Campaigners Against Antisemitism Call For An End To 'Israel Apartheid Week'

Critics of Israel object to settlements such as that of Ramot in east Jerusalem on land annexed after the Six Day War in 1967.Reuters

Campaigners against antisemitism have called on other British universities to cancel 'Israel Apartheid Week' after an unprecedented decision by one university to do so. 

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international human rights organisation which counters antisemitism, hate crime and terrorism, has welcomed a decision by the University of Central Lancashire to cancel the week.

Israel Apartheid Week is a series of university lectures and rallies that is part of the growing BDS or 'boycott, divestment and sanctions' movement targeting Israel.

The University of Essex Palestinian Solidarity Group and Goldsmiths Palestine Society are among those planning events.

The University of Central Lancashire cancelled the week on the grounds that it violated a newly adopted definition of antisemitism. 

The new definition of antisemitism adopted last year by The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance states: 'Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.' 

The United Kingdom is among the first countries to adopt this definition of antisemitism.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiestenthal Center, said in reference to the university decision: 'This precedent may prove a turning point in the struggle to curb the demonisation of the Jewish state at universities. It provides a legal and moral context for universities in the UK to reject extremism designed to intimidate and isolate Jewish students on campus at a time when there has been a spike in anti-Jewish hate crimes in the UK.'

Mark Weitzman, director of government affairs for the Wiesenthal Center, who played a pivotal role in gaining acceptance for the definition of antisemitism among many European countries, said: 'The University of Central Lancashire's decision, which is based on the recently adopted Working Definition of Antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, offers firm evidence that this internationally accepted definition can play a vital role in the fight against antisemitism.'

Weitzman added: 'We strongly urge other countries to follow the lead shown by the United Kingdom in adopting the IHRA definition and applying this valuable tool in the struggle against antisemitism.'

The Jewish Chronicle reported earlier this week that the University of Central Lancashire had cancelled the event, organised by the university's Friends of Palestine group and billed as a panel discussion looking at the boycott of Israel.

But a spokesperson for the university said the event, 'Debunking Misconceptions on Palestine', contravened the definition of antisemitism adopted by the government.

In a statement the spokesperson said: 'The UK government has formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's new definition of what constitutes antisemitism.

'We believe the proposed talk contravenes the new definition and furthermore breaches university protocols for such events, where we require assurances of a balanced view or a panel of speakers representing all interests.'

Christian Today has approached Israel Apartheid Week for comment.