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Oxford Labour probe finds anti-Semitism, but says not ‘institutional’

Leaked report shows investigator rejected calls to discipline students over anti-Jewish incidents

In February 2016, Oxford University Labour Club co-chairman Alex Chalmers quit and alleged a history of anti-Jewish attitudes. (Facebook)
In February 2016, Oxford University Labour Club co-chairman Alex Chalmers quit and alleged a history of anti-Jewish attitudes. (Facebook)

A leaked investigative report on allegations of anti-Semitism at the Oxford University Labour Club confirmed numerous incidents of anti-Jewish hatred, but said the trend did not amount to “institutional anti-Semitism.”

The leaked copy of the full report into the investigation, headed by Baroness Janet Royall, former leader of the House of Lords (the bicameral British Parliament’s upper house), was obtained by the Jewish Chronicle. The report has been withheld by the British Labour Party’s National Executive Committee, although they did publish Royall’s 11 recommendations.

Royall found many instances of anti-Semitism, but wrote, “I do not believe that there is institutional anti-Semitism within OULC. Difficulties however, face OULC which must be addressed to ensure a safe space for all Labour students to debate and campaign around the great ideas of our movement.”

Royall “received around 300 pages of evidence from over 40 members of OULC,” according to the report. She wrote that she “interviewed eight members of OULC and offered interviews to a number of others which were not taken up.”

In her findings, she rejected the claim that “being anti-Zionist cannot be anti-Semitic. Yes it can and, unfortunately, it is often used deliberately as a tool of anti-Semitism,” the report said.

Nevertheless, Royall stopped short of calling the anti-Semitism systemic. She also saw no benefit in pursuing disciplinary cases against students “who may be better advised as to their conduct and who would benefit from training on these issues.”

Baroness Janet Royall of Blaisdon (CC BY; 38 Degrees; Wikipedia)
Baroness Janet Royall of Blaisdon (CC BY; 38 Degrees; Wikipedia)

In response to the leaked document, a Labour spokeswoman told the Jewish Chronicle: “The NEC formally accepted the Baroness Royall’s report earlier this year. All 11 of the recommendations in the report were published and are currently being acted on.”

The probe followed the resignation mid-February of the club’s co-chairman in protest of the society’s endorsement of Israeli Apartheid Week. At the time, Alex Chalmers claimed that “a large proportion of both OULC and the student Left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews.”

Subsequently the club’s disabilities officer, Brahma Mohanty, also stepped down.

In a Facebook post, Chalmers accused members of the Labour club’s executive of “throwing around the term ‘Zio’ [a term for Jews usually confined to websites run by the Ku Klux Klan] with casual abandon.” He wrote of “senior members of the club expressing their ‘solidarity’ with Hamas and explicitly defending their tactics of indiscriminately murdering civilians.” He also quoted an unnamed former co-chairperson of the club as claiming, “Most accusations of anti-Semitism are just the Zionists crying wolf.”

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