a whole group of rather menacing Muslim students came in and occupied the center of the front row. It was a blatant attempt at intimidation,” he said, arguing for “zero tolerance for intimidation of any group of students,” in the face of increasing instances of intolerance at UK institutions of higher learning.
Among others participating in the debate was Baroness Ruth Deech. Saying that universities have turned into “hotbeds of anti-Jewish incidents,” Deech criticized the “weakness” of previous governmental inquiries into the phenomenon — such as those investigating Oxford University and the Labour Party — for “includ[ing] racism and Islamophobia, thereby sidelining antisemitism and its special characteristics, and failing to deal with the tricky issue of when hatred of Israel becomes antisemitism.”
As The Algemeiner reported, the HASC report found instances of systematic antisemitism at UK universities. It slammed the controversial president of the country’s largest student union, Malia Bouattia, for undermining efforts to combat Jew-hatred on campus and acting “with defensiveness and an apparent unwillingness to listen to…concerns” of Jewish students.