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Not in our name: UK Jewish Academic Network forms to counter misuses of anti-Semitism

May 10, 2024 at 1:58 pm

People, including a young woman holding a sign that reads: ‘Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism,’ chant slogans and carry Palestinian flags as they arrive at Potsdamer Platz during a “Freedom for Palestine” protest march that drew thousands of participants on November 04, 2023 in Berlin, Germany. [Sean Gallup/Getty Images]

Anti-Semitism is being weaponised “in ways that obscure genuine threats to Jewish people in the UK”, the newly formed UK Jewish Academic Network (UKJAN) has warned.

In its first statement, the organisation which unites intellectual and cultural workers from institutions across the country, said its “members refute the government’s demonisation of student encampments established in response to what the ICJ has called a ‘plausible genocide’ in Gaza, echoing the warning raised by over 800 scholars of international law and genocide as early as October 2023. They argue that the conflation of such protest with antisemitism does not protect Jewish students or staff. Indeed, it makes them less, not more, safe.”

Quoting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak who said, “University should be an environment where debate is supported, not stifled,” UKJAN explained it “is motivated by concern for the future of free speech and freedom of conscience in the universities and institutions where we work.”

“We as Jewish academics reject any attempt to use our experiences of antisemitism to delegitimise student free speech.”

The weaponisation of anti-Semitism, the statement added, is “allowing the UK, the US, and the State of Israel to shut down speech that could expose their own crimes, violence that has little to nothing to do with the protection of Jews but instead serves long-standing western political and economic interests in the Middle East.”

The group said it is “particularly concerned” by the pressure placed on universities by the British government and subsequent widespread adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, which conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. “Worldwide, far right forces at local and national levels remain the principal threat to Jewish safety today,” UNJAN added.

It called on universities to listen to students and engage proactively with their demands; for the UK government and media to acknowledge that Jewish communities communities include those who hold pro-Palestinian as well as anti-Zionist sentiment; and that they “treat anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia with the same seriousness with which they claim to treat antisemitism.”

Read: UK PM Sunak tells university bosses to protect Jewish students