Universities Minister Jo Johnson MP will lead a delegation to Israel with the aim of building stronger academic ties between the two countries. The planned visit, which will be sponsored by Universities UK, was announced at a Board of Deputies meeting on Sunday.
Vice Chancellor of Exeter University Sir Steve Smith confirmed he would take part in the trip as a “show of support for academic links with Israel”. The visit has come about after concerns over the discriminatory nature of anti-Israel activism, most notably Israel Apartheid Week, on some university campuses.
In February 2017, Mr Johnson wrote to higher education institutions calling on them to tackle antisemitism and adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.
In the letter, Mr Johnson wrote: “There is no place in our society – including within higher education – for hatred or any form of harassment, discrimination or racism such as antisemitism. Higher education institutions have a responsibility to ensure that they provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students and that students do not face discrimination, harassment or victimisation”.
A number of Israel Apartheid Week events on university campuses across the UK were cancelled following the Universities Minister’s letter.
Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies said: “The strong academic contacts between Britain and its most dependable ally in the Middle East and that such links greatly benefit both countries”.
The Board of Deputies meeting also saw board leaders criticise Google following failure to remove antisemitic content on YouTube. M&S, Lloyds, RBS and HSBC pulled advertising from the site over the presence of offensive material on the website.