Pears Foundation removes name from Birkbeck antisemitism institute

The Pears Foundation has withdrawn its name from the Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at the Birkbeck University of London.

A statement from the charitable trust confirmed that from May 4 the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism will no longer bear the Foundation’s name – although it will continue to be one of its funders.

The decision follows the publication of article by the institute’s director, Professor David Feldman in the Guardian which openly criticised what was described as the “confusing and divisive” IHRA definition of antisemitism.

While the Foundation’ statement did not directly refer to December’s article or name the Professor, it did reference “challenging and divisive issues.” ​

Amongst those to criticise Professor Feldman over the issue was Dave Rich, the Community Security Trust’s (CST) director of policy.

Mr Rich attacked the academic’s criticism of IHRA saying it was “the nuances in the definition’s language that make it so useful.”

In a further debate at the Limmud conference at the end of December Lord Mann, the UK government’s independent adviser on antisemitism, launched an outspoken attack on Professor Feldman.

He said Professor Feldman had repeatedly said that IHRA “chills free speech”, which was “a myth”.

In a statement, the Pears Foundation confirmed: “As the Institute increasingly tackles challenging and divisive issues in the public sphere, the Foundation’s Trustees have decided that continuing to be so closely associated with the Institute is no longer in the Foundation’s best interests.

“The Trustees of Pears Foundation and Birkbeck have, therefore, agreed that going forward the Pears name will no longer be directly associated with the Institute. The Foundation will continue to support its work as one of several funders.”

The institute, established in 2010, was the first of its kind in the UK.

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