Antisemitism and Pro-Israel Scholarship

The recent surge of antisemitic incidents in the UK has undermined the freedom of Jewish scholars wishing to support or offer non-critical discussion of Israel.  

On the 7th October, Hamas murdered fourteen-hundred Israeli civilians. Israel has retaliated with a full invasion of the Gaza strip which has killed thousands, many of whom are civilians and children.  

These events have led to a surge in antisemitic incidents in the UK. Community Security Trust, a charity which works to protect UK Jews, has recorded 1124 incidents of antisemitism in the period 7th October – 7th November. Incidents include assault, damage to Jewish property, threats and slurs, all on the basis of the victim’s Jewish identity. Recorded instances of antisemitism have increased five-fold compared to the same period in 2022, and the actual increase is believed to be considerably higher. Within universities, victims include the president of the Union of Jewish Students who was sent death threats, and a Jewish Chaplain who was told that “They’re watching you and the house”. In Manchester, an academic posted on an online platform, “There was a fundraiser for Gaza inside the campus and it was a joy to pass by and donate £5. One dry punch to f*ck the kikes”. 

Such incidents have widely been condemned for what they are: racist antisemitism. They also restrict the academic freedom of Jewish scholars and students. It is clear that, whatever prejudice may have existed previously, recent instances of antisemitism are a reaction to the actions of Israel. Jewish scholars in Britain who are publicly supportive of, or simply not critical of, Israel are more likely to be targeted. Jewish scholars and students are surely aware of this. The result is a chilling effect on scholars and students sympathetic to Israel.  

At the present, threats to the academic freedom of scholars sympathetic to Israel appear to be primarily “informal” – sustained through the actions of individuals, and not institutions. It is worth remembering that institutions have also previously restricted the academic freedom of scholars sympathetic to Israel. For instance, Queen’s University, Belfast, disinvited Professor Geoffrey Alderman from a panel on “Conflict in the Middle East” after two scholars critical of Israel objected to his presence. Anyone who knows of recent threats to the freedom of academics sympathetic to Israel is invited to contact the Committee for Academic Freedom here. All submissions can be kept anonymous when published.