Jewish students ‘living in fear’ at UK universities

Poll reveals 92 per cent of those surveyed said antisemitism was a problem


Hundreds of students gather outside the Students Union of Cambridge University while the Ambassador of Israel, Tzipi Hotovely, gives a talk inside. Byline John Nguyen/JNVisuals 08/02/2022

A new poll has revealed profound concerns among British Jews over antisemitism at universities, with nine out of 10 saying it is a problem.

The survey, carried out by YouGov and King’s College London for the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), also found that almost eight in 10 felt “intimidated as a Jew” by the anti-Israel protests and convoys during the 2021 Gaza conflict.

The findings come amid surging anti-Israel activity on campuses, from the mobs that confronted Jerusalem ambassador Tzipi Hotovely on her recent visits to Cambridge and LSE, to the decision by Sheffield Hallam University to hire a lecturer who has publicly backed Palestinian terrorists.

Alarmingly, only 59 per cent of British Jews felt they had a long-term future in the UK — down on last year’s 66 per cent — while 46 per cent said they avoided displaying outward signs of their Judaism in public because of antisemitism, the highest level ever recorded.

More than eight in 10 British Jews said they felt the Labour Party was too tolerant of antisemitism, with the figure only falling slightly from the record 88 per cent in 2020, to 86 per cent in 2021.

This suggests Sir Keir Starmer still has his work cut out in restoring trust with the Jewish community.

Some 87 per cent thought media bias against Israel fuelled persecution of Jews in Britain. The CAA wants all broadcasters to sign up to IHRA and has urged the BBC and Channel 4, where trust is lowest, to appoint independent antisemitism advisers to improve coverage of relevant issues. A staggering 96 per cent of the community thought antisemitism was a problem online and 78 per cent felt intimidated by the boycott of businesses selling Israeli goods.

The study also used an “Antisemitism Scale” to assess British attitudes to the Jewish community. More than half of those surveyed, or 57 per cent, had no antisemitic views, but 43 per cent backed at least one antisemitic statement which, the report warns, shows a “troubling normalisation of antisemitism”. On universities, the poll asked: “In your opinion, how much of a problem is antisemitism in British universities?”

Some 92 per cent said it was a problem, with 84 per cent thinking it was a “very big problem” or “quite a big problem”. Only two per cent said it was not a problem at all. While almost all universities have adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, the CAA said there was little evidence it was being applied in discipline cases, and called for additional training to improve enforcement. They also urged student unions to sign up to IHRA to demonstrate their duty of care to all students.

The call echoes that of Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, who told vice-chancellors at an antisemitism summit last month that IHRA should be more than a “tick-box exercise”, and that the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) had “no place on campus”. The JC also revealed last month that the National Union of Students had pledged its “solidarity” with those taking part in Israel Apartheid Week, organised by the BDS movement and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign for this month.

The report states: “The figures must signal to universities themselves and students’ unions the urgency of their duty of care to Jewish students, academics and staff in their campus communities. No student should be put off a course or lecture because of what the teacher is saying, nor should they have to worry about being marked down in an essay because of their course leader’s views. Neither should they be intimidated on campus because of their fellow students’ activism, nor should Jewish events be prevented from taking place or disrupted.” The report also launched a blistering attack on the University and College Union for failing to support Jewish academics who increasingly feel intimidated by both peers and students – saying its reputation among the Jewish community was “in the gutter”.


British Jews feel they have a long-term future in the UK

Felt “intimidated as a Jew” by protests during 2021 Gaza conflict

Avoided displaying faith in public due to fears of discrimination

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