Some of Britain’s top universities are becoming no-go zones for Jews, Baroness Deech claims
Baroness Deech said that a handful of universities are now gaining reputations as institutions where Jews are unwelcome
Camilla Turner, Education Editor
Telegraph, 22 December 2016 • 9:30pm
Some of Britain’s leading universities are becoming no-go zones for Jewish students because anti-Semitism is so rife, the first ever higher education adjudicator has warned.
Baroness Ruth Deech, a cross-bench peer who formerly held the highest office dealing with student complaints, said that institutions may be failing to combat hatred against Jews as they “afraid of offending” their potential benefactors from Gulf states.
Her comments come after a series of high profile incidents at top universities where Jewish students claim they were verbally abused or physically attacked. The academic community is at the forefront of calls to boycott Israel.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Baroness Deech said that the extreme levels of hostility towards Israel at universities across the country can at times go so far as to equate to anti-Semitism.
“Many universities are in receipt of or are chasing very large donations from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and so on, and maybe they are frightened of offending them,” she said. “I don’t know why they aren’t doing anything about it, it really is a bad situation.”
Amongst Jewish students, there is gradually a feeling that there are certain universities that you should avoid.
Baroness Deech, a former senior proctor at Oxford University and Principal of St Anne’s College, said that a handful of universities are now gaining reputations as institutions where Jews are unwelcome.
“Amongst Jewish students, there is gradually a feeling that there are certain universities that you should avoid,” Baroness Deech said. “Definitely SOAS, Manchester I think is now not so popular because of things have happened there, Southampton, Exeter and so on.”
The chief executive of Universities UK said the sector has been clear that there is “no place” for anti-Semitism. Exeter and Southampton universities denied that Jewish students feel unwelcome on their campuses. Manchester University and SOAS could not be reached for comment.
One of its most respected former alumni returned his degree in protest and at least one major patron of the university was said to have been considering withdrawing funding.
The Charities Commission are currently investigating an alleged anti-Semitic talk at SOAS, where the Palestine Society hosted a speaker last month who described the creation of Israel as a ‘racist’, ‘fascist’ endeavour, and linked the ‘cult’ of Zionism to the Nazis.
The University of Manchester was popular with Jewish students but now has fallen out of favour in recent years after its student union started adopting motions perceived as hostile against Jews, including endorsing the boycott, divest and sanction campaign against Israel.
Phrases photographed included: “Don’t speak to me if you’re not white,” and, “The Holocaust was a good time.” At the time, a spokesman for the university said there would be a full investigation into the reports.
Over the past decade, Saudi Arabia has been one of the largest source of donations from Islamic states and royal families to British universities, much of which is devoted to the study of Islam, the Middle East and Arabic literature.
In 2005, Sultan bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, the late crown prince, gave £2m to the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qasimi, the ruler of Sharjah – one of the most conservative emirates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – has given more than £8 million to Exeter Univeristy over two decades. Sheikh Sultan was described as “the university’s single most important supporter” in its 2007 annual report.
Baroness Deech, who was the first ever independent adjudicator for higher education before retiring in 2008, said she was also dismayed by the inaction of Oxford University after complaints about anti-Semitism, despite the proctors being handed a dossier which detailed a catalogue of incidents where Jewish students were harassed.
Earlier this year the co-chair of the Oxford Labour Club resigned in protest at its members’ “problem with Jews” and sympathy with terrorist groups such as Hamas, sparking an intervention from the Universities Minister Jo Johnson who urged the proctors to investigate.
Universities Minister Jo Johnson intervened in the Oxford University anti-Semitism row.
The dossier, which Baroness Deech was also given, included claims that some Jewish students were called “Zios”, while others were asked if they agreed that Auschwitz was a “cash cow”.
“Those students never got a proper reply. It is very disappointing,” she said. “The university said they noted the Baroness Royall report [into anti-Semitism]. But they haven’t actually done anything. They have not opened an investigation into any individuals. So in other words they are just kicking it out into the long grass.”
Baroness Deech said she felt compelled to speak out about her concern at the way Oxford has handled the allegations of anti-Semitism, despite her strong attachment to the university.
Baroness Deech says she owes her career to Oxford University.“I find it personally very difficulty, I’ve been at Oxford for 45 years or something, and I owe my career to Oxford,” she said. “But I can’t believe that my own university is not setting up an investigation and being pro-active about this.”
Lord Stuart Polak, chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, is considering putting forward an amendment to the Higher Education Bill at its next reading in the Lords to address anti-Semitism on campus.
“It would be such a sad but also chilling situation if there were great institutions of learning where Jewish Students felt unwelcome and unsafe,” he said, adding: “Have we learnt nothing from history?”
A spokesman for Oxford University said: “The University is surprised and disappointed by Baroness Deech’s remarks, since it has made clear on many occasions that it does not tolerate any form of harassment or victimisation. We utterly reject the suggestion that donations have any bearing whatsoever on these matters.”
Have we learnt nothing from history?
A spokesman for Exeter University said it is “completely untrue” that > it is not a welcoming place for Jewish students. “Anti-Semitic and racist behaviour in any form is not tolerated by the University,” the spokesman said.
Exeter has philanthropic supporters of many faiths, including Jewish, Christian and Muslim, the spokesman added.
A spokesman for Southampton University said they are “home to a supportive, friendly and inclusive community that welcomes staff, students, alumni, collaborators and visitors from a wide variety of backgrounds, including people of all faiths and none”.
The spokesman said the university hosted the Parkes Institute, the world’s oldest centre for the study of Jewish/non-Jewish relations.
Manchester University and SOAS could not be reached for comment.
Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “The > university sector has been clear that there is no place for anti-Semitism or any other kind of unlawful discrimination at our > universities. >
“Universities UK look forward to continuing to work with the Union of > Jewish Students to ensure that every Jewish student has a safe and positive university experience”.