Leeds University Union sparks anger with trigger-warning about upcoming Israeli independence celebration

'We understand that some of our members will be unhappy that this event is taking place'


Leeds University Union sparked anger by warning students about an Israeli Independence Day event on campus, because "some of our members will be unhappy that this event is taking place".

The event took place on Thursday from 12pm to 2pm to celebrate 71 years of the Jewish state's existence and protestors went to chant "5,6,7,8 Israel is a terrorist state".

On Wednesday evening, LUU announced on its Facebook page it had given permission for the event, saying it was doing so because it expected people to be upset.

"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 LUU wrote, before suggesting anyone who was "concerned" should get in touch with their support team.

The post triggered an argument about why an event relating to Israel was being singled out.

One student wrote: "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."

Another called the LUU's post "mildly antisemitic" and another person asked the union: "Do you take this approach when it comes to all celebrations, or just the ones concerning the only Jewish homeland?"

Writing on Facebook before Thursday's event took place, Leeds JSoc President Adam Grossman said: "This post, and the idea of Yom Ha’azmaut being controversial at all, is far from ideal for most of us."

But he said the union's post was written after "many, many complaints to LUU about the idea of us celebrating the existence of our nation.

"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," he wrote.

A spokesperson for the Union of Jewish Students said: "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."

"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.

"Jewish students who continued their celebration of their connection to Israel despite protests are the brave and positive young people who will be a solution to the conflict, not create further divisions."

The Leeds union has been approached for comment.

LUU was in the headlines in March when it failed to pass a motion committing itself to do more to fight antisemitism. This introduced the possibility of a campus-wide referendum on the matter, which Jewish students feared would have caused "great distress".

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