Free speech: police prevent more violence at Ami Ayalon talk to King’s College Israel group
What do we make the news that an Israeli students’ event at King’s College University, London, was attacked? The event held by students from the KCL and LSE Israeli societies was disrupted by what many think were supporters of KCL Action Palestine (KCLAP), who let off fire alarms, threw chairs and smashed a window.
The invitation to the event went like this:
KCL Israel Society are pleased to bring you this event. Admiral, Ami Ayalon is the former director of Israel’s Security Agency (the Shin Bet/Shabak) between 1996 and 2000 and is a former commander of Israel’s Navy. He has served as a cabinet minister and as a member of the Knesset for the Labour party. With much of the Middle East in turmoil and a stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, he will focus on discussing the steps that are needed to bring stability and security to the region from a military perspective. He will also examine the question, ‘is there a partner for peace?’ and look at what relationships need to be built in the region to create a viable future peace agreement. He will also discuss his experiences as head of Israel’s main agency that combats terrorism, and to what extent the Israeli experience might be relevant to our own safety and security in the UK (in light of recent events in Europe).
Expect an evening of challenging discussion and, of course, free refreshments. Looking forward to seeing you all!
Richard Millett was there:
Ayalon was head of Israel’s Shin Bet between 1996 and 2000 and then served as a Labour MK. He also launched a peace initiative called The People’s Voice. He’s now in the UK being whisked around by Yachad to give various talks, the gist of which seem to be Israel needs to mend its ways.
The activists’ leaflets, after falsely incriminating Ayalon and Shin Bet in war crimes, accused Ayalon of being “overtly racist” for supporting a two state solution because this implies “Israeli Jews must always be a majority…due to a fear of losing the ethnic and colonial supremacy Israel has enjoyed since 1948”.
As soon as the doors shut the frustrated anti-Israel activists pounded the doors and the windows looking into the talk. They screamed “Free Free Palestine”, “Viva Viva Palestina” and “From the River to the Sea Palestine will be free” and smashed a window…
Ayalon’s talk lasted an hour. Ironically, Ayalon was talking in front of a white board describing the rules for “safe spaces” at universities. But there is no “safe space” for an Israeli-Jew at British universities.
KCL Action Palestine issued a statement:
In light of the accusations surrounding yesterday’s events, KCL Action Palestine would like to categorically condemn any aggression that took place at the Israel Society’s Ami Ayalon event.
KCLAP had planned to challenge Ami Ayalon and inform the audience of his complicity in the torture of Palestinians as former head of the Shin Bet and the problems surrounding his current views – as is within our rights and detailed on our blog (https://permissiontonarrate.wordpress.com/…/kclaps-stateme…/). Our intention was to attend the event and shed light on Ayalon’s crimes and views through deliberation.
That the event escalated into a disruption was beyond our control and not incited by any member of our committee. KCLAP is not connected and does not control the actions of external attendees. As stated we do not condone any aggressive reaction on our campuses. Some of our members protested after they were left out and people were arbitrarily selected to go into the event, we refute any involvement with what took place beyond this.
That blog has the stated aim “to rewrite the fabricated and falsified histories of yesteryear and presenting a more balanced take on contemporary affairs”.
They also declare:
“That the event escalated into a disruption was beyond our control and not incited by any member of our committee. KCLAP is not connected and does not control the actions of external attendees.”
Esther Endfield, President of KCL Israel society was also there:
Protests by KCL action Palestine at this event was inevitable but it was never inevitable that it would turn violent, not to the point that I have just reported being assaulted to the police (which is also being investigated under a hate crime), not to the point that there were chairs thrown at the room and at me, not to the point where they were so violent that Kings College London windows have been smashed, not to the point where two police cars and two police vans along with 15 + officers came to protect the people inside the room, not to the point that in a 4 story building that on each floor the fire alarms were set off 15 + times, not to the point where my event had to be stopped and the building evacuated because college security and the police were so scared that they would light a real fire and that we wouldn’t know because of the false alarms. When did I become so unsafe in one of the global universities in the world that we can no longer hold an event without being scared for our safety.
Former communities secretary Sir Eric Pickles told the Commons:
“(Labour MP Wes Streeting) mentioned that we travelled together to France in the autumn of last year to look at anti-Semitism there and I vividly recall meeting with Jewish students and their talk of how frightened they were, of how wary they were on campuses. I can’t help but reflect at the disgraceful attack upon Jewish students in King’s College in London just two nights ago, where a peaceful meeting – literally about peace – was broken up with obscenities and with the breaking of a window and the breaking of glass and the offering of violence. Frankly, we’ve seen this before – we have seen broken glass, we have seen Crystal Night and if we need to know where the neo-fascists are then they truly represent the neo-fascists in that attack that occurred in King’s College.”
Tom Slater (Spiked):
The rage against pro-Israel students, speakers and societies is, without question, the most flagrant political censorship taking place on campus today. While petty, hysterical and often hilarious restrictions on fancy dress and pole-dancing have stolen focus in recent years, pro-Israel students are being shut down because student politicos simply don’t like what they say. And, while policy after policy are passed at students’ union AGMs in the name of protecting ethnic minorities from offence, anti-Israel fury, so often bordering on out-and-out anti-Semitism, is tacitly ignored.
The Daily Mail:
Tonight Universities Minister Jo Johnson criticised the protesters. He told MailOnline: ‘Britain and Israel share many important academic links and speakers must be able to address meetings peacefully. ‘Our universities should be safe spaces for students to expand their minds, and there can be no justification for violent intimidation that curtails free speech.’ The angry protest is the latest in a series of oppressive incidents reported at universities across the country.
Iranian-born human rights activist Maryam Namazie faced intimidation from members of a student Islamic society when speaking at Goldsmith University in London.
Students at Cardiff University also campaigned to ban Germaine Greer from speaking. At Oxford University, students have called for the pulling down on a statue of 19th Century mining magnate Cecil Rhodes over claims of racism.