Leeds University Student Union Draws Criticism After Giving Advance Warning of Israeli Independence Day Event
A student union at the University of Leeds in England is facing criticism after giving advance warning of an Israeli Independence Day event on campus, the Jewish Chronicle reported.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, the Leeds University Union (LUU) announced that it gave the Jewish Society permission to run an event on Thursday celebrating Israel’s 71st Independence Day.
“We understand that some of our members will be unhappy that this event is taking place, which is why we are letting students know in advance,” the group wrote, encouraging concerned students to speak to the LUU Help & Support Team.
The post drew backlash, with one student commenting, “Until today I had not felt any of the antisemitism which I had been told is rife on university campuses, but with the singling out of an event celebrating the founding of a state where my people could find refuge — irrespective of politics, this is about the fact the country exists — I have been forced to think again.”
“However polite the language used, the fact remains that this statement from LUU implies directly that in their opinion, it is valid to say that Israel has no right to exist,” the student added.
“Do you take this approach when it comes to all celebrations, or just the ones concerning the only Jewish homeland?” asked another commentator.
Footage from Thursday’s event showed protesters who held Palestinian flags and signs, and used a loudspeaker to chant, “Free, free Palestine,” and, “Israel is a terrorist state.”
In an update to its original post on Friday, the LUU said, “We know from feedback that students like to be kept informed about what is happening on campus.”
“We have supported those who have had questions and this has included advice from our Help & Support Team,” it added.
Adam Grossman, president of the Jewish Society at Leeds, wrote on social media prior to Thursday’s event that the LUU post, “and the idea of Yom Ha’azmaut being controversial at all, is far from ideal for most of us,” the Chronicle reported.
The post was issued following “many, many complaints to LUU about the idea of us celebrating the existence of our nation,” he added. “We will be celebrating our existence loud and proud, and this post must be seen for what, in reality, it is — telling those who don’t want to celebrate with us that they don’t have to be there.”
“Yom Ha’aztmaut is a celebration of the central and vital role which Israel has played in Jewish history and identity, not just for the past 71 years, but for 3,000 years before that,” a spokesperson for the UK-wide Union of Jewish Students (UJS) told the Chronicle.
“UJS and Leeds JSoc do not take a narrow stance on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and to hold Jewish students celebrating their identity to account for the actions of a foreign government is shameful. It is further antisemitic to deny Jewish people our right to self-determination.”
“We welcome debate on the Israel-Palestinian conflict from all sides, but we will not change our identity to appease other people’s prejudices,” the spokesperson added.
The LUU drew objections this March after it failed to pass a motion on antisemitism brought forward by the Leeds Jewish Society, raising fears that the measure would face a campus-wide vote.
The referendum was ultimately never held, with the LUU saying that the proposals outlined in the antisemitism resolution were “already in place.”