Turning a UK university into a Yeshiva

Zionist bullies Leeds University

A few days ago I learnt about Bonsoir. It is a website maintained by a young Palestinian postgraduate student at Leeds University. The site is a must see; it is an online Palestinian film library, a sort of “Palestinian YouTube”. The person who created the site is Akram Awad, who has gathered in a section called Palorama an impressive collection of live audiovisual materials about Palestine and the Middle East, and documents that present the ever-growing Zionist crime in sound and movement. I have also learnt that he has occasionally collaborated on initiatives with Umkahlil, Peacepalestine and Annie’s Letters and is active in a very humble way, not seeming to be one who craves attention, but who cares about what he is doing.

Three days ago I wrote to Mr Awad to tell him how impressed I was with his site. Last night he wrote back. Although he has not drawn attention to his case, I have learnt that the young exiled Palestinian student is under fire. The Zionist lobby in Britain has utilized its heavy cannons against him and especially against his message.
Just like in North America, where external funds help Zionist lobbies to dictate the academic discourse, Leeds University, a respected UK academic institution, is coming now under similar very heavy pressure.

I learnt form the Yorkshire Post today that “Marilyn Stowe, an expert in divorce law and member of the legal advisory group to the Law Commission, said she could no longer offer a proposed five-figure sum after learning [that] a postgraduate student, who also works for the university, was running a website containing anti-Semitic material”.

Yet, Mr Awad clearly states on his site and in the UK press that he is an anti-Zionist, not an anti-Semite. He should not have even gone through the trouble, because it is apparent that the site is dedicated to disseminiating information on Palestine and the people of Palestine. He does not criticize Jews as an ethnic or racial group, but any mention of Jews is connected in a concrete way to the political actions of Israel and is solely concerned with Zionism as an ideology and in practice. Moreover, Mr Awad’s site contains some original articles, but much of it is set as an online archive. It is a collection of films that express a wide variety of ideas and expression, assuming that in a free world people are entitled to listen to other views and can make up their own minds.

Mrs Stowe said, I have enormous concerns that Leeds University has been publicly linked with a website which is publishing anti-Semitic material and with the greatest regret I cannot be associated with Leeds University until this matter is resolved. I expect they will now take steps to deal with this situation and not be perceived as pursuing a policy hostile to a particular group of students.

Mrs Stowe is obviously entitled to decide what she wants to do with her money. Yet, a quick search reveals that it is not Leeds University that hosts Mr Awad’s site. It is actually hosted by an American firm. It would seem that Mrs Stowe is misinformed, misinforming or even both. However, it is rather obvious that Mrs Stowe sets the conditions of her support for the university by raising a clear demand for conformity of thoughts. In broad daylight, Mrs Stowe offers economic contributions to Leeds University on condition that this academic institution operate as a Yeshiva, that is, an institution specializing solely in Torah studies and Talmud in particular.

May I remind Mrs Stowe that the word university is derived from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium (community of masters and scholars). Mr Awad’s website is exactly what universitas stands for. It provides the world community with direct access to Palestinian discourse. It makes knowledge available. It is there to share the notion of Zionist brutality with every internet user on this planet. Mrs Stowe is rather unhappy with this. She somehow prefers to silence the opponents of Israel. She prefers restricting discourse. Mrs Stowe, herself a graduate from Leeds University, may have forgotten what academic freedom is all about. But far more worrying, being a lawyer she is actually acting against freedom of speech.

May I remind Mrs Stowe that it is openness that has made the West into something we can occasionally take pride in. If Mrs Stowe does believe in the true notion of universitas rather than in the silencing dynamic of the Yeshiva, she should regret her choice to withdraw funding and rush back to support a university that is lucky enough to have Akram Awad among its students.

However, Mrs Stowe’s behaviour is just another red light warning for the UK academic world. Seemingly, Zionist lobbies are there to exploit the diminishing governmental financial support for higher education.

Zionist lobbies will do whatever they can to interfere with academic freedom. Zionists know that “freedom of thought” and ethical awareness are the gravest threats to Israeli politics and the Zio-centric discourse. Beware!

Gilad Atzmon, a former Israeli soldier now a writer and an award winning Jazz musician resident in London, where he lives in virtual exile