Leeds Student demands apology for pulled edition

Sameh Habeeb

Sameh Habeeb

A university newspaper was temporarily pulled from the shelves by the student union after it published an interview with a Palestinian journalist whose comments were interpreted as suggesting Jews control the media.

Leeds Student, the Leeds University newspaper, interviewed Sameh Habeeb, the founder and editor of the online Palestine Telegraph, about his experiences during last year's Gaza conflict.

Mr Habeeb said there was a "media blackout" on reporting life in Gaza and was then asked: "Do you believe mainstream media organisations have a hidden agenda?"

He is said to have replied: "They are certainly pro-Israeli. I think you have to ask yourself who controls the media."

Copies of the paper were initially removed from the union last Friday, but were reinstated on Tuesday after the editor added a disclaimer - a notice put on the paper's display stands.

Furious students criticised the union's decision to censor the paper. More than 1,000 people joined a Facebook group protesting against the move. Many referred to the fact that Jak Codd, the union's communications and internal affairs officer who helped make the decision, is Jewish.

Mr Codd said: "Many will say that a response should have been printed in the following edition, deconstructing Mr Habeeb's claim. I personally believe it is a sad day when antisemitic claims that Jews control the media are treated as a legitimate point of view that simply requires a response."

Leeds Student editor Virginia Newman said: "We will publish a selection of letters in the next issue. We are confident that the result of the union's investigation will prove that we acted correctly and appropriately in the publication of this article."

But she refused to explain why Mr Habeeb had not been challenged or why the feature had not included an Israeli perspective.

Speaking to the JC, Mr Habeeb said: "I'm well aware of the definition of antisemitism. I did not say Jews control the media. I would not say that. There's a difference between a Jew and an Israeli.

"What I meant to say was some of the key figures, editors or big reporters are really manipulating things and adopting the Israeli narrative. It was not against the Jews. Jews have nothing to do with this."

Carly McKenzie, Union of Jewish Students' campaigns officer, said: "We are working closely with the Jewish society and the union to ensure that the unchallenged antisemitism in last week's Leeds Student is dealt with appropriately.

"This has highlighted the need for further education on antisemitism to be provided for university unions."

‚óŹ Cambridge University Student Union this week rejected, by 37 votes to 19, a proposal to twin with the Hamas-backed Islamic University of Gaza.

    Last updated: 2:55pm, May 6 2010