This afternoon (Thursday 10th February 2022) a student protest disrupted a pro-Israel stall run by the Union of Jewish Students and Stand With Us – an “Israel education organisation”.
A member of the society said that the stall was part of anti-Semitism awareness week and its purpose was to raise awareness of, and educate people on, anti-Semitism.
The Union of Jewish Students’ stall was handing out pro-Israel literature, including a booklet titled “Israel 101” that spoke of “the soft war against Israel” and Israel’s “self-defence measures” against “terrorism”.
The Mancunion spoke to many students gathered around the stall, some of which felt that the materials being handed out were offensive. StandWithUS responded in a statement on their website, describing the protest as “an effort to prevent freedom of expression on campus.”
At approximately 3.30pm this afternoon pro-Palestine students disrupted the stall, chanting “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” and “Viva Viva Palestina”. They hung signs behind the stall, which was emblazoned with an Israeli flag, reading “Students support Palestine and “Zionism = Apartheid”. The students also graffitied the walls outside the SU with similar messages, writing “Free Palestine” and “Israel = Apartheid”.
Following the protest, the stall was shut down. It is unclear whether the stall’s winding down was due to the protests of pro-Palestinian or the protest just coincided with the stall’s pre-determined end time. This all comes in the wake of the University of Manchester Students Union’s recent announcement, following a motion which was passed at senate in January, which states that the SU is now “pro-Palestine” and officially recognised the Palestinian state. It is not clear yet how this may impact the Students’ Union’s policy, should future protests such as this take place.
Up until the protest, students from the stall were debating with pro-Palestinian students about the wider Israeli-Palestine conflict and its contested history. The debate was heated and lively but overall healthy. However, it still caused distress to some of those present as the President of UoM Friends of Palestine declined to be interviewed due to the emotional impact of the discourse.
Another student, who identified herself as being from Gaza, was also debating with a representative from Stand With Us over the conflict and its impact on the Palestinian people.
When contacted for comment, a spokesperson for the Union of Jewish Students said:
We were made aware of the situation yesterday at the University of Manchester during our stall, where our J-soc members were intimidated by protestors. We know a number of students reported feeling unsafe and concerned and we will be in touch with the university to discuss ways they can support their Jewish students. Every student should feel safe on campus regardless of their belief. We are here to support our members and if anyone was affected by this please reach out to the Jewish society, the Union of Jewish Students or any other organisation who are here to support.
When contacted for comment, a spokesperson for UoM Friends of Palestine told The Mancunion:
As a committee we were outraged by the University allowing a stall like “Stand With Us” to be have a place on University Grounds. The stall erected by the Jewish Society yesterday has given ground to an organisation like Stand With Us to promote their settler colonialist views and principles on to University grounds. And we demand the University to ask themselveswhether they would like to be remembered as apologists to an Apartheid occupation and its allies, or on the side of justice? Stand With Us is a racist Pro-Israeli organisation that promotes propaganda amongst University Students. They persist on denial of the Palestinian plight continues to normalise apartheid and the illegal occupation of Palestine, which we as Friends of Palestine firmly stand against. Their presence has led to discomfort and outrage amongst University Students, and it was our duty as the only representative body of Palestinians on campus to step in and protest against their stall. We did what we thought was appropriate in protesting against their stall, and as long as we’re on campus we’ll always protest against apartheid.
*Disclaimer*UoM Fop has not promoted graffiti nor vandalism at any point during the protest, and we condemn such acts.
StandWithUs has released a statement to their website addressing the events at the stall. They stated that, “as an independent educational charity StandWithUs UK is intent on ensuring that, for all of its programmes and activities, any and all individuals are welcome, regardless of race, religion, ethnic background, age, nationality, sex, gender political affiliation or socio-economic status. Our charity has explicit policies against Islamophobia and other types of bigotry.
StandWithUs UK has worked proudly and collaboratively, for many years, with Muslim, Christian, and Jewish students and community members who are dedicated to Israel education and combating antisemitism. We pride ourselves on growing and developing as an organisation focused on grassroots education and dialogue. Our programmes and activities are open to all who are willing to engage, learn and respect the rights of all people to freedom of speech and equality.”
The University of Manchester Students Union has declined to comment.
This is a breaking news story. Follow us @themancunion on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for more updates on this breaking news.