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Fears hard-left activists are infiltrating universities as PM urges bosses to protect Jewish students

9 May 2024, 17:09 | Updated: 9 May 2024, 18:42

Rishi Sunak has urged campuses to keep Jewish safe
Rishi Sunak has urged campuses to keep Jewish safe. Picture: Alamy
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Hard-left activists are feared to be infiltrating pro-Palestine protests on university campuses across the country, Vice Chancellors have told the Prime Minister.

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Rishi Sunak heard how top leaders are worried that many of the occupying protests sweeping across Britain are being hijacked by non-students.

Protestors in makeshift camps are urging their universities to cut ties with Israel amid the ongoing war in the Middle East - accusing them of being complicit in Genocide of the people of Gaza.

Hundreds of students in the US have been arrested as police attempted to clear the protesters.

Some institutions in the UK have been forced to start checking IDs of those coming on to make sure they are genuine students.

Read more: Sunak warns university chiefs to protect Jewish students as pro-Palestine protests grow across UK campuses

Read more: ‘Shame on you Rishi Sunak’: Activist at centre of US campus protests criticises PM’s continued funding of Israel

London, England, UK. 9th May, 2024. Pro-Palestine protest camp at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies, part of the University of London), as Israel continues its attacks on Gaza.
London, England, UK. 9th May, 2024. Pro-Palestine protest camp at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies, part of the University of London), as Israel continues its attacks on Gaza. Picture: Alamy

The PM hosted a string of Vice Chancellors at Downing Street this morning to grill them on what more they can do to keep Jewish students safe.

He told them: "Together, we will keep Jewish students safe on our campuses.”

He urged university leaders to take "personal responsibility" for looking after all their students, and urged them to adopt a "zero tolerance approach" to anti-Jew hate.

Representative from the University of Jewish Students warned that levels of anti-Semitism were the worst they'd seen in a generation - with reported incidents on campus up 200 per cent.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Picture: Alamy

Their leaders told how they felt unable to stand by their Jewish students on campuses for fear of abuse, and called on Vice Chancellors to do more training with staff and students.

University Vice Chancellors promised to properly enforce their own disciplinary procedures against students found to be inciting hatred or violence, while respecting the legitimate right to protest.

The PM also heard how chanting by protest groups are proving a big challenge for on-campus security to deal with.

And he stressed the need to balance peaceful protest but also to make sure students feel safe from harassment and intimidation.

Israel's Special Envoy for Combatting Antisemitism Michal Cotler-Wunsh joins Nick Ferrari

Speaking after the meeting, the Chief Executive of Universities UK, Vivienne Stern MBE, said: "Today UUK and some of our Vice Chancellor members had a positive meeting with Government and the UJS on antisemitism.

"I welcomed the opportunity to have a frank discussion with government ministers about how we can work together to avoid an escalation of campus tensions.

"Universities have taken the rise in antisemitism on campuses since October 7 very seriously and will continue to work hard to ensure the safety of Jewish staff and students. The current conflict has raised tensions across many communities and we have been clear there is no place for intolerance on our campuses.

"In line with the sector’s clear commitment to freedom of speech, it is important that universities allow and support students and staff to debate and discuss this crisis, and the challenging issues it raises, but within the law, and with respect and tolerance."

Staff from Universities UK, Goldsmiths, Kings, UCL, and the Universities of Cambridge, Birmingham, Oxford, Bristol and Leeds were in attendance.

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