Government fails to act on campus

By Marcus Dysch, February 3, 2011
Abdel Bari Atwan

Abdel Bari Atwan

The government department responsible for universities has admitted having no recent discussions with higher education authorities over campus invitations to hate speakers.

The revelation came in a written response to a parliamentary question tabled by Lord Beecham. He had asked what representations had been made to university authorities about invitations to speakers with a history of promoting antisemitism, Islamophobia or racism on campus.

Lord Henley, government spokesman on higher education, replied: "The department has made no recent representations to institutions on these matters.

"[David Willetts, Universities Minister] has met representatives from the Jewish community to continue a dialogue on these important issues."

In December Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks warned universities that they must not "turn a blind eye and deaf ear" to the rise of antisemitism on campuses.

Police are investigating a December lecture at LSE at which controversial speaker Abdel Bari Atwan accused Jewish students of "bombing Gaza" and spoke about the "Jewish lobby".

Mr Willetts is believed to be waiting for Universities UK to deliver its long-awaited report and guidelines on tackling campus extremism before he outlines the government's intentions.

● Edinburgh University's International Relations Society this week pulled out of supporting a lecture by Ismail Khaldi, the most senior Muslim in the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

It claimed that his appearance was "unjust to the Palestinian people who live under an apartheid regime".

Diplomat Mr Khaldi, a Galilee Bedouin who is Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's policy adviser on Arab affairs, has been on a speaking tour of Britain.

The society said: "Even though the IRS should remain neutral, we feel that the cost of neutrality is at the expense of millions of people suffering in an unjust and untenable regime."

The event was due to go ahead without the society's support.

● A lecture by controversial speaker Ahron Cohen, leader of the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta group, to students at the London School of Economics has been cancelled because the Palestine Society said it would not pay for extra security.

Last updated: 2:26pm, February 3 2011