HERE’S AN example of a curb on freedom of expression that none of the mainstream media have covered—attempts by the student union at Leeds University to ban the activities of pro-Palestinian activists.
Waleed Kamal, president of the Palestinian Solidarity Group at Leeds University, told Socialist Worker, “In November we took a model of the Israeli apartheid wall onto campus to campaign outside the union. It had slogans against racism and apartheid on it.
“There was a lot of support from students. But one member of the Union of Jewish Students, a pro-Israel organisation, complained to the student union. The union sent security guards and phoned the police to remove us from campus. I then produced a leaflet about the wall and Israel which the union did not give me permission to distribute because it described Israel as a ‘racist, Zionist state’. The union then said that I would have to discuss my society’s future events with the head of the Union of Jewish Students.
“We were then refused permission to book one of the rooms to hold a Palestinian exhibition in March. We have had to book a grassy area outside the union and spend £1,000 hiring a marquee. The union said societies were no longer able to book these rooms—but the Indonesian society has since then. We are being censored even though the Palestinian societies have added a dynamic aspect to the British student movement. The student union seems to be claiming that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic, even though Arab people are Semitic themselves. Similar things are happening to Palestinian groups across Britain. At Birmingham Uni-versity the union has tried to stop the setting up of a Palestinian society. But we are going to continue to campaign for the right of Palestinians.”
Arafat Khalil from Warwick Friends of Palestine said, “The student union tried to cancel our meeting on ‘Is Israel the new apartheid?’ but we put a lot of pressure on to get its decision changed. There are rumours that the Israeli embassy phoned up the university vice-chancellor to get the meeting called off.”
A member of the Palestinian society at the SOAS college in London said, “There is a lot of pressure being put on to stop our events on campus, especially those making the comparison between Israel and South Africa under apartheid.”
Student activists across Britain are now looking to co-ordinate a campaign in solidarity with the Palestinians and against attempts to censor them on campus.