Student union apologises after controversial ‘Solidarity with Palestine’ post

Palestine flag

The University of Hertfordshire's 'Solidarity with Palestine' post has come in for criticism from Jewish students. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images/Ian West

The University of Hertfordshire Student Union has apologised after a social media post in support of Palestine and the use of resources - some deemed anti-Semitic - caused anger among Jewish students. 

On Friday, June 4, in a now deleted tweet, the student union posted ‘Solidarity with Palestine’ - while they uploaded a number of resources to their ‘Supporting Students Affected by Conflict’ from Al Jazeera and Palestine-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement.

A UHSU spokeswoman has since said they should have demonstrated better balance  and have apologised for any offence or distress caused. 

In response to the original tweet, the University of Hertfordshire’s Conservative Society said: “This is completely inappropriate. A student union should not take sides on sensitive political issues, nor dismiss the interests and concerns of Jewish and pro-Israel students.”

Replying to the Conservative society’s tweet, new Welwyn Hatfield mayor Peter Hebden added: “Interesting take by @UniofHerts students' union. Jewish students upset by recent events are offered a link to Al Jazeera and a BDS website for support. Couldn't make it up.”

The controversy comes after 11 days of intense fighting in the region - including clashes at the holy site of East Jerusalem - that saw more than 240 people killed in Gaza and 13 in Israel, before an Egyptian-brokered truce halted the violence. 

Speaking to the Welwyn Hatfield Times, Gavriel Solomans - chair of the Uni of Herts Conservative Society - spoke of his shock and concern at the student union’s action.

He said: “While individuals within our society hold a range of views on Israel and Palestine, we were all shocked that the student union, rather than taking a neutral stance on this sensitive issue, they decided to be explicitly partisan and take one side, excluding and showing a complete disregard for any student who disagrees with their anti-Israel political agenda."

Israel flag

13 Israelis were killed during the 11-day conflict last month. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images/Niall Carson

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“They only referred to Gazan victims of the conflict with no mention of the many Israelis that have tragically been injured or lost their lives, and the resources they linked ranged from inaccurate and highly biased to explicitly anti-Semitic. 

“This particularly shocked me since I myself am Jewish and, like many other Jews around the world, personally experienced a spike of nasty anti-Semitic incidents during the conflict between Israel and Hamas - partly as the result of the substantial amount of misinformation and racism being spread on social media.

Gavriel Solomons

Gavriel Solomons. - Credit: Conservative Society

“That our own student union would be complicit in the same actions that resulted in myself and other Jews being abused is chilling. While I am here speaking as chair of the Conservative Society, I know that Jewish students at Herts have been universally shocked and upset by the student union’s actions. 

“Jewish students have contacted the Student Union and look forward to working constructively with them to ensure this does not occur again and that Jews feel safe and listened to on campus.”

The University of Herts

The University of Hertfordshire's student union has apologised for the post. - Credit: Archant

In response, a spokeswoman for the student union told the Welwyn Hatfield Times: “The University of Hertfordshire Student Union exists to represent and support all students at the University of Hertfordshire. 

“The student union does not take a political stance in any conflict. It was not our intention to do so on this issue, but to show support for students affected.  

“We have recognised that the imagery and some of the resources we used should have demonstrated better balance and we are sorry for any offence or distress we have caused to our community.  

“Our focus is on supporting anybody in our community affected by the ongoing conflict, and our sympathies are with all of those impacted in the Middle East and throughout the world.  

“We have listened to feedback and have also reviewed and updated the 'Supporting Students Affected by Conflict’ page on our website, to provide a balanced set of sources of support that our students can access if they are affected by current events. These include a range of wellbeing and mental health services, chaplaincy and faith services, and specific support for international students. 

“We are proud of our diverse community, and we champion respect and free speech, stand against discrimination of all kinds, and remain committed to an inclusive environment for all students and staff.” 

Uni of Herts students affected by conflict can visit for support.