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Why are we still having to ‘tackle’ anti-Semitism, 77 years after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau?

By Stephen James.

77 years ago this week, the world saw the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

We saw with our own eyes the evil of antisemitic genocide and the darkness that it brought to the world.

This week we remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi persecution of other groups and in genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

On Wednesday (26th Jan), the Education Secretary held an Antisemitism summit to discuss key issues affecting staff and students – which is crucial work in acknowledging and eradicating it. HOWEVER, it amazes me that we are still even having to ‘tackle’ anti-Semitism 77 years after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Shockingly, figures published by The Times in November last year showed there were 111 antisemitic incidents recorded at British universities in the 2020/21 academic year – a rise of 59 per cent on the previous academic year.  

The fact it happens at all is shameful but, on the rise – this is deplorable.

Universities are not doing enough

Some universities are simply not doing enough. It is difficult to look past the 66 (or 11 depending on your source), who as of November 2021, hadn’t signed up to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

These institutions are morally vacuous – arguing semantics over anti-Semitics.

They claim to be doing all they can to tackle anti-Semitism but if they cannot accept a simple definition without protest, are they really doing everything in their power? I would go as far as suggesting that every day that passes without them signing up, makes them culpable for this increase of abuse.

The Department for Education has once again called upon more Higher Education providers to sign up with Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi saying:

“Education is the vaccine against antisemitism. No Jewish students or staff members should be subjected to antisemitic abuse, and by working together we will send out a clear message that antisemitism – like other forms of racism – will never be tolerated in our classrooms or campuses.”

Stronger Action Needed

In my opinion, stronger action needs to be taken by universities and I outline 3 steps below.

  • Firstly, extend the signing of the IHRA to primary and secondary schools to ensure that anti-Semitism is understood and eradicated at all levels of education.
  • Secondly, Vice-Chancellors & Headteachers need to take full responsibility and move aside if they cannot convince their faculties to sign up – they are clearly not up to the job of providing the moral leadership required of their position. Their lack of leadership is part of the problem.
  • Finally, taxpayer funding should be withdrawn. We should not be supporting institutions that do not reflect our British Values which includes mutual respect & tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.

77 years later, Jewish students and staff should feel safe in our education system and our country. The Minister of State for Higher and Further Education Michelle Donelan expresses what many think:

“I am horrified by the very thought of even one incident of antisemitism on campus – it has no place within any of our world leading universities.”

So, instead of spending our energy fighting anti-Semitism (that shouldn’t exist), our energy should be spent on remembering the six million Jews who were murdered and ensuring history never repeats itself.


Stephen James is an award-Winning Teacher, Specialist Leader of Education, Conservative Friends of Education Founder and Chairman of Folkestone & Hythe Conservative Association.

To join Conservative Friends of Education: Click here

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