Panel recommends probe into claim of ‘toxic, antisemitic environment’ at Soas

Move comes as university pays out £15k to ex-student who says he was forced to withdraw from degree over atmosphere of Jew-hate


The School of Oriental and African Studies has agreed to pay £15,000 to a former student who withdrew from a course after alleging a “toxic, antisemitic environment on campus”. 

Soas reached a settlement with Noah Lewis after the former postgraduate student from Canada claimed a tuition fee refund, according to two charities which offered him legal assistance. 

Mr Lewis said he withdrew from his 2018/2019 master’s degree at the university, allegedly as a result of antisemitism on campus, which contributed to his increased anxiety, according to the UKLFI Charitable Trust and The Lawfare Project.

Mr Lewis appealed against the findings of an earlier investigation into his case, which recommended he be paid £500.

But a fresh panel has now recommended the establishment of a new probe because the first investigation explored specific instances but not Mr Lewis' more general claims of a "toxic, antisemitic environment" at Soas.

Among various instances described by Mr Lewis were reports of racist daubings on campus and his claim that valid criticisms of Israel “often morph into attacks on the State of Israel and then further progress into blatant attacks on Jews in general.”

Jonathan Turner, executive director of UKLFI Charitable Trust, said: “The panel grasped the nettle and has set a benchmark of best practice which should be followed in other cases where there is prima facie evidence of an antisemitic environment. 

“We congratulate Noah Lewis on pursuing the complaint and hope that other students who experience antisemitism at universities will now be encouraged to object. Organisations such as ours are here to help.”

Brooke Goldstein, executive director of The Lawfare Project, said: “What happened to Noah Lewis should never be considered acceptable at a place of higher learning. 

“The Lawfare Project is glad to see that, with this settlement and continued investigation, Soas is working to right this wrong and ensure that its Jewish students and faculty members can feel safe and welcome on campus.”

A spokesperson for Soas said it was “extremely concerned about any allegations of antisemitism at our School. Diversity is key to the Soas mission and we want all our students to feel welcome and supported in their studies. 

“We have a robust student complaints and appeals process, but we cannot comment on any individual student case or the outcomes of any appeal. However, where we have established an independent panel as part of a complaints process, we would of course consider the findings of such a panel thoroughly and take appropriate action.”

The university features a Centre for Jewish Studies and a Jewish Music Institute, with opportunities to learn Hebrew and more than a dozen modules running next year about Jewish culture and tradition, the spokesperson added. 

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