Leeds Uni investigates online event featuring controversial Palestinian plane hijacker

The event took place despite efforts from the uni, the SU and Zoom to censor it

The University of Leeds has launched an investigation after a controversial online event took place despite both the uni and Zoom banning it.

The event in question was an online webinar, just one part of a wider day of action organised by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel which featured ten universities including The University of Leeds.

The day of action included messages from Jewish speakers, South African liberation strugglers, political prisoners and Palestinians.

One of those Palestinians was Leila Khaled, a liberation fighter who hijacked a plane in 1969 before undergoing plastic surgery so she could do it again.

Leila Khaled

While some have branded Khaled a “terrorist”, others, such as Katherine Viner of The Guardian, have described her as “the symbol of Palestinian resistance and female power.”

During the webinar, Khaled said: “When we speak about terrorism, we speak in terms of occupation [and] apartheid. In Palestine there is occupation and apartheid…This is terrorism.

“We have used all means of struggle and we are still determined to continue using all means of struggle including armed struggle.

“Whoever would tell us that this is not your right, I will tell them to go back to history.

“The international community recognise that people under oppression have the right to resist.”

After the video was shown, President of University of Leeds Palestine Solidarity Group, Adam Saeed, said: “I think we can all be inspired by this.”

Adam Saeed

Saeed continued: “Everything that she said about international law is true, it doesn’t mean that anyone in this meeting endorses or encourages anyone to take arms, what it means is that under international law people are entitled to resist occupation in any means they see fit.

“I think it’s really important to have these voices heard and for this approach to be respected.”

Zoom attempted to censor the event by shutting down Saeed’s personal account, however the event still took place on Facebook and can be viewed in full here.

Speaking about the attempted censorship of the event, Adam Saeed told The Leeds Tab: “The reality is that our only crime is that we are speaking out against the marginalisation of Palestinian voices, the voices of their supporters and by extension, their narration of their plight and struggle.

“We should not be surprised by this behaviour on the part of companies such as Zoom or Facebook. It is unfortunate, however, to see the institutions that are meant to represent us and protect us, try very hard to silence us as well.”

Members of the Jewish community have been angered by the event.

In a combined statement, The Union of Jewish Students and Leeds J-Soc said: “UJS and Leeds Jewish Society (J-Soc) are extremely disturbed and shocked that an event which included an address from terrorist, Leila Khaled, went ahead and was originally organised by the Palestinian Solidarity Group Society at the University of Leeds and Apartheid off Campus.”

“This event went ahead despite it being shut down by Zoom, on the basis that they would have been providing a platform for a terrorist.

“This event also included academics and students at the University, all being complicit in sharing this platform and enabling antisemitism.”

“It is imperative that Jewish students are able to access academic spaces, both virtual and physical, free of hate and prejudice.

“We trust that the University and the Students’ Union will take appropriate action.”

A spokesperson for both The University of Leeds and Leeds University Union (LUU) said: “The student union only became aware of this online event the day before it was due to take place.

“Organisers had not followed the required protocol and had not given sufficient notice – specifically about the existence of an external speaker ­– so permission for the event was denied.

“We were disappointed that the event organisers chose to proceed without our permission. We are investigating this matter further.”

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