Tents at universities symbolise a fault line between pro-Palestine and Jewish students

Opposite the student union at the University of Leeds, a growing number of tents on the lawn speak to a fault line opening up not just on campus, but in wider society.

Some of the tents are covered in Palestinian flags, while the entrance is plastered with a piece of cardboard spelling out the group's demands.

Among those requests, student protesters are calling for their university to sever ties with Israeli universities, while ending their connections to BAE systems, an arms manufacturer who are supplying the country's forces.

As students flit around the camp, Nico, a music student in his second year explains their actions and intentions, telling me the movement is "overwhelmingly peaceful".

"I can't speak for everyone, but we are a very diverse group of people and we all have our own experience with different kinds of oppression.

"I think Palestine is an issue a lot of us care about because it resonates with a lot of us, and it's just not within our student movement."

Nico is joined by Issy, an English and Classics student who says the protest, which sees around 20 to 30 people a night camp out, is meant to be open to all.

"To students who may feel intimidated by the space that we've created. I would remind them that we are a welcoming space. We are an educational space. We want to bring people into the fold and make the community here as inclusive as we possibly can," she says.

Jewish students want to make their voices heard

Later in the afternoon, a few paces across the road came a reminder that the middle ground is hard to find for many campuses across the country.

Joel, a Jewish student wearing a kippah arrives draped in the Israeli flag. He says because of increasing instances of antisemitism he has experienced on campus and in the city, he wants to make his voice heard.

He says that in recent months he had his flat vandalised when his details were shared online and also alleges he has heard antisemitic chants and tropes on campus.

When I ask whether he's tried to begin a dialogue with the group camped across the road, he says it's been a struggle.

"Every time I or my friends attempt to have an open dialogue with them, a group of them come and pull themselves away," he says. "Every time they are not able to answer your question they just walk away."

Joel's sentiments are also shared by Emma Levy, president of Leeds University's Jewish Society, who months ago said she had hoped to open a dialogue on campus in her position as the head of a student society.

Now sat in the sun with the camp behind her, she feels the answer now has to come from those in power both at universities and in government.

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"It's really difficult, because we tried to set up these dialogue groups. And every single time we do something, it's shut down. I'm hoping that when the war calms down, it will calm down on campus as well, because there's always a direct correlation," she said.

"I would say [to those in power] take control. Vice chancellors at universities have a responsibility to look after all students."

In response to the concerns raised by both Jewish students and pro-Palestine protesters, a University of Leeds spokesperson referred us to a statement from Universities UK (UUK), who are representing the higher education sector.

UUK's chief executive, Vivienne Stern said: "Universities have taken the rise in antisemitism on campuses since October 7 very seriously and will continue to work hard to ensure the safety of Jewish staff and students.

"The current conflict has raised tensions across many communities and we have been clear there is no place for intolerance on our campuses.

"In line with the sector's clear commitment to freedom of speech, it is important that universities allow and support students and staff to debate and discuss this crisis, and the challenging issues it raises, but within the law, and with respect and tolerance."