Derek Taylor
Derek Taylor

Antisemitism on campus negligible

University of Bristol building, 2008 (Credit: Francium12, Wikimedia Commons via Jewish News)
University of Bristol building, 2008 (Credit: Francium12, Wikimedia Commons via Jewish News)

The Times has reported the data they have received from the Community Security Trust on antisemitic incidents at British universities.

The largest number of antisemitic incidents last year at a British University was 11 at Bristol and Warwick. Bristol has 22,278 students, so 99.95% of them were not involved. Warwick has 23,570 students, so another 99.95% weren’t involved either. There were 10 incidents at UCL, with 41,539 students, so 99.75% of the students were guiltless. There were 9 at Oxford with 23,975 students, so 99.96% weren’t involved. One Jewish student was assaulted at Birmingham; one too many, but you can’t blame well over 99% of the students.

There are 164 universities and higher education institutions in Britain. There were a total of 111 antisemitic incidents. Take out Bristol, Warwick, UCL and Oxford and 160 institutions managed 70 incidents; that’s less than half an incident per institution in a year.

Yet the Times headline was “antisemitism on campus at record levels. “ Well, it sells newspapers and “antisemitism on campus negligible” doesn’t.

64 out of the 111 incidents took place during the fighting over Gaza. The Israelis emphasised the 3,000 rockets fired at Israel during the short conflict and Hamas the casualties from Israeli bombing. You can’t expect Palestinians to be unaffected by the situation in Gaza. We weren’t, even though neither community in this country can have any influence on what goes on at the other end of the Mediterranean.

Many people have set views which are not affected by the facts. When the figures are produced, their insufficiency is excused by our being told of a mass of antisemitism which is not reported. Yet if I tell you that the Flat Earth Society is a potential danger because its membership is increasing by about 200 a year, you won’t believe me for a moment.

Yes, there is one. It was created by Samuel Shenton in 1956 and refounded by Daniel Shenton – no relation – in 2017.  It has about 500+ members. The society members simply believe that the earth is flat. Accuse them of antisemitism – there is absolutely no evidence they are – and you can try a headline “Flat Earth Society reported (or alleged) to support Bristol and Warwick antisemitic students.”

There isn’t the slightest evidence that this is the case, but words like “reported”  are very useful if you want to cloud the issue.

Those wishing to make an argument can go to extremes. The Israelis are accused of genocide. What is genocide? The OED says it is “the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group.”

It is tragic that lives are lost in the Israel/Gaza conflict but where is the evidence that the Israelis are deliberately killing Palestinians with the aim of destroying the whole group? There are 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza. There were 248 deaths in Gaza in the latest conflict. Without the Patriot defence system, that number of Israelis – or more – might well have been killed by the 3,000 rockets. We’re not discussing the rights and wrongs of the conflict. We’re examining the existence of a policy of genocide and there isn’t one.

The problem is that people are taken in by scare headlines.

About the Author
Derek is an author & former editor of the Jewish Year Book
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