UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

UCL Students’ Union decisively rejects move to cancel IHRA definition of antisemitism

University College London (UCL) students have affirmed their support of the IHRA definition of antisemitism, despite a move by some academic staff to persuade the university to retract its adoption of the definition.

UCL adopted the IHRA definition in November 2019, as part of a concerted action to tackle racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Last week a UCL Students’ Union policy proposal supporting the retraction of the IHRA definition was voted down by the by a clear margin of 45% to 32% with 23% abstaining.

As previously reported, UCL’s Academic Board (comprising all of its permanent professors) set up a working group to investigate UCL’s adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism. The group produced a report recommending that UCL’s Council “retract the [IHRA] definition of antisemitism and offer a clarification of existing legal duties with relation to antisemitism”.

A policy proposal to reject the IHRA definition was discussed and voted on in the Welfare & Community Zone of UCL Students’ Union on 3 February 2021. The proposal was that the Students’ Union

  • endorse the conclusions of the Report of the Academic Board Working Group
  • lobby the Provost and Council to adhere to that Report’s conclusions to the furthest extent possible, namely to full retract the IHRA definition while adopting new measures regarding preventing discrimination
  • to lobby UCL to explore an alternative working definition fit for purpose in a university context
  • not engage with the IHRA working definition in its own capacity and jurisdictions
  • reiterate their full support for protecting Palestinian rights advocacy at UCL

Congratulations are due to Sam Goldstone (President of UCL Jewish Society), Helen Fellerman (UCL Students Union Mature & Part-time Students’ Officer) and other members of UCL Jewish Society, who successfully argued the importance of the IHRA definition in protecting Jewish students on campus.

Sam Goldstone said:

“Myself and the entire UCL Jewish Society welcome the decision by the UCL Students Union to reject this proposal, which called for the removal of IHRA definition at UCL and supported the Working Group Report on Racism and Prejudice. Jewish students at UCL support the IHRA definition. The definition makes us feel safer on campus and gives UCL the power to act against antisemitism and racism. It is for Jews to define what is and isn’t antisemitic, and we are pleased that the Union agreed with us. We continue to call on the Union to adopt the IHRA definition in full. We also call on the Academic Board to reject the Working Group Report on Racism and Prejudice which does not represent Jewish students at UCL.”

The Academic Board of UCL is meeting again on 10 February 2021 to discuss its Working Group’s Report. They should take careful note of the very real concerns of their Jewish students who are often at the sharp end of serious antisemitic hostility on their campus.