LEEDS OPEN LETTER

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University of Leeds Open Letter

Submitted by: University of Leeds Palestine Solidarity Group

We are a coalition of students, staff, alumni and student societies with serious concerns over our University’s partnership and extensive ties with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJ) and IDC Herzliya as well as its extensive investment in HSBC, Barclays, and Booking.com. We unequivocally condemn Israel’s violent oppression of Palestinians, and are gravely concerned at the fact that our University is actively complicit in this process. 

 

We demand that the university: 

 

  1. Issues a public statement expressing solidarity with Palestinians’ struggle for freedom and justice, condemning the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (particularly in East Jerusalem) and condemns the racist assaults against Palestinian students and academics resisting the violation of their human rights.
  2. Immediately ends the complicit partnership programmes, including Year Abroad programmes, currently held with Hebrew University of Jerusalem and IDC Herzliya.
  3. Refrains from partnering with Israeli universities and educational institutions until Israel complies with international law.
  4. Seeks partnerships and ties with Palestinian universities and educational institutions.
  5. Cuts all complicit investments with Israeli Apartheid, including HSBC, Barclays, and Booking.com. 
  6. Revises their Policy on Responsible Investment with the participation of nominated student and staff representatives, signs the Apartheid-Free Pledge, and engages with students to ensure accountability on these commitments.
  7. Affirms that the participation of students and staff in the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, the advocacy for Palestinian human rights and the criticism of Israel’s apartheid regime, including the criticism of Zionism as a racist ideology, does NOT constitute antisemitism.

Dear Prof. Simone Buitendijk, Mr Roger Gair and University Executive Group,

We hope this message finds you well. 

We are writing to you as a coalition of students, staff, alumni and student societies due to serious concerns over our University’s partnership and extensive ties with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJ) and IDC Herzliya as well as its extensive investment in HSBC, Barclays, and Booking.com. We find this deeply problematic as both of these institutions remain complicit in violations of international law and human rights conventions and as these companies have been found to profit from Israel’s Apartheid Regime. 

 

As it stands today, substantial parts of the Hebrew University are built on Palestinian land in East Jerusalem, which is designated as occupied land and thus are illegal settlements under international law. This constitutes a clear breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and is therefore a war crime. One such illegal settlement is the Student Village, which provides accommodation for Leeds students undertaking a Year Abroad at HUJ, which makes them inadvertent participants in the Israeli occupation. In addition, IDC Herzliya maintains extensive ties with the Israeli military and has hosted “counter-terrorism conferences” organised by right-wing organisations.

 

Israeli universities such as the HUJ and IDC Herzliya are a key part of the infrastructure of Israel’s apartheid regime. Through discriminatory admissions and links with the Israeli military, Israeli universities are an essential tool for reproducing the systems of oppression faced by Palestinians. For example, the HUJ is actively discriminating against Palestinians on the basis of their ethnicity, with the campus being utilised and militarised by the IDF. Additionally, the HUJ also houses the National Library of Israel on its campus which holds thousands of texts stolen during the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, that the Palestinian people today are denied access to. Such an act amounts to what is known as ‘culturcide’ – the attempt to deny a people’s collective existence through the erasure of their cultural legacy and heritage. This discrimination and militarisation demonstrates HUJ’s involvement in Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories and the discrimination of its people. 

 

By normalising and continuing its connection to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and IDC Herzliya, the University of Leeds is also complicit in the ongoing colonisation of Palestinian land and the human rights abuses faced by the Palestinian people, including the crime of Apartheid, which has been confirmed by the recent reports from  Human Rights Watch and B’tselem. By normalising relations with complicit institutions and sending students on YA programmes there, our University is making its own students unwittingly and directly complicit in war crimes and institutional racism by legitimising this apartheid regime. 

 

In addition to these institutional links, the University also invests in companies which not only break the University’s own Policy on Responsible Investment, but also profit from the ongoing colonisation of Palestinian land. According to the previously cited policy, all University investments must be made with consideration to ‘overseas operations’. The policy also mentions that the University would expect investment decisions and company engagement to take into account ‘policies towards human rights, the nature of any operations in the third world, impact on indigenous communities and observance of labour standards’. However, according to the findings made by PSC, the University invests a total of £1,450,804 in companies that, in diverging ways, are contributing to the oppression of the Palestinian people and the breaking of International law. These companies include HSBC (£1,096,401), Barclays (£193,862), and Booking.com (£160,541). 

 

These unethical investments are being made using the University’s endowment fund, in violation of its Policy on Responsible Investment. We are appalled that the fund is being utilised by the University to invest in companies that are complicit violations of international law and human rights abuses in Palestine. The University has a duty and obligation to safeguard the interests of all individuals that invest in, study and work at the University. Moreover, universities should seek to uphold a high standard of integrity within and outside of the institution, at a local, national and global scale.

 

The University has previously expressed support for initiatives advocating for decolonisation and racial justice; it must now turn its words into action. We firmly believe that our University cannot and should not sustain a relationship with any institution or invest in any company that contributes to and is complicit in human rights violations or war crimes. This is particularly true for an institution such as the University of Leeds, which is a member of the Russell Group and consistently ranks in the top 100 universities globally. If the University veritably strives to fulfil its legal and moral duties in building and maintaining an ethical and sustainable institution, then it must immediately fulfil the demands of this campaign: 

 

  1. Issue a public statement expressing solidarity with Palestinians’ struggle for freedom and justice, condemning the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (particularly in East Jerusalem) and condemn the racist assaults against Palestinian students and academics resisting the violation of their human rights.
  2. Immediately end the complicit partnership programmes, including Year Abroad programmes, currently held with Hebrew University of Jerusalem and IDC Herzliya.
  3. Refrain from partnering with Israeli universities and educational institutions until Israel complies with international law.
  4. Seek partnerships and ties with Palestinian universities and educational institutions.
  5. Cut all investments that are complicit with Israeli Apartheid and occupation in Palestine, including HSBC, Barclays, and Booking.com. 
  6. Revise their Policy on Responsible Investment with the participation of nominated student and staff representatives, sign the Apartheid-Free Pledge, and engage with students to ensure accountability on these commitments.
  7. Affirm that the participation of students and staff in the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, the advocacy for Palestinian human rights and the criticism of Israel’s apartheid regime, including the criticism of Zionism as a racist ideology, does NOT constitute antisemitism.
 

We demand that the university executive respond to this letter as soon as possible and that a meeting is arranged with representatives of the PSG committee, concerned student representatives and concerned faculty before 26th June 2021. The meeting will take place in order to discuss how the administration can meet the demands in the shortest possible time-frame and in the most satisfactory manner.

 

We are looking forward to your response,

University of Leeds Community

 

If you are a UoL associated society, union or network and want to support us, email us at leedspsg@gmail.com or dm us on Facebook or Instagram @leedspsg. We appreciate your support for the Palestinian struggle.

The following societies and organisations have signed the petition as of 15/06/2021:

Leeds University Palestine Solidarity Group

Leeds University Union Islamic Society

Leeds University Arabic Society

Leeds University Marxist Society

Leeds University Green Action Society

Leeds University Ahlul Bayt Society

Leeds University People and Planet

Leeds University Filipino Society

Leeds University Black Feminist Society

Leeds University Prison Reform

The University of Leeds Muslim Staff Network

Leeds UCU Committee

Leeds UCU Branch

Leeds University Iqbal Centre for Critical Muslim Studies

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The society has requested that only members and alumni of from the University off Leeds’ signatures will count, so please refrain from signing it if you are not an alumni, and please specify if you are an alumni in the organisation box. Otherwise use your university email account to fill the petition. You’re always welcome to sign other petitions if you do not qualify for this one.

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