Anti-semitism: University of Essex suspends worker amid row

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Tom Sancassani

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University of Essex has said it has a zero-tolerance policy on hate and harassment

A university at the centre of an anti-semitism row has suspended a member of staff and launched an investigation.

The University of Essex said a new Jewish Society – opposed by 200 students on Thursday – will be set up, regardless of the results of a vote.

Concerns were raised over Facebook posts which had described “Zionists” wanting to create a society at university.

The vice-chancellor said anti-semitism “has no place at our university”.

John Bercow, House of Commons speaker and the university’s chancellor, said he was “very concerned” at reports.

He said: “As university chancellor, I will be seeking an urgent discussion with the university administration.”

Concerns had been raised over posts from the Facebook account of computer science lecturer Dr Maaruf Ali, which allegedly included the claim “the Zionists next want to create a society here at our university”.

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University of Essex

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Facebook posts which appeared to have been shared from the account of University of Essex lecturer Dr Maaruf Ali are being investigated

Other posts shared from the account appeared to deny the Holocaust. They have since been deleted.

‘Shocking discrimination’

The vice-chancellor Prof Anthony Forster announced the university had launched a review to ensure it offers “unequivocal support” to Jewish staff and students, and would hold a public event next week to demonstrate support for the Jewish community.

He said: “To see the University of Essex associated with antisemitism has been a deeply shocking event and one which has filled me with great sadness.

“Antisemitism is antithetical to the values of the University of Essex and has no place at our university. We have a zero tolerance approach to harassment and hate crime which is at the very core of our values and beliefs.”

The university, which is based in Colchester, is re-running a vote on a proposed Jewish Society, after more than 200 students voted against it in a poll declared void due to an “irregularity”.

The vote results gained attention from celebrities including comedian David Baddiel and Countdown presenter Rachel Riley who tweeted: “The cancer that is anti-semitism is spreading. Shocking discrimination.”

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