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February 15, 2021 2:41 pm

Prominent University College London Scholar Resigns After Academic Board Rejects Leading Definition of Antisemitism: ‘You Are All Going to Hell!’

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

University College London campus. Photo: David Egan.

A prominent scholar at University College London has resigned in disgust after the institution’s Academic Board demanded the administration rescind its adoption of the leading definition of antisemitism.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition, which has been adopted by governments and educational institutions worldwide, is opposed by some in academia for including antisemitic ideas and rhetoric that attack Israel and Zionism.

The Board called on the university to “replace the IHRA working definition with a more precise definition of antisemitism.”

In a Feb. 9 blog post entitled “Saying Farewell to the Antisemitic Cesspit That Is UCL,” Lars Fischer, a scholar of Hebrew and Jewish studies and editor of an academic journal on Jewish history, wrote, “I have now become aware of the prominent role colleagues from Hebrew & Jewish Studies have played in spearheading the appalling assault on the IHRA definition currently being mounted at UCL.”

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“When I embarked on the academic study of antisemitism, it was still taken for granted that one did so in order to combat antisemitism,” he said. “These days have long gone, and the academy is now full of academics who specialize in explaining why only some forms of antisemitism are harmful and others are not actually forms of antisemitism anyway.”

“Whatever they may believe their subjective intentions to be, they are doing wonders for antisemitism promotion and the fact that nobody can evidently curtail their criminal conduct is one of the greatest problems the planet currently faces,” Fischer said.

“Not being able to stop these reprehensible people in their tracks is bad enough, but each and every one of us has a duty at least to avoid becoming complicit in their antisemitism-promoting activities,” he continued. “I am therefore left with no choice but to resign my affiliation with Hebrew & Jewish Studies, even if this decision does amount to a likely fatal blow to my ability to function as a scholar.”

“To my former colleagues I say: You are all going to hell!” he concluded.

On Monday, Fischer told The Algemeiner that he would advise Jewish students at UCL “not to succumb to the gaslighting.”

“They may not always be able to do something about it but it’s important they maintain a clear awareness of the fact that the antisemitism they encounter is unjust and reprehensible and that they are not to blame for it,” Fischer said.

“They should stand up for themselves whenever possible. Antisemitism thrives on intimidation and the antisemites need to know that others, however few they may be, emphatically disapprove of their antisemitism,” he said.

The UCL Jewish Society and the Union of Jewish Students also spoke out against the Academic Board, saying they were “disturbed” by its actions and asserting that “Jewish student voices will not be silenced, nor dictated to by a small group of academics, who are more interested in theoretical discussion of antisemitism than practically supporting their students.”

Of the IHRA standard, the groups said, “Jewish students have consistently demonstrated that this is the definition that should be used in order to protect them best.”

“We are confident that the Provost, Dr. Michael Spence, will make the correct decision and reject the recommendation of the Academic Board and maintain the use of the IHRA definition within UCL and ensure the safety of its Jewish students,” they wrote.

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