Free Speech: King’s College Students Ban Ideas When They Ban Israel
Free speech is being banned on university campuses.
Brendan O’Neill writes:
So now a talk I was due to give to the Israel Society at King’s College London next Tuesday has been postponed because the Society is fighting for its survival, including against motions to have it shut down. Universities are now the hardest places in Britain at which to discuss ideas.
Sam Adari responds:
I’m the president of said society, and yes, we are currently facing motions trying to ban us from hosting events. Certain students have said that it’s inappropriate to allow Israelis to speak on campus, because it “normalises occupying forces”, and any Pro-Israel speaker is protested on the grounds of being inherently controversial and threatening to every student’s right to feel safe on campus.
The Society should be supported by anoyone who values free speech and abhors censorship.
In June the Society hosted its first event last week, when Father Gabriel Nadaf visited campus.
The Greek Orthodox priest, who encourages Arab Christians to participate in military and national service, is a leading and sometime controversial voice in Israeli politics. He spoke to 40 students on the night, which was held in partnership with The Face of Israel and StandWithUs UK – with an audience of all faiths, from Buddhists to Alawites.
With a growing membership of 150 people, the society’s treasurer Josh Boyle urged more members to sign up: “Whether you’re from Hendon or Hebron, Taunton or Tel Aviv, if you believe in a strong Israeli state, then this is the society for you,” he said.
The Isreal Society was set up to counter an iliberal movement. In March 2014, the college’s Student Union voted to ban Israelis.
The students’ union of King’s College London has voted to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign at its Student General Meeting.
The motion adopted by the union states that “BDS is an effective tactic, which educates society about these issues, economically pressures companies/institutions to change their practices, and politically pressures the global community.”
In addition, the union voted in favor of carrying out research into King’s College London (KCL) investments, partnerships and contracted companies “that may be implicated in violating Palestinian human rights.”
Union members also resolved to pressure KCL to divest from Israel and from companies that support “the Israeli occupation and apartheid policies,” either directly or indirectly.
The union determined to raise awareness of Israel’s “apartheid policies and its illegal occupation” by helping the college’s Action Palestine Society with printing materials and supporting events like the International “Israeli Apartheid Week.”
The motion was proposed to be debated three months ago, however was delayed after a threat of legal action. The motion reappeared after the union’s Board of Trustees gave the green light for it to debated at the Student General Meeting.
As a reaction to the BDS campaign, pro-Israel students formed the KCL Israel Society.
King’s was unimpressed with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign:
King’s College London is proud of its diverse and inclusive community, which comprises students and staff from more than 140 countries. Members of the College community encompass a very wide range of political, religious and other points of view. As knowledge is worldwide, King’s College London does not support or engage in boycotts of academic institutions. Universities depend on freedom of speech and freedom of enquiry, which are fundamental to both teaching and research.
King’s College London Students’ Union (KCLSU) is constitutionally separate from, and independent of, King’s College London. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) motion passed at the Student General Meeting on 25 March 2014 is a matter for KCLSU, an independent registered charity and membership organisation, governed by its own Board of Trustees.
The students are cowards, or worse.
Stand With Us, a pro-Israel group, responded:
Last night, King’s College London Student Union voted for a BDS (Boycott Israel) motion: 58% for and 42% against. Some 350 of a student body of over 25,000 voted. In reality it will have no effect at all, though it is shameful that it was passed.
KCL – which stresses it is constitutionally separate from the Student Union – has made a statement today condemning boycotts.
We congratulate all the students who stood up to fight it, Jewish and non-Jewish alike. We will support them and the newly-formed Israel Society at KCL to educate about Israel, reach out to others and expose BDS for the divisive and hateful campaign that it is.
Jonathan Hunter, StandWithUs UK Campus Director, added:
‘‘This is the latest petty assault on Israel and its supporters on campus. We will fight no end to overturn and ultimately defeat this divisive and one-sided motion. It is telling that the motion’s supporters celebrated the result by chanting ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’, demonstrating their real aim of wanting rid of the Jewish State. The BDS movement seeks to delegitimise and ultimately dismantle the State of Israel. It is imperative that students join us to fight this.’’
The Society’s president, Sami Steinbock, told The Tab:
“The Israel society was founded in order to improve the framework at KCL for an open and two-sided debate on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The society aims to provide a more rounded education to students who are eager to learn more about the situation in order to challenge the continued delegitimisation of Israel”.
The censors are scared of an exchange of ideas.
Boris Johnson, Mayor, put it well:
“London is a wonderfully diverse city and I am committed to tackling discrimination in London. Universities have clear legal obligations under the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 to prevent activities that could potentially discriminate against, harass or victimise others. Israel remains a vibrant, democratic economy and a great source of academic research and knowledge and I condemn any one-sided boycott”.