Melanie Goldberg

What have we learnt from the new CST report? That universities are failing their students

University of Glasgow Credit: University of Glasgow Website

The Community Security Trust (CST) have just released their biennial Campus Antisemitism report, detailing students’ experience of antisemitism in UK higher education institutions. According to the report, over the past two years there has been an increase of 22 percent of antisemitic incidents towards Jewish students experienced on campus, off campus, and online. What we have truly learnt from the report is that universities, schools, and other higher education institutions persist in absolving themselves of responsibility for the welfare of their students.

Another key takeaway is that antisemitic sentiment is not reserved solely to the student population. An entire section is dedicated to university staff members; Dr Shahd Abusalama of Sheffield Hallam, Dr David Miller of Bristol, and Dr Raymond Bush of Leeds, amongst others.

I know too well of being a target of university professors. Included both as a case study in CST’s report, and having previously been reported on by The Jewish Chronicle, in 2021 I was subject to targeted posts on the social media page of a university lecturer. As mentioned in both the report and JC, during an investigation for an article I was writing regarding the former Bristol University lecturer David Miller, I questioned several professors from Glasgow regarding their public support for the professor.

He then posted under the Twitter handle ‘Muir TDM’, a copy of the email I had sent to Professor Muir Houston and a reference to myself as “the Lobby” and “a member of the student lobby”. Other incendiary remarks from the lecturer included a Tweet targeting Jewish politician Louise Ellman, referring to her as “a liar and a fraud” and working “at the behest of a foreign power”. Initially, the university stated the matter would be dealt with informally. After extensive pressure, they agreed to investigate further. The second investigation was plagued by delays, with the entire process taking close to a year to complete, with the result remaining undisclosed.

Houston had also previously been reported for a poster outside his office that depicted a weeping baby wearing a Magen David being filmed by CNN and the BBC, whilst mutilated bodies in pools of blood lie in the background next to a sign which says “Gaza”. The university did nothing.

Another non-issue for the university? My initial degree route included Sociology, which I dropped for wariness of being assigned a professor who had co-written a book alongside David Miller. Had I been assigned this professor, how might this have ultimately impacted my dissertation grade, or my overall degree for that matter?

Keeping in the spirit of antisemitism within academia, by rescinding their official apology over the controversial paper, Advocating Occupation: Outsourcing Zionist Propaganda in the UK, Glasgow bowed to pressure to disregard the welfare of Jewish students. A bad enough argument in itself, the author employs Hitler as an argument, but then to alludes to Israel as acting akin to the Nazis trivializes the Holocaust. She also accuses Jews of taking advantage of the Holocaust in order to gain political power and implies an inherently manipulative nature of Jews.

She explicitly states that “pro-Israel and pro-Zionist are used interchangeably” throughout her article and then also interchanges Israel with ‘Jewish State’ and refers to Jewish organizations as solely and specifically Zionist. This begs the question as to who is actually blurring the lines between Jews, Israel, and Zionism? It is deemed acceptable for non-Jews to distort the distinction, but as soon as any Jew attempts to do so, they are ‘smearing’ Israel critics and are met with choruses of ‘criticism of Israel isn’t antisemitic’. The article has not been removed; nobody’s free speech has been impeded. That hundreds of academics backed this paper under the guise of free speech is frankly horrifying.

I am not alone in my experiences at Glasgow, with fellow alumna Tara Silberg having publicized an incident during her Masters in Human Rights with a professor who had stated that there is not “convincing historical evidence of confluence of the holocaust [sic] and HR in the 1940s”, in spite of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights having emerged as a result of the horrors of this genocide.

I had initially chosen to remain anonymous due the proclivity of public campaigns of harassment and intimidation against young Jews who fight antisemitism, particularly young Jewish women. However, hiding my ethnicity never did me any favors in the past; I was still paranoid and scared of the discrimination I might face. When I was a student at the University of Stirling, several flatmates drew swastikas in our apartment. Even though I had purposefully hidden my identity from them, I was still terrified. Too terrified to report them. 

Glasgow is most definitely not alone in their contempt for Jewish students. A long, drawn-out battle between Bristol and Jews across the country come to mind, and. However, it is clear that my alma mater has reserved particular condemnation for their obliviousness towards the wellbeing of Jewish students. Students at Glasgow know it, CST knows it, and now the UK knows it.

About the Author
Melanie Goldberg is a Reform Jew from Glasgow. She recently earned an MA in Politics from the University of Glasgow, where she was a regular contributor for the University paper, The Glasgow Guardian, and has written for other publications such as Heroica, Glasgow University Magazine, and Empoword. She writes regularly about antisemitism, but also other issues such as sexism, racism, ableism, and international human rights issues.
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