University distances itself from comments made by chaplain
A row has broken out after the University of Leeds Jewish Chaplain posted videos about the Israel and Palestine crisis on social media.
Zecharia Deutsch, an Israeli citizen, has taken leave from his role in Leeds to serve as a reservist in the Israeli Defence Force.
In the videos, which were sent to a chaplaincy WhatsApp group for Jewish students in Leeds, Deutsch says ‘If you know the real story of what has been going on here in Israel over the last thousands of years […] no one can deny that Israel is dealing with this war with the utmost morality and good ethics.”
He added “What Israel is trying to do is destroy the evil… whilst also trying to deal with the civilians of Gaza in the best way possible”.
Last month, Hamas launched an unprecedented assault on Israel which killed approximately 1,200 people and saw over 200 women, men and children being taken hostage.
In response to the violence, Israel has carried out an unparalleled air strikebombardment on Gaza and launched a ground offensive. According to the Hamas-run health ministry, more than 11,000 people, many civilians, have been killed in Gaza since the crisis began.
The IDF has so far drafted 300,000 reservists to boost its standing force.
The University of Leeds’ Chaplaincy service is in place for all students and staff’s well-being, offering pastoral and spiritual support for those practising any faith.
The actions of Chaplain Zecharia, however, have left some students at the university feeling worried and concerned for their safety.
A University of Leeds spokesperson said: “Jewish Chaplains are employed and assigned by independent charity the University Jewish Chaplaincy (UIC) to provide services to students at universities across the UK, including the Yorkshire region.
“We understand that one of the chaplains, who is an Israeli citizen, has been called up as a reservist and has therefore taken a formal leave of absence from his role.
“Leeds University chaplaincy services will continue to provide support to students of all faiths and none, alongside our student support and welfare teams across the University and LUU.
“The University has been made aware of comments which we understand were made in a personal capacity and should not be interpreted as the position of the institution.”
In a statement released by the Palestine Solidarity Group, Leeds Islamic Society and Leeds Ahlulbayt Islamic Society, the student groups expressed concern and disappointment.
The statement went on to question the University by asking what they will do to ensure the protection of all students in a safe environment for everyone in the chaplaincy and have demanded his immediate removal and a commitment that “anyone actively associated with the IDF will not be allowed to teach and work on campus.”
Chaplain Zecharia Deutsch did not immediately respond to a request for comment.