Hate war on campus to be "stamped out"

Deputies agree an ‘uncompromising’ plan to stamp out extremism sweeping universities

By Martin Bright, March 4, 2010
Azzam Tamimi: invited to speak on campuses

Azzam Tamimi: invited to speak on campuses

There is now a "virus of extremism" on Britain's university campuses that is at risk of turning into a pandemic, according to the Board of Deputies.

Growing parental concern at the safety of Jewish students at UK universities has led the community leadership to take the unprecedented step of developing an official strategy for combating extremism on campus.

The strategy draws on recent experience of campaigning against extremist Muslim speakers at Manchester and London universities who are known to hold views deeply hostile to Israel.

A five-point action plan can be revealed for the first time here:

● Proactive monitoring of visits from extremists with the co-operation of the Community Security Trust and the Union of Jewish Students.

● Immediate, vigorous response to any visits that do take place, including warnings to vice-chancellors on the track record of extremists.

● Withholding the use of university premises by extremists.

● Insistence that participants sign strict written undertakings that hate speech will not be used and agree to filming by university authorities.

● Increased pressure on ministers to tackle extremism while working closely with the Grant Inquiry into campus radicalisation.

At the same time, guidance on the limits of free speech is currently being developed by the Board and the CST.

The strategy has been developed by the Board's senior vice-president Jonathan Arkush, who has a daughter at Manchester University.

As a result of discussions, the Board now has a renewed commitment to "a robust and uncompromising opposition to extremist ideologies that adversely affect the Jewish communities".

Mr Arkush said that universities needed to understand that the independence of student unions could not come at the price of protecting Jewish students. "It seems to me that universities have been abnegating their responsibilities by hiding behind student unions."

He also called on universities minister David Lammy to get to grips with the issue.

"What we have had so far from Mr Lammy is fine words, but no action," he said. "We need concerted action from the government and universities. They shouldn't need the Jewish community to act as a catalyst."

The Board's new strategy has its origins in the campaign against South African trade unionist Bongani Masuku, who visited Britain last September despite an ongoing investigation into his alleged antisemitism by his country's human rights commission.

Mr Masuku spoke at the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University but left the country before speaking at other universities.

The other major lightning rod is Manchester University, where the atmosphere for Jewish students has become increasingly tense. Israel's deputy ambassador, Talya Lador-Fresher, was forced to pull out of a talk last month after her security staff decided it was not safe to attend.

But pressure from the Board and the UJS forced the university to make speakers at last month's "Palestine Week" conference sign an undertaking not to incite hatred. They included Azzam Tamimi of the Muslim Association of Britain, who had told a SOAS audience that he longed to be a martyr and that supporters of Hamas should not be afraid to be labelled terrorists.

Last updated: 11:24am, September 21 2010