Minister to lead university vice-chancellors' trip to Israel

Visit announced at Board of Deputies meeting, where leaders also criticised Google over antisemitic videos on YouTube


Universities minister Jo Johnson is to lead a delegation of vice-chancellors on a landmark visit to Israel.

The trip, which will take place under of the auspices of Universities UK,  is intended as show of support for academic links with Israel.

Sir Steve Smith, the vice-chancellor of Exeter University, announced the initiative at a Board of Deputies meeting on Sunday.

The move comes amid continued concern about anti-Israeli activities across UK campuses as well as an upsurge in antisemitic incidents.

Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board, said the visit would aid  “the strong academic contacts between Britain and its most dependable ally in the Middle East and that such links greatly benefit both countries. The Board believes in building bridges not boycotts”.

Board leaders also spoke of their concern at antisemitic content hosted by Google on YouTube and demanded that the company do “everything in its power” to remove offensive material.

Marks & Spencer became the latest firm to pull online advertising from Google over fears it would be appearing alongside extremist content.

High street banks, including RBS, Lloyds and HSBC, also pulled advertising from the platform  over the existence of antisemitic and far-right videos which provide income for those who uploaded the content.

Google said it was "sorry and would take responsibility for the issues".

Mr Arkush said: "We spoke to a senior member of the Google UK team to signal our grave concern at the hateful content hosted on YouTube. We had a constructive conversation about possible solutions and that dialogue will be ongoing over the coming days and weeks. Ultimately, we will judge Google by its actions. It must do everything possible to ensure that it is a great platform and not a hate platform."  

Marie van der Zyl, a Board vice-president also  called on Google to remove the videos.

She said: “These shocking and vile videos are packed with antisemitic tropes. In its recent report, the Community Security Trust noted that 22 per cent of antisemitic incidents in 2016 took place on social media. Therefore, more needs to be done by social media companies themselves to monitor and take action against online hate. YouTube would be acting irresponsibly if it knowingly allowed such material to appear on its platform. They must be taken down immediately and YouTube must do everything in its power to remove any others with similar content.”

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