Anti-Semitism is so entrenched in many of Britain’s universities that the swastika is now seen on campus as a ‘casual symbol of fun’, MPs heard.
Anti-Semitism is so entrenched in many of Britain’s universities that the swastika is now seen on campus as a ‘casual symbol of fun’, MPs heard last night.
Parliament heard a litany of ‘horrifying’ examples of anti-Jewish hatred at universities, including the distribution of Holocaust denial literature.
At one university, police had to be called to protect Jewish students from the ‘animalistic behaviour’ of anti-Israel activists.
Student officers have also used the Twitter hashtag #Jew while discussing wealth, while swastikas have been drawn on people’s cars, on the walls of student halls and even at student parties.
Liron Velleman, of the Union of Jewish Students, said the situation was now so bad that ‘we need serious conversations about what the swastika is’.
The appalling stories were recounted at a meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on anti-Semitism.
During the session shadow education secretary Angela Rayner admitted that Labour had not done enough to tackle hatred of Jews in its ranks.
And she said she would be challenging Jeremy Corbyn to explain why he had caused such ‘upset’ by attending the book launch of an anti-Semitic author last year.
‘We need to prove we are not anti-Semitic as a party,’ she said.
Saying that anti-Semitism was ‘normalised’ on many campuses, she added: ‘People think anti-Semitism 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.’
Mr Velleman and other speakers listed a raft of examples of university anti-Semitism. They included police having to protect Jewish students at University College London after anti-Israel protesters climbed in through the windows during a talk by Israeli speaker Hen Mazzig at UCL’s Friends of Israel group in October last year.
Mr Velleman said: ‘A number of campuses have Holocaust denial literature posted on university noticeboards. We have swastikas drawn on cars – this is not something I expected in 2017.
‘We need a serious conversations about what the swastika is. 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.’
Miss Rayner said she agreed with a speaker who suggested the ‘European Left’ had a problem with anti-Semitism, and admitted that Labour had not gone far enough to tackle anti-Semitism in its ranks.
‘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,’ she said. ‘We still have people in our party that are anti-Semitic. It’s not just what we say, it’s what we do – and I say that to everyone including my leader.’
She also expressed concern about a meeting organised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission attended by Mr Corbyn in December, where an academic described as ‘extremely anti-Semitic’ launched his book. ‘If people do something that strays into being wrong or unacceptable, if that happens we have to immediately seize on it,’ she said. ‘And I will speak to Jeremy about that meeting in December and say that it has created upset, and ask him what is he going to do about it personally.’
In a hint that she wants to see more anti-Semitic members expelled rather than simply suspended, she added: ‘I’m sick of ‘jam tomorrow’, the promise that it’ll get sorted.
‘I want to see direct action. Not just warm words and rule changes, but direct action.’
- Free speech is ‘under threat’ in universities – risking creating a generation of snowflake students, academics warn. They told MPs on the Commons joint human rights committee that policies banning speech seen as ‘offensive’ were having a ‘chilling effect’, with Dr Joanna Williams of Kent University saying that students are being ‘taught to see themselves as vulnerable’.