The Minister for Universities has written to the vice chancellor of Oxford University demanding more investigation into claims of anti-semitism as MPs call for the Labour Party to dissociate itself with a group accused of intolerance towards Jews.
The revelation follows a resignation of Alex Chalmers, an undergraduate at Oriel College, and co-chairman of the Oxford University Labour Club earlier this week after claiming a large proportion of members “have some kind of problem with Jews”.
He also claimed some members of the club, counts Michael Foot and Ed and David Miliband among its former members, sympathise with Islamic militant group Hamas.
The letter by the minister also follows a letter from the Israeli embassy in London in which it condemned students at Oxford for their “disgraceful activity”.
Oxford University has said it “does not tolerate any form of harassment or victimisation, including of the grounds of religion or beliefs”.
Writing to Louise Richardson, the vice-chancellor at Oxford University, on allegations about anti-Semitism at Oxford, Jo Johnson, the Minister for Universities, said: “There can be no justification for attacks on Jewish students, and no tolerance for institutionalised racism within an organisation that bears a University’s name.
“I have already raised concerns about a public meeting involved the King’s College Israel Society in London which was unfortunately abandoned due to violent and intimidating interruptions from a number of protestors.
“Universities must be places for students, irrespective of their background, to develop as individuals and citizens, free from the fear of racism or the kind of intimidation that curtails free speech.
“Jewish students at Oxford and all universities must feel confident that university leaders take their safety seriously.”
The letter followed calls by an MP for the Labour Party dissociate itself from the club.
MP Louise Ellman, vice chairwoman of Labour Friends of Israel, said: “I am deeply disturbed by the news that Oxford University Labour Club has decided to support Israel Apartheid Week and by the revelations from Alex Chalmers about the troubling tone of the discourse in which this debate appears to have been conducted.”
She said comparisons between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa “are a grotesque smear and the Labour Party should dissociate itself from them”.
Separately, John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw in Nottinghamshire, has called for the party to sever ties with the club while an investigation is carried out.
He wrote on Twitter: “There needs to be a full enquiry and suspension of Oxford University Labour Club for the allegations of racism.”
Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader, has postponed at the Labour club, it has emerged. He was due to speak at the club’s annual John Smith Memorial Dinner next month.
Separately, an investigation has been launched into allegations of anti-Semitism at Oxford.
Labour MPs say they are “deeply concerned” at the allegations while the Israeli embassy said it is “appalled” by the claims which, if true, are “abhorrent”.
Labour Students, the body which Oxford University Labour Club is affiliated to, has launched an immediate investigation into the matter.
The Israeli embassy in London said: “The embassy of Israel is appalled by reports of anti-Semitism, intimidation of Jewish students, and support for terrorism against Israel at the Oxford Labour Club.
“We would not expect such disgraceful activity from any morally upright person – let alone students at one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
“Anti-Semitism masquerading as politics is abhorrent. It must be recognised as such and condemned by all.”
A Labour Party spokesman said the Party “condemns anti-Semitism in any form” and that they welcome the investigation.
The executive committee of the Oxford University Labour Club said it would co-operate with the investigation.
An Oxford University spokesman said: “Oxford University does not tolerate any form of harassment or victimisation – including on the grounds of religion and belief – and expects all members of the University community, its visitors and contractors to treat each other with respect, courtesy and consideration.
“We would strongly urge anyone who has experienced harassment or intimidation on the grounds of religion and belief to come forward and officially report any incident to the university authorities. We take allegations of harassment extremely seriously, and where offences are found to have been committed they are considered grounds for severe disciplinary action.”