Palestine-Israel conflict stirs up racial hatred at Leicester University

The Palestine-Israel conflict has led to anti-Semitic and Islamophobic messages of abuse, as the Jewish Society releases a statement accusing the Students’ Union (SU) of ignoring the “abuse Jewish students are facing right now”.

The SU and their Education Officer have released statements in Palestinian solidarity, whilst accusing the Israeli state of committing ‘ethnic cleansing’, and stating that the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah ‘contravene international law’.

The Jewish Society released a statement on 20 May condemning the SU’s statement. “Your treatment of anti-Semitism as an afterthought is clear, and frankly, unacceptable. We are requesting an immediate apology from the Exec.”

The SU’s Executive Officer Adnan Rahman released a personal statement on 24 May which was highly critical of those who opposed the SU statement. “The fact that these very people will seek to deflect from this issue emphasises how they want to sugarcoat their anti-Palestinian racism with politically misinformed and insensitive ‘both sides’ takes.”

The Jewish Society stated: “We are put in a position of feeling unable to speak up about the abuse we are experiencing when our elected representatives insinuate that doing so makes us complicit in a foreign conflict.”

Both the statements from the Education Officer and the Jewish Society contained details of messages of racial abuse that they had received since the conflict began.

The Jewish Society stated: “Our society Instagram page has faced hateful comments. We’ve all received individual abuse.”

Adnan stated: “the statement was signed off by us as a team and yet some students, in their email responses, chose to pick me out, the only Muslim in the team.

“In doing so, they made specific reference to the fact that I am Muslim as if that was some sort of prerequisite and then sought to make implicit associations between myself and Hamas and Osama bin Laden.”

There were two main points of contention between the SU and Jewish society, with the SU stating that Israel is a “73 year-long racist settler colonial regime” and over the Sheikh Jarrah evictions.

The Jewish Society disputed the SU’s claims that the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah “contravene international law” stating that whilst this is a complex legal issue, “spreading misinformation is dangerous.”

Adnan stated: “students have got in touch to shamelessly argue that the expulsions of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah do not violate international law and described this as mere ‘evictions’.”

The Jewish Society states that because the university has adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, this means that the SU’s reference to Israel as a ‘73 year-long racist settler colonial regime’ contravenes this definition.

Adnan believes that this statement “is not in contravention of the IHRA definition” as this definition is in “reference to ‘A state of Israel’”, rather than the state of Israel, adding that “Palestinians continue to be ethnically cleansed in the formation and subsequent expansion of the state of Israel.”

Adnan continued: “To try and silence that, under the guise of combatting antisemitism, is to gaslight Palestinians and their lived experiences; decades of trauma, of loss, of hurt and ongoing dehumanisation.”

The SU have supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel since the student’s Union Council voted for it in 2018, which seeks to apply consumer pressure to any company complicit in the ‘apartheid project’.

Adnan stated that this means “the SU has a democratic mandate combined with the fact that the SUs were borne out of a desire for political change and that I believe the statement is grounded in truth and fact, I personally find it hard to accept the view that the SU should remain apolitical here and how one might disagree with the points made.”

Toby Cray is a second-year journalism student. You can find him on Twitter here

Find Toby’s satirical work here

Image taken by Yena Kwon

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