Police treating vandalism of Jewish Society building as a hate crime
Police are appealing for witnesses after “Free Palestine” graffiti was discovered on a Jewish Society building on campus.
In a statement, the Union of Jewish Students said it was “heartbroken and angry” at the vandalism of Hillel House which it says “has stood as a place of safety and community for Jewish students in Leeds” for nearly 70 years.
The graffiti, which was reported to police early on Friday morning, is being treated as a hate crime.
Inspector Richard Armstead of West Yorkshire Police said: “I know that this incident will cause concern for university students and members of the wider Jewish community, and I want to reassure them that this kind of hate will not be tolerated.”
A spokesperson for the University of Leeds said: “We are deeply saddened that our Jewish community has been targeted by this criminal act.
“The University takes incidents of this nature extremely seriously and the safety and welfare of our students and staff is our number one priority. We recognise that students and staff across our community have been deeply affected by the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza, and will continue to provide support across our campus.”
They say they are working with the police and the owners of Hillel House as they investigate the incident and have helped to swiftly clean and repaint the property.
The Union of Jewish Students claim that a retired University of Leeds professor had shared the location of the building online before the graffiti appeared.
On this, a spokesperson for the University said: “We are aware of social media comments made by a retired member of our staff. We are currently investigating whether they breach any of the University’s policies or procedures, and if necessary, will take appropriate action.”
West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin said the incident was “deeply concerning.”
“The communities of West Yorkshire remain united against all forms of violence, anti-Semitism, and racism in any manifestation. Hate has no place in West Yorkshire.”
Alex Sobel, the MP for Leeds North West, said he is “heartbroken at the horrendous loss of life in Gaza and the need for a ceasefire and humanitarian aid” but said the vandalism and the targeting of Jewish students was unacceptable.