School picketed after headteacher says Palestinian flag makes some Jews feel ‘unsafe’

Head of Leeds school triggers uproar among pro-Palestinian activists after video of his comments goes viral


Protesters demonstrated outside a high school in Leeds yesterday after its headteacher said the Palestinian flag made some Jewish students feel “threatened and unsafe”.

In a two-minute video addressing pupils at Allerton Grange high school, headteacher Mike Roper described the flag as a “call to arms”, which could be seen as “a message of support for antisemitism.”

Mr Roper said: “Some people they see that flag and they feel threatened, they feel unsafe, and they worry because for other people that the flag is seen as a call to arms and seen as a message of support of antisemitism, for being anti-Jewish, and it was never meant to be like that in the first place."

The remark sparked outrage among some pupils and pro-Palestinian activists in Leeds.

On social media, some campaigners accused Mr Roper of being Islamophobic.

One activist, Fatima Said, tweeted: “This is actually wild, complete erasure of Palestine and blatant Islamophobia on display here…”

Mr Roper apologised for his remarks in a letter, which was issued jointly by the school and Leeds City Council.

In the letter Mr Roper says: “I am deeply sorry that a particular example I used in that assembly, referring to the Palestinian flag, has caused such upset within the community. That was never my intention.

“The full message shared with students last week praised our students’ passion for their views and beliefs. It set out how we want to work through the issues highlighted with our students in an informed and respectful way.”

However, the apology did not stop campaigners from picketing the school yesterday afternoon, leaving Jewish pupils at the centre of a political controversy they did nothing to provoke.  

The Leeds Jewish Representative Council told the JC their priority at this time was to support Jewish parents and children. 

Simon Myerson QC, Chair of LJRC, said: "Every school needs to ensure its pupils are able to appreciate each other's feelings, and comment from outsiders and protests outside a school are unlikely to assist that. 

“Our primary concern is to support Jewish parents and their children, and we hope that all adults have our minority students in mind as well as others.”

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