Tolerate this, what's next?

March 29, 2012

Ruth Deech has done a great service by highlighting the failures of some universities to respect the laws that protect students on campus from intimidation, harassment and defamation ("Hate has no place here", 22 March). There is much work to be done to adequately respect these laws while simultaneously protecting freedom of speech and academic freedom.

Deech discusses the fact that the University and College Union has "offended Jews and others among its ranks by claiming to be anti-Zionist rather than anti-Semitic". Irrespective of the debate over the relationship between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, the notion that discrimination on the basis of nationality and citizenship is somehow less morally pernicious than discrimination on the grounds of religion, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or physical ability has no reasonable moral defence.

By taking such a stance, the UCU contributes to a climate of intolerance and disrespect for student diversity, contradicts the most basic principles of equality and the universality of human rights, and maligns international law, which respects the sovereignty of Israel and the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. For any nationality to be invidiously singled out and discriminated against constitutes bigotry and injustice, and has no place in the academy or democratic society.

Noam Schimmel, London School of Economics

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