An American rabbi has accused British academics of undermining the nation’s traditions of free speech by allowing students to refuse Jewish speakers a platform at their establishments.
He said that the UK was becoming well known for its hostility towards Israel, and that it was getting worse.
Shmuley Boteach served as rabbi at Oxford University for eleven years before returning to his native US, where he has a high profile, the Independent has reported.
“British academics are arguably the most virulently anti-Israel group in Europe today. It’s quite widespread throughout British academia,” he said.
“They come out constantly with these boycotts,” he added, questioning why similar boycotts were not waged against the Chinese over their human rights violations.
Citing the disruption of a talk by the Israeli ambassador Daniel Taub at Edinburgh University in 2012, and similar interruptions during the 2010 visit to the Oxford Union of Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who was interrupted by shouts of “Slaughter the Jews” in Arabic, he said that “no platform” policies on various campuses were undermining the British tradition of freedom of speech.
“One of the problems that pro-Israel speakers face, on UK campuses in particular, is they are jeered and shouted down by Israel opponents who don’t even have to [debate].
“Britain has distinguished itself for rigorous and robust parliamentary debates. This betrays that tradition. Britain has things like Speakers’ Corner that they don’t have in other countries.”
And he said that Britain’s Jewish community, which numbers around 250,000, was outnumbered by Muslims and felt reluctant to support Israel.
“You have a very vocal pro-Palestinian cause in the UK on campuses and on the streets of London with massive demonstrations,” he said.
Anti-Semitism is on the rise in the UK. According to the Community Security Trust, which tracks anti-Semitic incidents, there were 473 recorded anti-Semitic incidents between January and June this year, a 53% rise from 2014.
But not all criticism of Israel comes from outside the Jewish community. Last year Breitbart London reported on a Jewish Rally for Peace in Brighton, England, at which Jews turned against Jews, criticising Israel and Zionism.
Speaking at the event, Col Richard Kemp, former Commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan explained to the crowd how Israel had been under attack since the day of her founding, before going on to warn that her enemies, discovering that they can’t beat Israel militarily, have “turned Jew against Jew, turned Jews against Israel”.
Even as he uttered the warning, a small group of Jews, some sporting Arab clothing and using Arabic slang, shouted abuse at the crowd through a megaphone.
One of the group said she was “outraged and appalled” that the Israeli leadership had automatically assumed the support of Jews worldwide, as she didn’t believe that being Jewish necessitated support for Zionism.
Others simply shouted “Nazis” at the 1,000-strong crowd.