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Anti-Israel Event at UK University Cancelled for Violating Anti-Semitism Statute

The University of Central Lancashire cancelled an anti-Israel event scheduled to take place on its campus after administrators determined that it ran afoul of the United Kingdom’s newly adopted definition of anti-Semitism, The Jewish Chronicle reported Wednesday.

The panel discussion, arranged by the student group Friends of Palestine, was due to feature anti-Israel activist Ben White and a number of pro-Palestinian academics. It sought to focus on the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign, whose leaders have attracted controversy by publicly affirming that they seek Israel’s destruction.

The university determined that the panel, called “Debunking Misconceptions on Palestine,” violated the UK’s official definition of anti-Semitism. The definition was formulated by International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and extends to “the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.” This behavior includes:

– Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

– Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

– Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

– Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

– Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

The guidelines emphasize, however, that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

In a statement on behalf of the university, a 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,” he added. “In this instance our procedures determined that the proposed event would not be lawful and therefore it will not proceed as planned.”

Earlier this month, London issued new guidelines barring city councils from undermining national policy by targeting Israel for boycotts. The Department for Communities and Local Government explained that these boycotts “damage Britain” and have “led to the removal of Kosher food from the shelves of supermarkets, or calls for Jewish films to be banned.”

In a December address to the Conservative Friends of Israel group, British Prime Minister Theresa May called Israel “a thriving democracy” and expressed her opposition to efforts to economically attack the Jewish state. “I couldn’t be clearer: the boycotts, divestment and sanctions movement is wrong, it is unacceptable, and this party and this government will have no truck with those who subscribe to it,” May said. “Our focus is the opposite – on taking our trading and investing relationship with Israel to the next level.”

[Photo: Dave Brown / WikiCommons ]