Universities: Anti-Semitism

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:45 pm on 12th June 2007.

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Photo of Lord Janner of Braunstone Lord Janner of Braunstone Labour 7:45 pm, 12th June 2007

My Lords, the timing of this Question is absolutely crucial, and the boycott motion of Israeli academics at the University and College Union two weeks ago is disgraceful. Having spoken to leading members of the union, I now call for a vote of the full membership of the union on this motion, because true democracy is the only path to a solution.

I regularly meet Jewish students, and they are having terrible problems. In many places, they feel isolated and vulnerable. What other society at our British universities has to post security at all its events for fear of attacks on its members, whether verbal or physical?

What must we do? We must empower universities to work with their Jewish students and their allies to combat anti-Semitism on campus. We must help them to monitor incidents and to prevent attempts to attack or delegitimise Jewish societies. Above all, we must again allow our Jewish students to feel safe to wear their faith with pride on campus and not hide it away for fear of attack. I now call on the Government to implement the recommendations of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry so that Jewish students can again feel safe on campus. As chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, I particularly commend the Government's recognition, in their response to the report, that Holocaust education is a powerful tool. To tackle anti-Semitism, we need to learn from the past but we must also improve education about Jewish people and about anti-Semitism in general.

There are cases on campus, as there are everywhere, where the anti-Semitic intent is clear, but the problem runs far deeper. I do not forget that my late father, a Member of this House, used to say: we cannot always see anti-Semitism but we can usually smell it. Especially on our university campuses, its smell is, sadly, growing all the time.