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March 14, 2017 11:40 am

UK Israel Activists Dispute London University Claims of ‘Welcoming’ Atmosphere for Jews

avatar by Rachel Frommer

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BBC's "Sunday Politics" news program covering antisemitism on campus. Photo: Facebook via SFI.

BBC’s “Sunday Politics” news program covering antisemitism on campus. From left: Mark Field, Photo: Facebook via SFI.

Leading UK Israel activists told The Algemeiner on Monday that they dispute the claims of a London university’s director, made this weekend on a BBC broadcast, that her school has a welcoming atmosphere for Jews and supporters of the Jewish state.

The Pinsker Centre, a Zionism education group, said that Baroness Valerie Amos of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) — who made her comments during an appearance on this week’s episode of the UK network’s “Sunday Politics” news program, devoted to a discussion of increasing campus antisemitism — has not lived up to her assertion.

The Centre noted that the SOAS student union “overwhelmingly voted” in favor of BDS in 2015, and Jewish students have reported being routinely intimidated and frightened at the school. “Officially shutting down alternative opinion and harassing those who do not conform with a specific worldview is anything but ‘robust debate,'” the Centre said, using the term with which Amos characterized the SOAS culture.

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Sussex Friends of Israel’s (SFI) spokesperson Fiona Sharpe also called out Amos for rejecting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which the British government has officially adopted. Sharpe said Amos’s reference to the IHRA description as “contentious” was “extremely problematic and somewhat arrogant,” and called on the director to try and understand antisemitism from the perspective of the students whom it affects.

The “Sunday Politics” broadcast featured discussions about recent high-profile incidents at both University College London and SOAS, including a claim — obtained by The Algemeiner — filed late last month with SOAS administrators and police by two Jewish students who allege they were robbed and physically and verbally harassed by their peers.

The Pinsker Centre commended the BBC on the program — aired during the annual Israeli Apartheid Week — calling it “fair, balanced, timely and appropriate.”

“It rightly exposed the antisemitic tropes often deployed by individual pro-BDS activists, and the stress and intimidation which so many Jewish students face on a daily basis. A greater awareness of the problem…from national media coverage will hopefully inspire the general public to call on both government and academic institutions to assist marginalized Jewish students,” the Centre added.

Earlier this month, British Prime Minister Theresa May called on UK universities to “swiftly address” the issue, amid growing concerns about the nation’s college culture.

Watch the program below:

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