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Education and Skills

Universities must get serious about tackling antisemitism

Manifestations of antisemitism often go unnoticed; sometimes due to blurred boundaries, sometimes due to anti-Semitic attitudes themselves, and sometimes due to pure ignorance. This is why it is crucial to use all of the tools in our armoury to fight it, writes Joe Kidd. 

The IHRA working definition of antisemitism focuses on tackling this by outlining the parameters of what can often constitute antisemitism. Helping individuals to better understand the potential manifestations of this form of racism, whilst ensuring freedom of speech remains intact through the importance of taking the context of comments into account.

85 higher institution educations in the United Kingdom have adopted this definition, with many countries around the world doing so too. Yet Cardiff University is one of the few universities not to adopt the definition, with the University Council refusing to do so. Citing concerns about marginalising other minority groups, when in fact adoption of the IHRA definition does not act as an obstacle to the adoption of other protections for groups, nor does it risk isolating them. As an example, the IHRA recently adopted a definition of prejudice against Roma and Sinti.

Some have claimed that the issue of anti-Semitic abuse on campus is a false one, it is not. The UK has experienced a 500% rise in anti-Semitic attacks since the start of the Israeli-Hamas conflict, with Jewish students on campus facing a number of increasingly intolerant students and staff members. 

Only recently, Cardiff University’s UCU branch voted in favour of a motion that supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. An organisation whose rhetoric likely falls foul of the IHRA definition of antisemitism, and often whose activists promote anti-Semitic views and messages. The BDS movement has also failed to condemn violence against Israeli citizens — unsurprising given members of the BDS National Committee include those party to the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine; a council that consists of several designated terrorist organisations. Indeed, Both the United States Government and the German Parliament have classified the BDS movement and its tactics as anti-Semitic, through the demonization of the Israeli state and the double standards applied to it. 

The motion supported by this UCU branch calls upon Cardiff University to make a public statement in support of the BDS movement and its tactics; a decisive stance that would further erode the relationship between many Jewish students and staff members at Cardiff University. This acts as a perfect display of the challenges and intolerances faced by students on and off campus. 

Joe Kidd is the President of Cardiff University Conservative Association.

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