Britain  •  Youth

Leeds uni students demand ‘war criminal off campus’

10 March 2024

Pro-Palestine students have occupied Leeds University and issued an open letter demanding the university management break its links with the Zionist state.

Dozens of students have occupied the foyer of the Parkinson building since Thursday 7 March and show no sign of budging. The local Palestine solidarity movement has donated tents, airbeds, food and thousands of pounds to support the stand taken by the students.

Leeds University recently welcomed Chaplain Zechariah Deutch back onto campus after he took annual leave to join the IDF’s invasion of Gaza. In a series of videos he shared with students, he claimed ‘what Israel is trying to do is destroy evil which is the most moral thing possible.’

Rather than end their relationship with Deutch or even listen to students concerns, the university has targeted student societies for protesting the genocide. This climate of intimidation has provoked a rise in racist harassment of Arab and Muslim students. And yet the university has consistently ignored reports of racist abuse, threats and violence and refused to remove perpetrators from campus.

The list of demands from the students goes much deeper, calling on the university to end its partnerships with BAE systems and with Israeli universities, and calling on the university to acknowledge the ongoing genocide in Gaza and to respect and defend students’ freedom of speech.

University students held a Zoom chat with their counterparts in Goldsmiths, whose university occupation began a week earlier. While only two such occupations are underway, the tactic has a rich history in the student movement. Leeds University was occupied for a number of weeks in the 2010 protests against rising tuition fees, and in 2009 in protest against Israel’s ‘Operation Cast Lead’. 

If other Palestine Solidarity Groups take up this tactic again, universities could be faced with another wave of occupations and be forced end their complicity with Israel’s oppression of Palestine.

Wherever students take up this tactic, they should seek support from the local trade union movement, and, especially, the campus trade unions, by exchanging speakers at meetings, signing joint declarations and establishing joint committees to deepen and extend the boycott of the Zionist state.

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