Sunak to Urge University Leaders to Protect Jewish Students on Campus

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain will tell university leaders on Thursday to do more to combat antisemitism on college campuses, in a sign of rising dissatisfaction within government about the recent growth of encampments set up by students protesting the war in Gaza.

Vice chancellors from some of Britain’s prominent universities have been invited to Downing Street to discuss “escalating antisemitic abuse toward Jewish students in the U.K.,” Mr. Sunak’s office said in a statement issued in advance of the meeting.

Britain has so far not seen the sort of unrest witnessed on American campuses. But small-scale, largely peaceful protest encampments have sprung up recently around several universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester.

“Universities should be places of rigorous debate but also bastions of tolerance and respect for every member of their community,” Mr. Sunak said the statement released by his office ahead of the meeting. “A vocal minority on our campuses are disrupting the lives and studies of their fellow students and, in some cases, propagating outright harassment and antisemitic abuse. That has to stop.”

The prime minister’s office did not mention specific encampments in its statement, but it cited the concerns of the Union of Jewish Students, which says it represents 9,000 Jewish students across Britain and Ireland. The organization said recently that “while students have a right to protest, these encampments create a hostile and toxic atmosphere on campus for Jewish students.”

Downing Street also cited data from a charity that aims to protect British Jews from antisemitism, the Community Security Trust, which in 2023 recorded 182 college-related antisemitic incidents, triple the number recorded in 2022.Tell Mama, a government-funded group that monitors Islamophobic incidents and supports victims, said it has also noted a recent rise in anti-Muslim incidents on campuses.

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