Britain welcomes Israel / Op-ed: Anti-Semitic incidents, calls for boycott on UK campuses limited, do not reflect overall picture (YNetNews.Com -Yedioth Internet) Simon Kay Published: 05.13.12, 15:02)
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A recent article posted here painted a disturbing picture of
attitudes within Europe towards Israel. As the Director of the
British Council in Israel and therefore the person charged with
deepening academic relations with the UK, it is disappointing to read
what seems to ignore so much that is good and positive between the
Israel and its European friends. I won’t comment on the situation in
other European nations and will restrict my comments to the UK.
Recent surveys show consistently that Britain is among the least anti-
Semitic of countries. To quote our ambassador in a recent article in
the Jerusalem Post, “Britain’s Jewish community is proud, strong and
flourishing. The community’s leadership is robust, and speaks up
about its concerns both in public and with the government.”
Anti-Semitic incidents and calls for boycott concern us and both the
British government and the British Council remain firm in their
rejection of such incidents. But these concerns must not be
generalized into a judgment about the entire UK University and
cultural scene. There are one 120 universities in the UK. Only a
handful of student unions have passed anti-Israel motions.
There are over 8,500 Jewish students in Britain. According to the
Union of Jewish Students (UJS) there were 16 anti-Semitic incidents
affecting Jewish students, academics, student unions or other student
bodies in the first half of 2011. This is down 43% compared to 2010.
For sure, it is 16 incidents too many, but it does not suggest an
The Union of Jewish Students have told us that although there are
some serious issues on certain campuses, the vast majority of Jewish
and Israeli students have a successful and happy time on campus and
would recommend their university to friends. We hear this also from
graduates returning from British universities. Again, the vast
majority of the reports are positive and Israeli alumni of British
universities want to help us to encourage more fellow- Israeli
students to study in the UK.
Let’s keep measure of perspective
Britain is working hard to build academic relationships with Israel.
The ambitious UK-Israel collaborative programme in Regenerative
Medicine (BIRAX) aims to fund £10M of research projects, fellowships
and conferences over the next five years. In November 2011 we
organized with Ben Gurion University a UK-Israel conference in
Regenerative Medicine which attracted 260 delegates, 60 of whom came
from 20 British universities.
We had a strong response to new initiative in the humanities with six
British universities sending their Deans of Humanities to meet with
counter-parts in March 2012. And in the same month, four British
universities took part in the launch of a new collaborative network
with four Arab-led colleges in the North of the country.
The visit of Southampton University in late May, other initiatives to
launch joint-courses and the appetite for information about studying
in the UK keep my team busy.
Our bilateral arts programme, BIARTS has been running for 15 years.
Each year up to 50 small projects are supported with artists from a
range of disciplines taking part in initiatives in both countries.
This vibrant exchange is good for both our countries and demonstrates
there is an appetite for cultural ties.
So let’s keep a measure of perspective. Yes there are some problems
but these are dwarfed by the demand we are witnessing for UK-Israel
Dr. Simon Kay is the Director of British Council in Israel. The
British Council works to build cultural relations between the UK and
Israel and to create international opportunities through education,
arts, science and the English language. (Copyright 2012 © Yedioth
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