A London university has refunded a former Jewish student who left the school over what he said was a “toxic anti-Semitic environment.”
The School of Oriental and African Studies at London University (SOAS) recently gave back almost $20,400 in fees to Noah Lewis. The settlement came following a formal complaint Lewis filed in May 2019. He said he experienced a “toxic anti-Semitic environment” that worsened his anxiety and mental-health issues.
Lewis, who enrolled as a student during the 2018-19 academic year and left to return home to Canada, claimed that Jews and people who supported Israel were called “Zionists;” anti-Semitic vandalism was found on desks, lockers and bathroom walls; and numerous people expressed their support for the BDS movement against Israel.
In one instance, after expressing his views in class, Lewis, a grandson of Holocaust survivors, faced a verbal backlash from his classmates. He was told that he was complicit in covering up “Israeli war crimes” and that he must be a “white-supremacist Nazi” for ignoring the “genocide” and “apartheid” taking place in “Palestine,” according to the Lawfare Project, which, along with the United Kingdom Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) Charitable Trust, assisted Lewis with his appeal.
In a statement, Lawfare Project executive director Brooke Goldstein said: “What happened to Noah Lewis should never be considered acceptable at a place of higher learning. The Lawfare Project is glad to see that, with this settlement and continued investigation, SOAS is working to right this wrong and ensure that its Jewish students and faculty members can feel safe and welcome on campus.”
A university panel recommended a continued investigation into the alleged anti-Semitism on campus. Incoming SOAS director Adam Habib, who starts his new role in January, is expected to decide whether to accept the panel’s recommendation.
A university spokesperson told The Guardian, “SOAS is extremely concerned about any allegations of anti-Semitism at our school. Diversity is key to the SOAS mission, and we want all our students to feel welcome and supported in their studies. We cannot comment on any individual student case or the outcomes of any appeal. However, where we have established an independent panel as part of a complaints process, we would of course consider the findings of such a panel thoroughly and take appropriate action.”