UK Labour Education Chief: Antisemitism Still a Problem ‘In Our Campuses and Our Schools’
British lawmakers and student leaders convened on Wednesday to discuss the prevalence of antisemitism at universities and strategize on ways to protect Jewish students on campus.
Hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism and the Antisemitism Policy Trust, the session featured speakers including Labour MPs Angela Rayner and John Mann; Shakira Martin, president of the National Union of Students (NUS); and Liron Velleman, campaigns manager of the Union of Jewish Students.
Testimonies shared at the event pointed to a diverse litany of abuse — from student officers using the hashtag #Jew in Twitter discussions on wealth to “violent” protests directed at students attending a pro-Israel event.
“A number of campuses have Holocaust denial literature posted on university noticeboards,” Velleman said, according to a report in the Daily Mail. “We have swastikas drawn on cars — this is not something I expected in 2017.”
“We need a serious conversations about what the swastika is,” he added. “It’s either being seen as a casual symbol of fun which is pretty horrifying, or people are using it as a legitimate way to attack people.”
Rayner, who also serves as shadow education secretary, warned during her address that “people think antisemitism has gone away but the reality is it’s absolutely there in every single community, in our campuses and our schools and across our society.”
She also called on Labour to confront antisemitism in its ranks, saying, “we need to prove we are not antisemitic as a party.”
“I have confidence we are going in the right direction but are we where we need to be? I don’t think we’re there yet,” Rayner added. “We still have people in our party that are antisemitic. It’s not just what we say, it’s what we do — and I say that to everyone including my leader.”
She pointed to UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s appearance at a December event organized by the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) with Hatem Bazian, a leading proponent of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
IHRC hosts annual Al-Quds Day rallies against Israel, which often feature flags of the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, and has posted an article claiming that “the British people do not have a say in what the major political parties stand for,” as the “parties and their spokespeople are indebted to Jewish financiers with Zionist leanings.”
“I will speak to Jeremy about that meeting in December,” Rayner said, “and say that it has created upset, and ask him what is he going to do about it personally.”
A day prior to the parliamentary event, Mann tabled an early day motion calling for universities to adopt several reforms to address campus antisemitism, including adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism and instituting “a consistent approach by the NUS and vice-chancellors to deal with antisemitism and other forms of racism on campus.”