Leeds students stage walkout in protest of Israel’s bombardment of Rafah

Organisers said the march was about giving an ‘active space’ for students to show their solidarity with Palestine

Leeds students staged a walkout yesterday in protest of the Israel’s bombardment of Rafah, a Palestinian city in the south of the Gaza Strip.

Called by Leeds Socialist Worker Student Society and supported by Leeds University Amnesty International, Leeds Beckett Palestine Society and Leeds Palestine Solidarity Group, the march began at Parkinson Steps on Tuesday afternoon.

The march entered Leeds University student union

Moving off at around 1pm, it proceeded past Baines Wing and the Great Hall, up towards Henry Price. Demonstrators then turned down University Road, entering the student union for a lap of the concourse before returning back to the Parkinson building to end the rally.

Leeds students were asked to join the walkout via leaflets distributed around university campuses, which read: “The Israeli military has repeatedly bombed Rafah, the designated ‘safe zone’ where 1.5 million Palestinians have fled.”

Speaking to The Tab, Alex* a member of Leeds Socialist Work Student Society said that the walkouts were about showing solidarity with the Palestinian people and allowing students to voice their opinions.

“The walkouts are a way for students to show their solidarity with the Palestinians currently suffering genocide and occupation. They are to make sure that for as long as students care about standing up for the oppressed, against imperial interests and for human rights, there is an active space to do so.”

They added that the marches also aim to bring people together to effect positive change: “It is the physical coming together, standing, marching, and chanting that builds confidence and a mass student movement.

“We believe that only through having a mass student movement can we get the attention of the university and students union. We walk out because history has shown that when people are united, we achieve much more.”

A spokesperson for Leeds Beckett Palestine Society said: “The march shows that there are many students that care about what is happening to the Palestinian people and the brutal conditions that they are subjected to and say that enough is enough.

“We hold these walkouts to show that the universities are complicit in their actions of supporting Zionism by its research partnerships with Israeli universities that were formed during the genocide on Gaza and during the submissions of the South Africa versus Israel genocide case at the ICJ.

“The universities hold contracts with BAE Systems, contracts worth millions in a company that produces parts for the planes and drones that bomb the civilians of Gaza, where right now the death toll is over 30,000. The World Heath Organisation even stated that more than 100,000 Palestinians are either dead, presumed dead, missing or injured.”

A spokesperson for the University of Leeds said: “Leeds, in common with many other universities across the UK, enters into research partnerships with a wide range of industrial and commercial partners to advance knowledge and provide students with education and employment opportunities.

“All research arrangements with external companies are constructed fully in line with UK government legislation, including export control regulations, and subjected to rigorous internal research security, integrity and ethical procedures.”

A spokesperson for Leeds Beckett University said: “Leeds Beckett University does not have any formal partnership with any university in Israel, and is not in the process of instigating one.

“BAE previously funded research into hormone responses to different exercise programmes. That funding has now come to an end.”

A BAE Systems spokesperson said: “We’re horrified by the situation in Israel and Gaza and the devastating impact it’s having on civilians in the region and we hope it can be resolved as soon as possible. We respect everyone’s right to protest peacefully. We operate under the tightest regulation and comply fully with all applicable defence export controls, which are subject to ongoing assessment.”

The Israeli embassy in London has been approached for comment

Featured images via Leeds Socialist Worker Student Party, Leeds Palestine Solidarity Group and Leeds Beckett Palestine Society 

*Name has been changed for anonymity

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