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Sunak says UK campuses must be 'bastions of tolerance' amid anti-Semitism spike

By AFP

May 9, 2024 08:25 PM


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UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday urged top university administrators to ensure that campuses are the "bastions of tolerance", amid concern about rising anti-Semitism over Israel's war with Hamas.

The British leader summoned university vice-chancellors to Downing Street for a roundtable chat because of fears that Jewish students are facing increasing intimidation on campuses during the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

The meeting comes as students have set up encampments against the war in Gaza at more than a dozen universities across the UK, including the prestigious Cambridge and Oxford institutions.

Those sites have so far been peaceful, and have not seen any of the tensions between pro-Palestinian protesters and police that have taken place on US campuses and elsewhere in Europe recently.

Sunak called on universities to "remain bastions of tolerance, where debate takes place with respect for others and where every student feels safe," according to a readout of the meeting provided by his office.

He added that he was looking to university leaders to take "personal responsibility for protecting Jewish students" and adopt a "zero-tolerance" approach to incidents of anti-Semitism, as well as any other form of hatred, prejudice or discrimination, the statement added.

At the meeting, Sunak and the university leaders discussed taking disciplinary action against students found guilty of anti-Semitism or glorification of terrorism, or any form of intimidation or violence.

The prime minister's official spokesman said it was up to universities to deal with such investigations.

At UK universities, vice-chancellors head academic and administrative matters. An institution's chancellor is largely a ceremonial figure.

Those leaving the Downing Street event on Thursday morning said the meeting had been "positive" and "constructive", British media reported.

Britain has seen a surge in anti-Semitic and Islamophobia incidents since Hamas's deadly attack on Israel on October 7, according to the government and law enforcement.


AFP


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