Protesting for Palestine last year. Such actions are not antisemitic (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The antisemitism definition used by most British universities is unjust, undemocratic and designed to silence free speech on Palestine and Israel.

That is the powerful message from a new report. It shows that university authorities have brought 40 cases of alleged antisemitism against students, academics, unions, and societies. In 38 of those cases, the alleged offenders were cleared, and the other two cases have not yet been decided.

In no case has the dire charge of antisemitism, based on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition and its examples been substantiated.

But of course this in no way exhausts the chilling effect of the definition. The terms of debate are restricted by fear of the IHRA terms, even if nobody actually faces sanctions.

The accusations have, in some cases, led to the cancellation of events to discuss the situation in Palestine or take a critical stance on Zionism. In other cases it saw the imposition of unreasonable conditions on the format of events.

This is why the report from the European Legal Support Center (ELSC) and the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (Brismes) is so valuable.

It demonstrates that accusations of antisemitism levelled against students and staff are often based on a definition of antisemitism that is not fit for purpose. In practice, it is undercutting academic freedom and the rights to lawful speech, and causing harm to the reputations and careers of those accused.

But in 2020, the then education secretary threatened university leaders with punitive financial consequences if their institutions did not adopt the IHRA definition.

As a result, 119 universities have adopted some version of it as a basis for campus policies.

The university trade and student unions must demand the IHRA definition goes as a basis for policing our campuses.

Alison Roberts, London Read the full report here

Mini cars, mini pay, maxi profit

BMW Group’s promise to invest £600 million in the Oxford Mini facilities in Oxford and Swindon and produce all-electric cars by 2030 sounds great.

But really, it’s not so great for the taxpayer or local workers.

Of that £600 million, £75 million is coming out of taxpayers’ pockets.

Yet they will see none of the profits. Tory business secretary Kemi Badenoch claims the deal will secure “high‑quality jobs”. In reality BMW will continue to make money off the backs of its workers.

That includes the 200 low paid Rudolph and Hellmann Automotive supply chain workers forced to strike in May 2022 to get even a below-inflation wage increase.

Moving a few miles across the city, from industrial town to academic gown, lecturers in precarious jobs know all about greedy bosses.

The wealthy colleges of Oxford university pour money into capital improvements, such as buildings and facilities.

But bosses are tightfisted when it comes to paying their workers, who run the highly commodified education packages that profits come from.

Without workers, not a car would come off an assembly line and not a lecture would be given.

Manual and academic workers in Oxford are equally exploited. Time to unite and fight for common interests.

Geoff Taylor, Yarnton, near Oxford

I know the true toll of using asbestos in our buildings

In 1963, I joined a leading construction company as an apprentice. What seemed to be a simple career decision ended up haunting me for the next several decades.

I was exposed to asbestos and forced to work with the material day after day.

Constant inhalation of this material led to me being diagnosed with extensive pleural plaques as I grew older.

With asbestos back in the news as part of the school building failures, I think my book on this subject is more relevant than ever.

Please read Injustice for All, Not Just the Privileged Poor.

It is an attempt to create a potential catalyst to bring about a stronger change in laws and policies.

We need far greater protection for the most vulnerable and those people exposed to asbestos as part of their daily jobs that they can’t afford to lose.

Bill Ingham, by e-mail

Dog ban is barking up the wrong tree

According to much of the news, the most pressing concern currently is banning the American Bully XL dog. But this is merely a cynical ploy by our rulers to implement division.

People get pets for a multitude of reasons—alienation, loneliness, and also protection.

Last time I spoke to my neighbour, who owns a very well-controlled American Bully XL, he mentioned he feels protected by his dog.

I am not surprised that marginalised people may find solace in a dog.

The draconian Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 already bans some specific breeds. It gives the state power to intervene if a dog is out of control or simply perceived as a danger.

I’m not aware of any ban on the unsafe Raac concrete that has been widely used in several schools in Britain.

Nor is there a ban on toxic chemicals that may have been found in babies’ toys.

I don’t want more police powers on working class people or their dogs.

I want a society that addresses the root cause of the problem—a profit-driven system that kills and destroys lives.

Geraldine, East London

Labour shame over refugees

Keir Starmer is not clear about many policies for the next general election.

But he is very explicit that he wants to make it easier to expel refugees who make it across the Channel.

I won’t vote Labour if it is worse than the Tories on this issue.

Sandra Buchanan, Worcester

The problem of evil clarified

I want to congratulate Socialist Worker (30 August) for the article which, with crystal clarity, investigates and analyses the notion of evil from a Marxist perspective.

It’s a subject which I’ve often thought about. I’ve concluded that the term is a get-out for those in whose interest it is to maintain a discriminatory system. It separates the actions of individuals such as Harold Shipman or Lucy Letby from wider control and exploitation.

The article gave me a deeper understanding.

Dave Clinch, Devon

F-16s in the sky over Norfolk

In response to Hugh Stanners’ letter (6 Sep), I live under the approaches to the US bases so I’m familiar with aircraft passing over.

I was surprised to see US F-16s as they aren’t normally stationed in Britain.

The F-16s now visiting are part of Cobra Warrior. This is an air offensive exercise involving Nato and allied air forces given added impetus with events in Ukraine, while the US aims to send F-16s to Ukraine in a major escalation.

Keith Prince, Norfolk

Car workers against cars?

Solidarity to the auto workers in the United States who are taking on the big car firms.

I hope in time they will fight not just for better pay and conditions but also for a transition away from a type of transport that is helping to destroy our world.

Mary Jenkins, Pontypridd

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