Walk Out for Palestine

Analysis / Interpretation / Press

Pro-Palestine Walkout Averted at Birmingham University

OCTOBER 15, 2023


A Jewish student at Birmingham University, assisted by UKLFI,  successfully averted a demonstration and walkout from lectures by a large group of students, in support of Palestine.  The walkout had been due to take place on Friday 13th October.  

The event was called “End the occupation of Gaza! Birmingham student walkout for Palestine” and appeared to be organised by Birmingham Communists, Socialist Appeal, the British Section of the International Marxist Tendency and Socialist.net. It urged people to  bring Banners, flags, speeches, newspapers and leaflets and called for workers to join in.  

With the help of UKLFI, the Jewish student wrote to the university’s vice chancellor about the walk out, pointing out that it was contrary to the university’s guidance and would negatively affect the many students who do not share their views, and would be upsetting, in particular for the many Jewish students.

She wrote:  “There can be no doubt that the walkout  and ensuing protest will include support for Hamas, a proscribed, illegal, terrorist organisation which has carried out acts of unimaginable horror. Please do not allow the University to be a conduit for this.” 

She asked the university to issue a statement to all students that this walkout must not happen and that boycotts are not acceptable, insofar as they impede on the learning of other students and place vulnerable groups of students (in this case Jewish students) in fear. 

The student also explained how deeply upset the Jews of the University of Birmingham were about the barbaric attacks on Israel, and that they were also very fearful for their safety on Campus.  

The University replied:  “We are aware of the planned event, the walkout, that is being advertised for tomorrow, Friday 13 October.  We have not given permission for this event to go ahead and we are urgently working with the Guild of Students to contact the organisers to stress that we do not want the event to go ahead on the University campus.   We have also spoken to local Police for advice on protests – and where and how a legitimate protest might become support for a proscribed organisation –  and we are very aware of that too.”

Regarding safety on campus, the head of the student’s University department was supportive, offering to meet the student personally and that the university was committed to student wellbeing and safety.

She was also told that the university had precautionary measures in place with its safety and security teams so as to ensure that in the event of any protest, demonstration or walkout going ahead that we can continue to ensure the safety of all students on campus, that there is no disruption to the business of teaching and learning. The University would also be alert to the potential for any activity that might be unlawful (such as support for a proscribed organisation).

Daniel Berke of UKLFI commented: “The University of Birmingham is to be commended for their swift and robust response. Jewish students should not be fearful on campus. The planned demonstration was to included non-students and, given the violence which has since been seen at a rally in London, this was a real risk and at the very least, a provocation at a time when Jewish students want to grieve for those who have been murdered in Israel”