Members of Leeds University Union’s Palestine Solidarity Group staged a silent protest on Wednesday to show their opposition to Yiftah Curiel, a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy in London, speaking at an event organised by LUU’s J-Soc and POLIS.
PSG members staged a sit-in protest at the event, ‘Yiftah Curiel – The Pathways to Peace in the Middle East’, gagging themselves with Israeli flags which according to PSG, ‘[depicted] the silencing of opposition’.
One member of the protest speaking on behalf of PSG told The Gryphon, “We felt that given that he is a representative of the Israeli state – a state which racially discriminates, which is an illegal occupier, and which commits crimes on the people it occupies – it wasn’t appropriate to welcome him on campus.”
Posting on the society’s official Facebook page earlier in the day, a member of PSG’s committee stated: “Our University should not be endorsing or giving a platform to a representative of an occupying force. ‘How can we sit back and allow this to be represented on campus, in our lecture theatres, in what is portrayed as a safe space for learning.”
Earlier in the day, POLIS, the departmental society for Politics and International Studies announced they were cancelling an event featuring Yiftah Curiel in discussion with Dr James Worrell on the Iranian nuclear deal.
In a statement posted from the society’s Facebook page, the society’s committee claimed they believed an open letter published by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, with signatories including academics in the School of Politics and International Studies, had forced Leeds University Union into cancelling the event, despite being told a cancellation was only advised by the Union due to a change to the event’s format.
Speaking to The Gryphon a spokesperson from POLIS said: “This has obviously been a heated topic for us all in the committee but we just want to say that it was a shame that POLIS members were denied the chance of listening to Mr Curiel speak, even from a strictly educational basis. We believe politics at Leeds should be about open and honest debate, and therefore this cancelation has really disappointed us.”
A Leeds University Union spokesperson said: “Yiftah Curiel visited campus on Wednesday to address an open student meeting, co hosted by J-Soc & POLIS. A second event involving the same speaker was unfortunately cancelled due to a late change in the speaker line-up. The Union will continue to work in partnership with both societies to ensure that their future events and activities are able to go ahead as planned.” J-Soc have been invited to comment by The Gryphon but at the time of printing are yet to reply. Any response will be added to the online edition of this article.
Image courtesy of Nick Raikes