UK Parliamentarian Says Top British Universities Becoming ‘No-Go Zones’ for Jewish Students
Top British universities are becoming “no-go zones” for Jewish students, due to a combination of rising antisemitism on campus and a desire on the part of administrations to raise funds from Arab states hostile to Israel, a prominent parliamentarian told the UK’s The Telegraph on Friday.
Baroness Ruth Deech — a crossbench peer in the House of Lords who served as the first Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education — said that “many universities are in receipt of or are chasing very large donations from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states…,” pointing specifically to the University of Manchester, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of Southampton, the University of Exeter and Oxford.
According to the report, Saudi Arabia is “one of the largest source[s] of donations from Islamic states and royal families to British universities, much of which is devoted to the study of Islam, the Middle East and Arabic literature.”
Oxford, for example, received a £2 million ($2.4 million) donation from the late Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in 2005. Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qasimi, the ruler of Sharjah — which The Telegraph described as “one of the most conservative emirates in the United Arab Emirates” — has donated more than £8 million ($9.8 million) to Exeter over the last two decades.
Deech said she “[doesn’t] know why [universities] aren’t doing anything” about the plight of Jewish students, among whom “there is gradually a feeling that there are certain universities that you should avoid.”
In recent months, the schools referenced by Baroness Deech have all been involved in controversies related to Israel or their Jewish student populations.
At the University of Manchester, as The Algemeiner reported earlier this month, Jewish students were left “angry and fearful” in the wake of a successful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which they said “sprang out of nowhere.”
SOAS — which has been nicknamed the “School of Antisemitism” — is currently under investigation by a governmental body for hosting a lecture in which the speaker accused “Zionists” of “conspir[ing] to try and increase antisemitism in order to force Jews to Palestine.”
Last year, Southampton scheduled and then canceled a conference which was set to explore how Israel might be replaced, following criticism from Jewish groups. The conference is now slated to take place at an Irish university in early 2017.
In September, students at Exeter were caught on camera wearing Holocaust-glorifying t-shirts at an off-campus party. And at Oxford, the co-chairman of the university’s Labour Club resigned over its members’ “problem with Jews.”
Deech’s comments were rejected by Britain’s Union of Jewish Students (UJS), however.
“While it is important to note the extremely worrying rise in antisemitism on UK university campuses, and we are grateful to [her] for drawing further attention to this,” the group said, “the article does not fully portray the experiences of Jewish students. It does a disservice to the thousands who are able to freely express their Jewish identities in whichever way they choose.”
Spokespeople from the SOAS, Southampton, Exeter and Oxford told The Telegraph that their institutions take the issue of antisemitism seriously, and are working to keep Jewish students safe.