UK Universities Regulator Strikes Blow Against Campus Anti-Semitism
The UK’s leading universities regulator has ruled in favor of a Jewish student’s complaint concerning harassment by pro-Palestinian activists at Sheffield Hallam University in the north of England.
The regulator, called the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), cited the European Parliament’s Working Definition of Antisemitism in determining that material circulated by Sheffield Hallam’s Palestine Society “crossed the line” from criticism of Israel into anti-Semitic invective. The Working Definition lists a number of ways in which attacks on Israel can be construed as anti-Semitic—for example, by comparing Israeli policies towards the Palestinians to the Nazi genocide of the Jews, or by holding all Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s actions.
Palestinian solidarity activists in both Europe and the U.S. have loudly opposed this definition, complaining that it conflates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism and hate speech. But the OIA found the definition to be pertinent as it investigated not only the substance of the student’s complaint, but the circumstances that led to its original rejection by the authorities at Sheffield Hallam University in 2014.
The complaint was grounded in anxiety generated by the Palestine Society’s social media posts. “I started to see Jewish caricatures on Twitter, as well as claims that Israel was an apartheid state and references to blood libel,” the student, who does not wish to be named, told the Jewish Chronicle. “I knew this kind of vitriol was out there, but I had never seen anything like it before.”