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February 13, 2017 4:12 pm

UK Labour Party Student Group Launches New Antisemitism Education Program in Effort to Repair Relations With Jewish Community

avatar by Rachel Frommer

University of Oxford. Photo: Wikipedia.

University of Oxford. Photo: Wikipedia.

The UK Labour Party’s national student group is taking “practical steps” to repair its damaged relations with the Jewish community, the organizer of an initiative aimed at educating about antisemitism told The Algemeiner on Monday.

Kate Dearden, the national chair of Labour Students, said the program — which was launched today at Oxford University — follows last month’s controversial decision by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to terminate an 11-month probe into the Oxford University Labour Club (OUCL) on charges of rampant antisemitism, without bringing disciplinary action against the implicated students.

Dearden said the workshop’s development was heavily influenced by Baroness Janet Royall’s 11 recommendations for how “Labour tackles antisemitism,” which were released following the NEC’s closing of its investigation.

She told The Algemeiner that the sessions will discuss various definitions of antisemitism and their application to both campus life and the Labour movement, including the relationship between antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

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The aim is to “minimize the chance of any repetition of incidents such as those that occurred at OULC,” said Dearden.

She had announced the new program with a blog post titled: “Solidarity with Jewish students — it’s time, for deeds as well as words.” In it, she wrote, “We hope this [initiative] will bring the positive changes the student movement urgently needs.”

Dov Boonin, an Oxford student leading the effort to improve the fractured relations between the OULC and the Jewish Society, told The Algemeiner that Monday’s workshop is part of a larger project “to ensure that Jews once again know that they should feel, and can be confident that they will feel, comfortable at OULC.”

Programming to accomplish that goal has been scheduled for throughout the semester, he said, following a joint executive committee meeting between JSoc and OULC.

According to Boonin, the groups intend to hold an event highlighting the “overlap between Labour and Jewish values.”

“The plan is to arrive at a point where we can confidently and definitively say that the Labour club has no ‘problem with Jews,’ in the words of [former OULC co-chair] Alex Chalmers. We will then publicize and celebrate that fact,” Boonin said. He added that he doesn’t “want to rush the process,” but hopes to be able to achieve tangible improvements by the end of the semester.

A spokesperson from the Union of Jewish Student (UJS) — which, together with the Jewish Labour Movement, is a co-organizer of the Labour Students’ initiative — told The Algemeiner, “The aim is to ensure that Labour clubs are safe spaces for Jewish students.”

According to Dearden, “The student response has been really positive, with over 20 Labour Clubs signed up for the training sessions over the next few months, and many more interested in arranging a session.”

Over the past year, Labour has been dogged by allegations of party-wide antisemitism, while parliamentarians and political commentators have cautioned against the devolving situation for Jews on UK campuses.

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