Palestine group gets student union ban

By Marcus Dysch, March 11, 2010

A pro-Palestinian group which launched an angry protest against an Israeli speaker has been banned from using a student union's facilities.

Leeds University Union took action against the student Palestine Solidarity Group after protesters interrupted a talk given by Ishmael Khaldi, Israel's deputy consul.

They chanted and banged on the doors of the lecture theatre as Mr Khaldi spoke at the Jewish Society event.

The union's activities executive has stopped PSG booking rooms in the union building until the start of the next semester in April.

James Wallis, Leeds JSoc president, said: "The event was open to all students and engaged them in the Israel debate. To hear banging on the doors and anti-Zionist chanting was very intimidating for our members. People were taken aback by it and I had a lot of feedback from Jewish students who had been scared.

"The union took it into their own hands and that's what we'd expect. We are happy action has been taken."

A LUU spokesman said: "We think all societies should be free to hold events and protests on campus, but not to the detriment of another society. LUU believed that the PSG protest went beyond what was acceptable, and infringed on the right of the JSoc to hold their event in peace."

But Yacoub Al-Ouri, joint president of PSG, told Leeds Student newspaper: "The decision was made quite arbitrarily. PSG did not have a chance to defend itself in front of the committee. The activities executive committee was quite unfair."

Last week the Board of Deputies revealed a five-point action plan intended to tackle extremism on campus and act as a guide for vice-

It included proposals to monitor visits and withhold campus premises from extremists, who have been to Leeds in the past.

The strategy has been welcomed by the Community Security Trust and Union of Jewish Students.

Universities UK, which represents the heads of British universities, has set up a working group to tackle extremism. Chaired by University College London provost Malcolm Grant, it has met once and is not expected to report on its findings until later this year.

A spokesman said: "We have long had a positive relationship with the Board of Deputies and they will be consulted as part of the working group's deliberations."

Last updated: 11:24am, September 21 2010