CFI’s Parliamentary Chairman Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP has written letters to Universities Minister Jo Johnson MP and University College London President Professor Michael Arthur, to express his concern and call on “an immediate and thorough investigation”, after police were called as anti-Israel protesters disrupted an event hosted by the university’s Israel society.
Writing to Universities Minister Jo Johnson, Sir Eric said: “The video footage of pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel student activists intimidating and harassing fellow students of the Israel Society are shocking. It is simply unacceptable in 2016 that a group of students expressing their right to free speech require a police escort to leave a prestigious university building for their own personal safety”.
He said: “The growing problem of anti-Semitism on British university campuses is a serious challenge facing the Jewish community and the UK as a whole”.
The letter continued, referring to a similar incident at King’s College London: “Worryingly, this is the second reported incident at a British university in the calendar year. You will recall that a similar event was violently attacked by anti-Israel demonstrators in January”.
He called on Mr Johnson to take action on the issue: “Free, open debate is a prerequisite to challenging intolerance. This Government has a proud record of challenging anti-Semitism, but there is a deep rooted problem in our universities that must be wiped out. I call on you to do everything within your power to ensure that free speech is protected on university campuses across the UK”.
In his letter to UCL President Professor Arthur, Sir Eric said: “These images have been broadcast around the world and made headline news in Israel. Incidents such as these will sadly harm UCL’s reputation as a highly-regarded academic institution, and further fuel the current atmosphere where both Israeli students and Anglo-Jewish students are wary of pursuing higher education in the United Kingdom due to increasing reports of anti-Semitism on university campuses”.
He asked: “Last night’s events are all the more concerning following the similar events that occurred at King’s College London back in January. In light of these events had UCL not put additional security measures in place?”
Sir Eric concluded his letter by stating: “I am sure you will be conducting an immediate and thorough investigation into the events and take the necessary actions against any students that have so besmirched the image of UCL”.