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Palestine, Antisemitism and Academic Freedom

Date(s) - 01/23/2021
2:30 pm - 5:15 pm

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How to oppose the IHRA definition across the UK, and Gavin Williamson’s attempt to impose it in England.

About this Event

Omar Barghouti • Ben Jamal • Naomi Wimborne Idrissi • Jonathan Rosenhead • Salma Karmi-Ayyoub • Tom Hickey • Mark Abel • Ghada Karmi • Richard Kuper

Organised and hosted by BRICUP (British Committee for the Universities of Palestine)

This is a Zoom briefing on how to understand and resist the pressure on universities and colleges across the country to adopt the contentious IHRA Definition of Antisemitism. In England this has now taken a new form: the attempt by the Secretary of State, Gavin Williamson, to force universities to comply through the threat of financial penalties.

The briefing will address both the abuse of the definition as a means of silencing Palestine advocacy, and the attack on academic freedom and university autonomy which Wiliamson’s demand represents. And it is designed to provide a toolkit for negotiating with managements, preparing motions or statements or talks on the definition, and campaigning amongst staff and students.

Registered participants will receive informative documents in advance, and will be sent log-on details on the day before the event.

The briefing will cover

  • the origin and misuse of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism;
  • how the IHRA definition conflicts with the responsibilities of universities under the Equality and Education Acts, and the legal status of Gavin Williamson’s threat;
  • the potential impact of adopting the definition on university autonomy, and on the freedom of academic staff to teach and research in their fields – especially but not only if they involve the study of the Middle East;
  • the potential impact of the definition on students’ ability to debate Palestine/Israel issues on university campuses, and to interrogate the nature of Zionism; and
  • how individual staff and Academic Boards in universities, and trade unions in colleges and elsewhere, can resist the adoption of the definition by their institutions, and how they can defend Palestine advocacy in the face of the definition.


Introductory remarks

Jonathan Rosenhead

(British Committee for the Universities of Palestine – BRICUP)

The context

Ben Jamal

(Palestine Solidarity Campaign – PSC)

Omar Barghouti

(Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – PACBI)

Session One

Chair and respondent

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi

(Free Speech on Israel)

Jonathan Rosenhead

What’s wrong with the IHRA Definition?

Salma Karmi-Ayyoub

(Barrister and Consultant on Human Rights)

The legal status of the IHRA definition, and of Williamson’s threat


Session Two

Chair and respondent

Ghada Karmi

(Author, Activist and Academic)

Tom Hickey


The definition and its impact on research, teaching and debate about Palestine

Mark Abel

(University of Brighton UCU)

Defending Palestine advocacy and academic freedom


Closing remarks

Richard Kuper

(Jewish Voice for Labour and socialist publisher)


Jonathan Rosenhead


Participants may find the latest edition of the BRICUP Newsletter (no.138) helpful. This and all previous issues can be accessed on the BRICUP website.

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