King's College London praised for adopting wider antisemitism definition

Decision came 'following disruption at some events', university says


King's College London has become one of the first British universities to adopt the broader International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

A KCL spokesperson said the decision was made “following disruption at some events organised by student societies earlier in the year".

In February, protestors at KCL tried to disrupt a talk by Dan Meridor, Israel's former Deputy Prime Minister.

Video footage showed scores of student activists lining the hallway outside Mr Meridor’s talk as they chanted loudly, waved placards and shouted anti-Israel slogans.

The protesters called Mr Meridor a war criminal and labelled Israel a terrorist state.

In January 2016, police were called to an event organised by KCL’s Israel society.

More than 100 people had come to hear Ami Ayalon, the former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, speak.

Pro-Palestinian protesters smashed a window, threw chairs and set off fire alarms.

Two Jewish students were subjected to a volley of abuse, including being called “Nazis”, as they held off a mob of demonstrators.

One of the pro-Palestinian protestors was later found guilty of assault by beating after hitting the President of the Israel society.

The IHRA's antisemitism definition includes “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination... by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour" or "applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation" as well as "using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism to characterize Israel or Israelis".

It also covers comparing Israeli policy to the Nazis and "holding Jews collectively responsible" for it.

Last year, another London university, Soas refused to adopt the IHRA definition.

At the time, then-President of the Board of Deputies, Jonathan Arkush, described his meeting with the university’s vice chancellor, Baroness Amos, as the worst he had ever had with a senior university official.

He claimed she told him the definition was "contentious".

Devora Khafi, campus director of the StandWithUs Israel eduction and advocacy group, called KCL's decision a "step in the right direction".

"Many universities have been hesitant to adopt the definition in its entirety... this is as an immense achievement," she said.

"Through official and unofficial politics, social organisations and charities, as well as educational institutions, Jews have been rarely able to define for themselves what antisemitism is and what constitutes an antisemitic act.

"The adoption of the IHRA definition for KCL shows that the university will take seriously the agency of the Jewish voice when it comes to expressing our opinions in relation to our oppression. However, the definition needs to be followed by appropriate action and only time will tell if the school will match this."

A spokesperson for the Union of Jewish Students said: "We are extremely pleased that Kings College London have adopted the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism.

"Alongside the Board of Deputies and others, we're proud to have played a part in seeing universities commit to a zero tolerance approach to Antisemitism and hope other universities follow suit in this regard. Following on from this encouraging news, we will continue to ensure the safety and security of students at campuses across the UK and Ireland."

Board of Deputies President Elect Marie van der Zyl said: “The IHRA Definition makes it easier for authorities to identify and understand the nature of contemporary antisemitism.

“If universities are serious about addressing antisemitism and making Jews feel welcome at their institution, they should follow KCL’s example and adopt the Definition.”

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