MP criticises ‘week of hate’ at University of Leeds which compared Israel to apartheid South Africa

Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton.
Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton.
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An MP has criticised a ‘week of hate’ at the University of Leeds which compared Israel and its treatment of Palestinians to apartheid South Africa.

Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton said he was ‘appalled’ that Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) held events at the university last week and has written to Universities Minister Chris Skidmore to ask him to ensure any instances of anti-semitism 'are dealt with swiftly by the relevant authorities'.

The University of Leeds.

The University of Leeds.

According to its website, the IAW 'is an international series of events that seeks to raise awareness about Israel’s apartheid regime over the Palestinian people and build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.'

Apartheid in South Africa was a system of institutionalised racial segregation that existed from 1948 until the early 1990s.

Mr Hamilton, a shadow Foreign Office Minister, said: “To link South African Apartheid to the creation of the state of Israel is outrageous and undermines both the struggle of the Jewish people as well as the possibility of a two-state solution.”

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According to the IAW website: “Israel has committed a broad range of such inhumane acts of apartheid since 1948, including: Forcible transfer of populations...forced exile and preventing Palestinians from returning to their homes and lands, revoking residency rights and the expropriation of Palestinian land for the benefit of Israel’s Jewish population; persecution of Palestinians...and murder, torture, unlawful imprisonment and other severe deprivation of physical liberty.”

One of the week’s first events was a talk by Dr Karen Abi-Ezzi, of the University of Bradford, who spoke about “the very basis of the apartheid system in Israel, focusing on legal definitions and international law rather than comparing it with the apartheid regime in South Africa.”

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Mr Hamilton said on Twitter: “I am appalled that IAW has several events running at the University of Leeds this month.

“Leeds University must fully investigate any allegations of antisemitism at these events and I urge anybody that sees antisemitism to report it. Supporting a Palestinian state should not go hand in hand with this week of hate.

“The two-state solution can never exist while this week continues to fuel the divisions between two communities. Whether Israeli, Palestinian, Muslim or Jew, we should all work together to protect everyone’s freedoms and look to establish a more peaceful world.”

A university spokesman said it was not currently aware of any complaints or allegations of antisemitism resulting from the week’s events, adding: “Israeli Apartheid Week is a national campaign organised across numerous universities.”

"At Leeds there have been a range of student-led activities representing different perspectives.

“The University has a legal requirement to enable freedom of speech within the law, and as a university encourages free debate.”