'I don't feel that our universities are a safe place for British Jews,' university minister tells LBC

13 February 2024, 11:31 | Updated: 13 February 2024, 14:42

'I don't feel that our universities are a safe place for British Jews', says universities minister

By Ben Kentish and Kieran Kelly

University minister Robert Halfon has told LBC he does not feel universities are a safe space for British Jews.

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Mr Halfon told LBC's Ben Kentish that he has received around 1,700 emails from "anxious" Jewish students following a rise in anti-Semitic incidents taking place on university campuses.

"I don't think, at this point in time, that our universities are a safe space for British Jews," Mr Halfon told LBC.

"It's a terrible thing to say in the 21st century - I'm from a Jewish background myself."

"We have Jewish students terrified."

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University students stage a pro-Palestine protest
University students stage a pro-Palestine protest. Picture: Alamy

Before the attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7, there had been a 22 per cent increase in university-related anti-Semitic hate incidents between 2020 and 2022, according to research carried out by Community Security Trust (CST).

But the rate at which anti-Semitic incidents are occurring on university campuses has significantly accelerated since Israel was attacked and the subsequent war in Gaza.

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As of December 2023, the CST recorded 1,890 antisemitic incidents across the UK, including 140 related to universities, since the October 7 attack.

There has also been a significant rise in Islamophobic incidents taking place on UK campuses. Just shy of 900 anti-Muslim incidents took place between the October 7 attacks and December 2023 on UK university campuses.

These have been specifically related to anti-Muslim language and behaviours, including praying, at universities.

Robert Halfon, Universities Minister
Robert Halfon, Universities Minister. Picture: Alamy

In the case of those being targeted with anti-Semitic comments, Mr Halfon told LBC that he had heard of cases where British Jews have moved out of campus accommodation due to fear.

"We have a Jewish chaplain and his family having to move off campus because of the actions of extremists," he told LBC.

Rabbi Zecharia Deutsch and his wife Nava, who serve universities in Yorkshire, including Leeds, have gone into hiding in response to a campaign to oust him from his position over his IDF service during the Israel-Hamas war.