Confusion over scrapped talk at Leeds University with Israeli speaker

An Israeli diplomat’s appearance at a Politics Society event at the University of Leeds has been cancelled in mysterious circumstances after pressure from Palestinian supporters on campus opposed the “well-funded” speaker.

Press Attaché Yiftah Curiel was due to speak at a Polis (Politics) Society debate on Wednesday afternoon about the nuclear deal with Iran, but hours before the talk was cancelled.

A spokesman for the University said: “Yiftah Curiel is addressing an open student meting this evening at the invitation of Leeds J-Soc (Jewish Society). The student society Polis had hoped that Mr Curiel would take part in a second, separate event – an open debate. The society ultimately cancelled the event because it was unable to secure speakers who could offer alternative viewpoints.”

The claims – that the Polis Society cancelled the event – were denied by the Society itself, which said the event was cancelled by the Student Union following a protest letter.

In it, a group of lecturers say: “The debate is a stitch-up: audience questions are all pre-vetted, and no corresponding invitation has been given to a similarly well-briefed (or well-funded) senior figure to propose the motion.”

Those signing the letter to the vice-chancellor included two lecturers from the University’s Politics Department and four academics from the University’s Department of Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies.

In a statement from the University’s Polis Society, committee members said: “We believe this has been cancelled unfairly due to pressures on the University from the PSC.”

They said that Leeds University Union cancelled the event “because of matters relating to paperwork and a lack of time,” adding: “This debate was of great interest to many students, who hold a wide variety of views as regards the Middle East, and would have been educationally beneficial.”

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