No issue is more misreported in the British media than the Israel-Palestine conflict. In this article, James Dickins, Professor Emeritus of Arabic at the University of Leeds, reflects on an incident in 2020, in which he was subject to misreporting, and the wider context. All the information given in this article, apart from Professor Dickins’ statement of his own opinions and decisions, is already in the public domain.

Lying MapWe will not be silenced: setting the record straight

On Oct. 23, 2020, I spoke at an online event entitled ‘We will not be silenced’, following the banning by Zoom of an online lecture entitled Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice and Resistance, sponsored by San Francisco State University on Sept. 23, 2020: The event was one of a number in America and Britain, specifically scheduled for Oct. 23, 2020 with a purpose of protesting against the banning of the original event and the ongoing assault on the right to express support for Palestinian rights. It was organised by Leeds University student and third-generation Palestinian refugee, Adam Abdalla:

Adam had originally intended the event to come under the aegis of Leeds University Palestine Solidarity Group, of which he was Chair. However, Leeds University Union (the students’ union) proved unable to put through the paperwork in time for the event to take place on Oct. 23, 2020. Adam, accordingly, made the event independent of the University, with the non-University group Apartheid Off Campus hosting it, together with the Leeds Palestine Solidarity Campaign (also a non-University group):

The event included a short recording which Palestinian, Leila Khaled, made a number of years previously, principally in Indonesia, in which she spoke about the struggle of the Palestinians to restore their rights. The recording lasts just over 4 minutes, out of a total running time of 1 hour 3 minutes for the Leeds We will not be silenced event. In 1969 and 1970, Leila Khaled had been involved in two plane hijackings, neither of which had led to any casualties, apart from the hijackers. Khaled has always maintained that the intention of the hijackers was specially not to harm people. “We had instructions not to harm passengers,” said Khaled. “Very strict instructions not to hurt anyone, and to deal with the pilot and the crew with politeness—not to frighten them even”: Khaled spent some months in prison in England having been sentenced for the hijacking, and was released as a result of a prisoner swap. She subsequently visited Britain on a number of occasions, speaking at various events. In 2001, Khaled was interviewed in the House of Commons Tea Room by then Guardian journalist (now Guardian Editor-in-Chief), Katherine Viner, who described her as “the symbol of Palestinian resistance and female power”:

On Oct. 27, 2020, an article appeared in the Daily Telegraph about the We Will Not Be Silenced event: The article claimed that the title of the event was “We will not be silenced with Leila Khaled”, rather than giving it its correct title, “We will not be silenced”:;; Although the event has, in various places been referred to as “We will not be silenced with Leila Khaled” (e.g. and even as “We will not be silent with Leila Khalid” (, this was not its actual title. In fact, a title “We would not be silenced with Leila Khaled” would be absurd, suggesting that Leila Khaled had herself been silenced – hardly the case.

The article correctly stated that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), of which Leila Khaled is a member, “is now designated a terrorist organisation under US law”, but failed to mention that the PFLP is not designated a terrorist organisation under British law (the law of my country), although the similarly named Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) is. As the British Government policy paper (updated Nov. 26, 2021) on Proscribed terrorist groups or organisations puts it, the latter “is separate from the similarly named Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)”:–2/proscribed-terrorist-groups-or-organisations-accessible-version. I consulted this document before agreeing to take part in the talk. If the PFLP had been designated a terrorist organisation by the British government, I would not have taken part.

Leeds University Jewish Society (JSoc) and the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) were quoted in the article as saying, “It is imperative that Jewish students are able to access academic spaces, both virtual and physical, free of hate and prejudice”. As an event organised by non-University groups, this was not an ‘academic space’. Neither was any hate or prejudice expressed during the event. Leeds University Jewish Society is affiliated to the Union of Jewish Students, which as of 2017 was partially funded by the Israeli government (via the Israeli Embassy): The objects of the Union of Jewish Students include “inspiring Jewish students to make an enduring commitment to […] Israel”:;

On May 3, 2019, Leeds University JSoc invited the head of Herut in Britain to a dinner at Leeds University: Herut is an organisation which was denounced by 26 leading Jewish figures including Albert Einstein and Hannah Arendt in a letter to the New York Times in 1948 as “a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to Nazi and Fascist parties.” “Objection to withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and to negotiations with Arab states formed the party’s main platform in the first Knesset election. The party vigorously opposed the ceasefire agreements with the Arab states until the annexation of Gaza Strip and the West Bank, both before and after the election. Herut differentiated itself by refusing to recognise the legitimacy of the Kingdom of Jordan after the armistice, and frequently used the slogan “To the banks of the Jordan River” in claiming Israel’s right to the whole of Eretz Israel/Palestine”: What Herut was, in reality, advocating was the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians not only from within the so-called Green Line (‘pre-1967 Israel’) area but from the entirety of Palestine. Herut was absorbed into Netanyahu’s Likud bloc in 1988. However, in 2018, it was reformed as a UK organisation: The Head of Herut UK, Zalmi Ulsmdorfer, has called Rabbi Meir Kahane, leader of the Kach organisation (recognised even by the Israeli state as a terrorist group) a ‘visionary’:

On Feb. 28, 2020, Adam Abdalla was subject to false antisemitism accusations by Leeds JSoc. See Solidarity with Adam Abdalla: Adam launched a formal complaint with LUU. Months later, LUU finally acted, sanctioning the JSoc members who made the false allegations. See Limiting free speech (on Israel) and Controlling Virtual Spaces:

I found the entire incident surrounding the We Will Not Be Silenced event extremely distressing, and have only now felt emotionally able to write about it. I have only done so because I thought it essential to bring key facts into the public domain, correcting inaccuracies in the Daily Telegraph report (there are many other important issues relating to this case which I am not at liberty to disclose).

The past is, as they say, water under the bridge. I do, however, make a plea to universities across the UK, when incidents like this happen in the future: before making any statement to the press, consult first with the accused.

This is, I believe, a duty of care owed by universities to the accused, whether they be a member a staff member or a student. Even more importantly, the information provided by the accused may be sufficient, in itself, to refute the allegations made against them, thereby allowing the university to avoid any negative publicity which would otherwise attach to the incident.


The current catastrophic situation in Israel-Palestine

The following part of this article was written in early 2023, before Israel invaded Gaza on Oct. 13, 2023. The The sustained Israeli attacks on Gaza are, according to the South African legal submission to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) “genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group”. The ICJ has ruled that at least some of South Africa’s claims that Israel is violating the Genocide Convention are plausible, and is taking its investigation forward into whether Israel is in fact committing genocide.

I am puzzled when Israel partisans (which we may or may not regard Leeds JSoc and the UJS to be) decry terrorism. Terrorism was a crucial element in Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948, as detailed by Israeli historians Benny Morris (The birth of the Palestinian refugee problem) and Ilan Pappe (The ethnic cleansing of Palestine). Israeli politicians Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir were both leaders of terrorist organisations. During the 1950s Begin was banned from entering the United Kingdom, with British government documents describing him as the “former leader of the notorious terrorist organisation Irgun”: Shamir was a leader of the notorious Lehi group (, which even the provisional Israeli government in 1949 declared a terrorist organisation:

The best-known terrorist attack by the Irgun and Lehi was that of Deir Yassin. “The Deir Yassin massacre took place on April 9, 1948, when around 130 fighters from the Zionist paramilitary groups Irgun and Lehi killed at least 107 Palestinian Arabs, including women and children, in Deir Yassin, a village of roughly 600 people near Jerusalem, despite having earlier agreed to a peace pact”; “A number of prisoners were executed, some after being paraded in West Jerusalem, where they were jeered, spat at, stoned, and eventually executed. In addition to the killing and widespread looting, there may have been cases of mutilation and rape”; The massacre was pivotal in the 1948 ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians: “News of the killings sparked terror among Palestinians across the country, frightening them to flee their homes in the face of Jewish troop advances”: The Israeli people subsequently saw fit to elect both Begin and Shamir to lead them as their prime ministers.

Israel’s leading human rights organisation, B’Tselem reports that there are now four settler attacks per day on Palestinians, many of these coordinated with the Israeli army: Most are ‘economic’, designed to destroy Palestinians’ sources of livelihood: they include destruction of crops and olive trees, as well as damage to and destruction of Palestinian homes and other property. Others are direct acts of violence against Palestinian civilians.

On Sept. 23, 2022, for example, a group of 5 settlers attacked Hafez Hurani, in Masefer Yatta in the West Bank, where Israel is engaged in a specific campaign of ethnic cleansing: The settlers were carrying guns and metal pipes, which they used to hit Hurani, breaking both his arms. The Israeli army then arrested Hurani: On Dec. 17, 2022, a settler car-driver apparently deliberately ran over and killed two Palestinians in the West Bank: There are no reports that the settler was arrested. If these two attacks had been committed by Palestinians against Israelis, they would, I believe, have been called terrorism. These are not isolated events. In fact, 2022 was the worst year on record for settler violence. 2023 is expected to be worse:

In December 2022, the new Israeli government appointed as its national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. “Ben-Gvir has faced charges of hate speech against Arabs and was known to have a portrait in his living room of Israeli-American terrorist Baruch Goldstein, who massacred 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers and wounded 125 others in Hebron, in the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre”; “He was also previously convicted of supporting a terrorist group known as Kach, which espoused Kahanism, an extremist religious Zionist ideology”; “He first joined a right-wing youth movement affiliated with Moledet, a party which advocated transferring Arabs out of Israel, and then joined the youth movement of the even more radical Kach and Kahane Chai party, which was eventually designated as a terrorist organization and outlawed by the Israeli government”; “As a lawyer, Ben-Gvir has represented a series of far-right Jewish activists suspected of terrorism and hate crimes. Notable clients include Benzi Gopstein and two teenagers charged in the Duma arson attack. Haaretz described Ben-Gvir as the “go-to man” for Jewish extremists facing legal trouble, and reported that his client list “reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of suspects in Jewish terror cases and hate crimes in Israel””:

Israel is an apartheid state, in the considered legal opinion of: the United Nations:, Amnesty International:, Human Rights Watch:, Harvard Law School:, B’Tselem (Israel’s largest human rights organisation):, Yesh Din (leading Israeli legal rights organisation):, former Israeli Attorney General, Michael Benyair:, former Israeli Deputy Attorney General, Yehudit Karp:, and may other qualified groups and individuals:

What this means is not that Israel is a bit like apartheid South Africa, but, rather, that Israel meets the legal criteria of an apartheid state as established by the United Nations: “Whether they live in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, or Israel itself, Palestinians are treated as an inferior racial group and systematically deprived of their rights. We found that Israel’s cruel policies of segregation, dispossession and exclusion across all territories under its control clearly amount to apartheid”, Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General (2022): The United Nations Apartheid Convention states that “apartheid is a crime against humanity” and that “inhuman acts resulting from the policies and practices of apartheid and similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination” are international crimes (art. 1)”:,1).

The current situation in Israel and the occupied territories (the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza) is as follows:

Pre-1967 Israel: Palestinian Israelis are second-class citizens, with inferior (and segregated) school education, housing and social services, receiving vastly less than the money given by Jewish Israelis in each of these areas:; Palestinian Israelis are forbidden to live in hundreds of towns in Israel: Israel is currently trying to force the 80,000 Palestinian Israelis in the Negev off their land and into ‘development towns’, where there are virtually no services, to make way for Israeli settlers:

Gaza: Home to c. 2,000,000 Palestinians, Gaza is an “open air prison camp” (former Prime Minister, David Cameron) which has been under Israeli siege since 2006. Most Gazans are unemployed, and over 50 percent live below the poverty line: 97% of Gaza’s water is unfit to drink: In 2012, the UN said Gaza would be unliveable by 2020. In 2017, Save the Children declared that Gaza was already unliveable:

East Jerusalem: Home to 400,000 Palestinians, who lack citizen rights, even though Israel claims sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem. Israel discriminates massively against East Jerusalem Palestinians in education, social welfare, etc: Israel is progressively forcing Palestinians out of East Jerusalem, by destroying their homes, or allowing settlers to expel them from their homes and take over their property: Israel has completely surrounded East Jerusalem with illegal Jews-only settlements, with over 220,000 inhabitants.

Remainder of West Bank: Through home demolitions and settler and army attacks on people, property and agriculture (olive trees, wheat crops, etc.), Israel is progressively forcing Palestinians out of Area C (60 percent of the West Bank), and into areas A and B (the green areas on the map at the start of this article) – c. 105 disconnected, desiccated fragments of land. Israel has planted over 456,000 settlers in the West Bank in Jews-only settlements. While settlers each have access to 280 litres per day of water, Palestinians have access to only 73 litres per day (below the 100 litres UN recommended minimum) and in areas where Israel is working to expel the Palestinians, the entire water supply is often cut off. Under international law all the Israeli settlements are illegal, and the entire settlement project constitutes a war crime:

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict could – and should – have been resolved in the early 1990s, on the basis of the Oslo Agreement. The outlines of the deal seemed plain: Israel would retain the 78 percent of historic Palestine which it had occupied from 1948 to 1967, including West Jerusalem, which would become its internationally recognised capital. Palestine would get the remaining 22 percent, with East Jerusalem as its capital, rapid transport links connecting Gaza and the West Bank. A special status would be given to the then c. 100,000 Israelis in the settlements – illegal under international law – on the West Bank. An arrangement would be made to bring back some of the c. 1 million Palestinians (plus descendants) illegally expelled by Israel in 1948, 1967 and since. This is the position supported by Leila Khaled: “She demands the right to self-determination, a state with Jerusalem as its capital, the right to return for refugees and the withdrawal of Israel from all the land it has occupied since 1967”:

The Americans, however, foolishly allowed the agreement to be derailed by Israeli leaders, most notably the current Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who has boasted that he deliberately destroyed the Oslo peace process:

The prospect which faces us now is not the resolution of the conflict by diplomatic means, but, I fear, the slow, relentless degradation, dispossession and ultimately expulsion of many, if not most, of those Palestinians who still remain in their historic homeland (the minority) – in a rather more brutal version of the project first envisaged by Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism. In 1895, Herzl wrote in his diary: “We must expropriate gently the private property on the state assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population [i.e. the Palestinians] across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it employment in our country. The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly”:

The current Israeli government, in my opinion, hardly disguises its intention to expel the Palestinians from what remains of Palestine if possible. It has said that its main guiding principle is that “the Jewish people have an exclusive and indisputable right to all areas of the Land of Israel”: – i.e. the Palestinians have no right to live in their historic homeland. The Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has previously been brutally blunt about his approach to the Palestinians: “beat them up, not once but repeatedly, beat them up so it hurts so badly, until it’s unbearable”: The view that the entirety of the ‘Land of Israel’ (historic British-mandate Palestine) belongs only to Jews is echoed by the current Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, who in 2015 said, “This land is ours; all of it is ours”: