Leeds University Union rejects motion on fighting antisemitism - meaning all students will now vote on it

Jewish student describes 'vast crowd who turned up to intimidate me' at Union meeting


The Jewish society at Leeds University is “incredibly disappointed” after the students' union failed to pass a motion combatting antisemitism - triggering a campus-wide referendum on the issue.

Leeds JSoc said the forum, held on Monday night to decide Leeds University Union (LUU) policy, was marked by some students "sniggering” at the motion and others “asking us to withdraw the motion in full or amend it”.

A union panel voted 10 to five in favour of it but 12 votes were needed for it to pass.

It may therefore now go to a campus-wide referendum, meaning thousands of students, over 99 percent of whom are not Jewish, must now decide whether the LUU should combat antisemitism.

As the JSoc suggested this could even mean that, “in theory, LUU could be giving money to students to run a campaign AGAINST combatting antisemitism.”

Emma Jacobs, the student who had proposed the motion, tweeted: “I didn’t expect to spend over an hour being sniggered at when I said I wouldn’t withdraw a motion to combat antisemitism.

"I’m disappointed. It’s exhausting being a Jewish student and I wouldn’t wish this on any other group."

“I barely slept last night. I cannot stop thinking of the injustice of how this motion was approached by the vast crowd who turned up to intimidate me (attempting) to get me to withdraw.

"Why’s the Jewish community the only one who aren’t allowed to define our own oppression?”

The motion proposed that LUU adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, which, the JSoc said, was “used by the Jewish community and adopted by the government, NUS, Conservative and Labour parties and over 100 local councils.”

It proposed ensuring the university’s sabbatical officers “have training on issues that affect Jewish students and how to tackle antisemitism, taking advice from the Union of Jewish Students to guide this".

It also called for the University to hold “at least one Holocaust Memorial Day per year to educate students and remember the victims of the Holocaust”, and to run “awareness and educational events to ensure people understand the issues around the Holocaust and antisemitism.”

Leeds JSoc said: “We will not cower. Jewish students have a right to feel safe on campus. And if you do not, please know both Jsoc and UJS are here to support you."

In a statement from the Union of Jewish Students, the organisation said it was "dismayed" to hear of the reports of the meeting, with Daniel Kosky, UJS campaigns director, describing it as "shocking and yet no longer surprising that supposed anti-racists and activists could not vote in sufficient numbers to support Jewish people defining their own oppression and adopting the measures and actions that they demand to keep them safe on campus.

"Whilst it shouldn’t be up for debate, UJS will continue to support Leeds JSoc in their campaign to demand their peers in Leeds respect their right to define the prejudice they face and to direct the most effective ways for the SU to work with them in preventing and combating antisemitism.

An LUU spokesperson said: “At the forum, every student agreed antisemitism was unacceptable. However, there was debate both for and against adopting all of the examples listed with the IHRA definition.

"Within our democratic system, 75 percent of the student panel have to vote yes for an idea to pass or no for it to fail. If an idea does not get 75 percent, it may proceed to a campus-wide referendum.

"In this case, 10 students voted for the idea and 5 students voted against it, 12 votes were required for the idea to pass or fail. The next step is to take the idea to referendum, should the proposer wish to.”

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