UJS welcomes Jo Johnson MP’s move to encourage Universities UK and individual universities to use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. We are also encouraged by his commitment to freedom of speech and the right of students to openly engage in dialogue and discussion without fear of intimidation or violence as we saw at KCL and UCL in the last year. It is reassuring that under that definition, the Minister includes the aggression and intimidation that Jewish students have previously experienced during Israeli Apartheid Week as incidents for which universities must take due responsibility.
As a students’ union with a proud tradition of activism, protest and campaigning, we are committed to fighting for free, fair and forthright debate and discussion on our campuses. There is no suggestion that Israel should be exempt from severe or rigorous criticism; indeed, plenty of Jewish students have plenty of their own to offer. Rather, there is a recognition that there is no place for prejudice or incitement against one nation within advocating for the rights of another national group.
We hope that others across the student movement see this as an opportunity to generate passionate, informed and intelligent debate on Israel and Palestine, and we encourage them to join over 15,000 students who’ve been involved with activities such as Conversation not Conflict, Piece to Peace and Bridges not Boycotts.