A senior educator in the United Kingdom has warned that anti-Semitism in some British universities is so rampant that Jewish students cannot study there.
According to a report in the Telegraph, Baroness Ruth Deech, a cross-bench peer who previously held the highest office dealing with student complaints and now serves as the first-ever higher education adjudicator, said that some institutions may be lax in fighting anti-Semitism because they are “afraid of offending” potential funders from Gulf states.
The comments from Deech, who is Jewish, come after several incidents in which Jewish students claimed they were verbally abused or physically attacked on campus. The vanguard of calls to boycott Israel in the UK comes from British academia, the Telegraph reported.
According to Deech, “many universities are in receipt of or are chasing very large donations from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and so on, and maybe they are frightened of offending them. I don’t know why they aren’t doing anything about it, it really is a bad situation.”
A former senior proctor at Oxford University and Principal of St Anne’s College, Deech told the Telegraph that a handful of universities are now gaining reputations as institutions where Jews are unwelcome.
“Amongst Jewish students, there is gradually a feeling that there are certain universities that you should avoid,” she told the paper. “Definitely SOAS, Manchester I think is now not so popular because of things that have happened there, Southampton, Exeter and so on.”
Last year, Southampton University needed to cancel a conference on Israel’s right to exist when opponents described the conference as “giving legitimacy to anti-Semitism.”
A major patron of the university was said to have been considering withdrawing funding following the affair, the UK paper said.
Separately, the Charities Commission are investigating an alleged anti-Semitic talk at SOAS, where an organization called the Palestine Society hosted a speaker in November who described the creation of Israel as a ‘racist’, ‘fascist’ undertaking, linking the ‘cult’ of Zionism, with Nazism.
In the University of Manchester, student motions adopting stances considered hostile to Jews, such as support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, made the university fall out of favor with Jewish students.
Among the harshest cases cited in the Telegraph report was an incident earlier this year at Exeter University, where students were photographed wearing T-shirts displaying racist and anti-Semitic slogans at a sports club social event.
Phrases photographed included: “Don’t speak to me if you’re not white,” and, “The Holocaust was a good time.” At the time, a spokesman for the university said there would be a full investigation of the incident.
According to the Telegraph, Saudi Arabia has been one of the largest donors to British universities, and much of the funds were directed to studies of Islam, the Middle East and Arabic literature.
In 2005, Sultan bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, the late crown prince, gave £2 million to the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University.
Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad al-Qasimi, the ruler of Sharjah – one of the most conservative emirates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – has donated more than £8 million to Exeter Univeristy over two decades. In a 2007 report the university described Sultan as “the university’s single most important supporter.”
Deech, who was the first ever independent adjudicator for higher education before retiring in 2008, said she was dismayed by the inaction of Oxford University after complaints about anti-Semitism, even after proctors at the university were given a dossier detailing a host of incidents in which Jewish students were harassed.
Earlier this year, the co-chair of the Oxford Labour Club resigned in protest at its members’ “problem with Jews” and sympathy with terrorist groups such as Hamas.
The dossier, which Baroness Deech was also given, included claims that some Jewish students in the university were called “Zios”, while others were asked if they agreed that Auschwitz was a “cash cow.”
“Those students never got a proper reply. It is very disappointing,” she said. “The university said they noted the Baroness Royall report [into anti-Semitism]. But they haven’t actually done anything. They have not opened an investigation into any individuals. So in other words they are just kicking it out into the long grass.”
“I find it personally very difficult,” Deech said, after having been “at Oxford for 45 years or something, and I owe my career to Oxford. But I can’t believe that my own university is not setting up an investigation and being pro-active about this.”