December 23, 2006

British university union votes to gag Jewish society

The student union at a prominent British university has voted to gag the Jewish Society from complaining against an increasingly intense anti-Israel campaignby the university's Palestinian society.

The student union at the University of Leeds, home of a large Jewish student population, last Friday voted on a motion proposed by the Palestinian Solidarity Group to ignore complaints by the Jewish Society "as long as Judaism as a faith is not offended."

The Palestinian Solidarity Group, which has a historyof hostile campaigning against Israel, using terms such as "apartheid" and "racist," claimed that the existing practice of considering every complaint received by the student union as a real complaint constituted "an arbitrary use of authority."

Students have voiced concern that the motion singles out the university's Jewish students and denies them basic rights enjoyed by other students and student societies.

Leeds University Student Union (LUU) released a statement on Thursday saying:

"LUU are committed to maintaining the freedom for all our members to follow individual beliefs in a positive and harmonious environment. Following the outcome of the recent referendum, LUU will continue to build positive relationships between groups and individuals on campus, and we assure all students that regardless of belief or background that their safety and welfare are paramount."

Policy passed by the referendum in no way changes Jewish students' right to support the State of Israel or debate the issue. The Union is an organization which supports and provides opportunities for debate and expression; however we will not tolerate behavior which strays into the realms of racial or religious hatred, and any instances of anti-Semitism will be dealt with in a timely and appropriate manner.

"We believe all students have a right to study in anopen and fair environment without fear of prejudice. We intend to continue our fight for equality followinga year in which LUU received national coverage for itsfight against fascism, and are constantly looking forways to strengthen interfaith relations on campus,through LUU's interfaith forum. We remain committed to maintaining the freedom for all our members to follow individual beliefs in a positive and harmonious environment."

Mitch Simmons, campaigns director of the Union of Jewish Students, said: "While there is concern about
the events at Leeds University as part of a wider movement on campuses to delegitimize Israel and the connection to the Jewish people, UJS along with the Jewish societies across the UK will be fighting to ensure the right of Jewish students to show about how proud we are to support Israel and be a Zionist and Jewish on campus."

He said the motion will be raised again at a referendum in February, when it is expected to be defeated.