A detailed report on “Extreme speakers and events” in the 2016-17 academic year has revealed a plethora of antisemitic extremist speakers being given platforms in British universities. Of the 112 separate extremist events mentioned in the report, 50 events included the hosting of known antisemites such as Anas Al Tikriti who vehemently criticised the Muslim Council of Britain for their ending of their outrageous boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day and Yvonne Ridley, who engaged in antisemitic rhetoric in her criticism of Israel, claiming that “the Zionists have tentacles everywhere.” Events were also organised by various organisations with known links to antisemitism, according to the report’s authors, the Henry Jackson Society think tank and Student Rights.
The report singled out the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA), which was investigated by the Charity Commission over comments made by its founder, Abdurraheem Green. Mr Green was recorded saying: “Why don’t you take the Yahoudi [Jew] over there, far away so his stench doesn’t disturb us?” The charity said that the comment was “aimed at a habitual heckler in Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner, in a highly charged forum of debate, who happened to be Jewish. It was not aimed at any community or meant to be antisemitic in any way. However, recognising that it could be misconstrued, he has apologised openly for such errors of judgement made more than 20 years ago.” The comment was referred to the Charity Commission as part of a report by the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. The Commission responded that it will not act over the incident because it found Mr Green’s comments to have been made in a “personal capacity and not on behalf of the charity or at an event it organised,” though it did concede that the comments exposed the charity to risks.
Mr Green himself spoke at one event this year, at the SOAS Islamic Society Annual Charity Week Dinner and Auction. We put the matter to IERA, which directed us to a video by Mr Green responding to claims about him, and their press release in response to the report. The charity said that “The report’s assumptions are wildly speculative and the presentation of information incoherent…[and] makes the dangerous, unfair and irresponsible accusation that iERA’s speakers are ‘extreme’.”
Friends of Al Aqsa also featured prominently in the report, with several notable examples of controversial speakers such as Moshe Machover who spoke at Queen Mary University of London at an event in which he denied Israel’s right to exist, and announced his support for genocidal antisemitic terrorist organisation Hamas’ supposed “right to resist with arms”. This, alongside accusations that Jewish students in attendance were representatives of the “Israeli propaganda machine” led to a formal complaint being made by Campaign Against Antisemitism.
Friends of Al Aqsa further co-hosted the Federation of Student Islamic Societies Palestine Conference 2017, which included a presentation by American-Israeli activist Miko Peled who this week made national headlines by demanding at the Labour Party Conference that delegates should have the freedom to engage in debate as to whether the Holocaust actually happened at all, demanding the freedom to ask “Holocaust, yes or no” because “there should be no limits on the discussion.” He additionally reportedly proposed that Israelis should be treated like Nazis. His remarks prompted widespread condemnation from politicians and the media. On 23rd May 2016, speaking at an art gallery in Euston, London, Mr Peled reportedly alleged that the Labour Party’s antisemitism furore is being fabricated by “Zionists”, allegedly saying: “Everyone knows this entire antisemitism thing is nonsense”. At the same event, Mr Peled is also said to have alleged that Islamophobia is a strategic invention of “Zionists”, reportedly claiming: “If anyone has any doubt, that this entire Islamophobia thing isn’t coming directly from pro-Israeli groups, then excuse me you are out of your mind. Absolutely. And when you look at each case, individually you will see, the hand, the fingerprints of some Israeli lobby, some pro-Zionist groups.” Furthermore, on 14th September 2016, Mr Peled tweeted about a new aid package granted to Israel by the United States, writing: “Then theyr surprised Jews have reputation 4being sleazy thieves. #apartheidisrael doesn’t need or deserve these $$.” In response, his forthcoming event hosted by the Princeton Committee on Palestine was cancelled on the basis that: “The last string of tweets are antisemitic and hateful, which are counterproductive to an educational event on the conflict.” Friends of Al Aqsa did not respond to our request for a comment.
The report also shows that the quantity of incidents in which antisemitic speakers, or speakers from antisemitic organisations appear on campus shows no reduction through the year, with more events occurring in March than in any prior month. This points towards an ongoing failure by universities to commit to banning speakers to protect Jewish students and the student population at large. As well as the high quantity of speakers holding problematic beliefs about Jews or with ties to controversial organisations, there is also a consistent display of homophobia throughout.
By contrast, the report reveals that both of the two far-right events scheduled to occur in the 2016-2017 academic year were cancelled. This shows that whilst universities and student bodies have proven themselves capable of protecting Jewish and other minority students from aggression from the far-right, the far-left and even Islamist speakers remain largely unchallenged.
Campaign Against Antisemitism has developed relationships with universities around the country, but we experience drastically varying levels of cooperation from one institution to another. Many universities seem to have an extremely poor understanding of antisemitism and extremism. We call on Universities UK and individual universities and students’ unions to shoulder responsibility for the events that our students are exposed to. The threat of radicalisation threatens the whole of British society, not only Jews. Extremists and antisemites must be denied a platform, and universities and students’ unions must strengthen their screening procedures and put an end to this deeply disturbing trend of permitting antisemitic and extremist speakers to influence students on British campuses, thereby putting Jewish students at risk.
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Demonstrations and Events Monitoring Unit is particularly keen to hear from students who have concerns about forthcoming events on their campus via firstname.lastname@example.org.