Avi Abraham Benlolo
Disappointing to See Anti-Semitism Definition Debated in UK
07/01/20: The Guardian reported today that "a group of eminent lawyers, including two former appeal court judges, has accused Gavin Williamson, the educations secretary of 'improper interference' with universities' autonomy and right to free expression".
What is the problem with protecting Jewish students on university campuses from Anti-semitism? What is wrong with the Minister insisting that universities adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of Anti-Semitism? Would they have argued also against any other forced anti-discrimination policies? Probably not.
As it happens, the most prestigious UK universities - Oxford and Cambridge have adopted the IHRA definition in recent weeks. In fact, UK's Department of Education says at least 27 institutions have adopted the definition since Williamson sent them a letter. Thats quite an incredible and welcomed step forward!
From my point of view, Canadian universities should quickly take note of universities in the commonwealth - and elite universities at that - and promptly follow suit. This should especially go for universities in this country that have been most impacted by allegations of antisemitism. This is not about having a right of free expression. This is about protecting Jewish students and faculty from discrimination.
In fact, as it happens, a London college recently refunded a Canadian student his 15,000 Euros over allegations that he experienced a toxic antisemitic environment. Is it possible that protests against adopting the IHRA definition are meant to prevent future like lawsuits? Perhaps.
Either way, many universities - particularly in the UK - are recognizing that Anti-Semitism is a significant problem. They are taking steps to mitigate the problem. This may come with some resistance. But as I have argued before, the tide is quickly shifting.