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General Articles
Pro-Palestinian Groups Create Intolerance on British Campuses

21.02.18
Editorial Note

In January this year a video questioning "Are we living in an age of #intolerance?" was posted online.  The producer is the UK based Pinsker Center which promotes conferences and dialogues on various UK campuses. The Pinsker Centre was founded in 2016 after BDS activists violently protested the lecture of Ami Ayalon, the Israeli peace activist, at King's College London (KCL). "Campus debate had become toxic," they write, we "sought to create a vehicle which would serve as a platform for intelligent and reasoned debate about the contemporary Middle East.  For two years, we have fought to challenge censorship and facilitate open debate. We have reached thousands of students at our panels, debates and lectures."  

The Pinsker Center and several student groups invited Dan Meridor, Israel's former deputy prime minister and minister of intelligence, to speak on three UK campuses:  On the 12th of February at KCL, on the 13th of February at Durham University and on the 14th of February at Oxford University. The topic of his lectures was "Israel and the Changing Middle East: Threats and Opportunities."

It should have been anticipated, based on previous experiences, that pro-Palestinian activists would try to sabotage the event. As been detailed in various media outlets, some 60 yelling crowd by the entrance, shouted “War criminal” and “Shame,” throughout the 90-minute lecture. 

But even before the lecture, the KCL Israel Society has noted that soon after posting the lecture invitation, it began receiving dozens of fake requests to attend with names such as "nein Israel" and "Filasteen," as well as multiple fake requests using the name of a member of the KCL Israel Society.  This should have served as a warning sign to what would follow.  Interestingly, the KCL security officials had previously assured the organizers that members of the public would not be allowed to protest inside the campus building. However, Tamara Berens, the president of KCL Israel Society complained that “They let us down by betraying their promise and allowing people to enter... There were protestors present who had previously seriously intimidated students at other events.” 

Before the lecture in Oxford University, the Oxford University Amnesty International Society published a call to the organizers urging them to withdraw their invitation to Meridor immediately "in the name of dignity, and of basic human rights," adding that "he is not welcome in our community."  The group accused Meridor for "over 30 years Meridor has been party to grave breaches of international law while holding office." 

Israeli speakers should get used to intolerance on British campuses, while pro-Palestinian lecturers suffer no interference at all.  After the Ayalon event in 2016, KCL published a statement by Professor Ed Byrne, president and principal of King’s, who said: "We have a duty to uphold freedom of speech within the law and will fight against intolerance wherever it is found. Intimidating behaviour is completely unacceptable and goes against everything that we stand for at King’s. We do not, and will not, condone the use of any form of violent protest." 

Arguably, KCL and other British campuses do not live up to the wonderful values of freedom of speech.  Despite all the accolades about free speech they don't do enough to protect Israelis and Jews from the often violent protests of pro-Palestinian activists. This creates a double standard on campus where pro-Palestinian views are widely heard, but pro-Israeli opinions are stifled. Unless academic authorities live up to their declarations, they will perpetuate the current hypocrisy.





British Jews ‘Appalled’ by King’s College London Protest Against Former Israeli Minister

FEBRUARY 13, 2018 5:56 PM
by Shiri Moshe


The representative body of British Jewry said it’s “appalled” by a protest staged at King’s College London (KCL) on Monday against a lecture by a former Israeli minister, during which audience members “were barracked and intimidated in a completely unacceptable way.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews condemned some 50 protesters who targeted individuals entering and exiting a talk with Dan Meridor — a former deputy prime minister and minister of intelligence in the Israeli government — with loud chants of “shame” and “criminal,” according to video footage.
“It was very aggressive,” recounted Tamara Berens, president of King’s College London’s Israel Society, which helped bring Meridor to campus. “The event was severely disrupted due to the amount of noise they were making throughout.”
“Even with double doors, we could still hear them screaming,” she told The Algemeiner. “Sometimes they weren’t even saying words, they would just scream at the top of their lungs.”
“I felt very unsafe throughout the event and especially when we had to leave and enter the room,” Berens said.
She indicated that KCL’s security officials had previously assured event organizers that members of the public would not be allowed to protest inside the building.
“They let us down by betraying their promise and allowing people to enter,” Berens explained. “There were protestors present who had previously seriously intimidated students at other events, at [University College London] for example.”
These concerns were shared by the Board, whose president said on Tuesday that failures on behalf of KCL’s event management “allowed these scenes to take place.”
“The deficiencies came in not ensuring that the demonstrators were adequately separated from those attending the event,” Simon Round, a spokesperson for the Board, told The Algemeiner. He indicated that the group hopes to speak with KCL’s principal on Wednesday or Thursday.
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) — which represents some 8,500 students in the UK and Ireland — also expressed deep disappointment that attendees “were intimidated and harassed” by protestors who “sought to drown out the speaker.”
“Debate and discussion are vital aspects of university life, as is the right to protest,” the group said in a statement on Tuesday. “However, intimidating those who try to hear a variety of views with chants of ‘Shame’ is not conducive to informed and respectful dialogue, which should be front and centre of university life.”
UJS pointed to protesters’ use of the chant, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free,” which refers to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, in place of Israel.
The group said that “this open demand for Israel’s destruction must have no place on any campus.”
Like Berens and the Board, UJS noted that university security personnel had told organizers that demonstrators would not be allowed inside the building where the event was set to take place.
“Sadly, this did not happen and the shameful scenes of attempted intimidation then ensued,” the group asserted. “We are now in contact with students and campus security at Kings College London, seeking constructive actions regarding both this event and the future.”
The Pinsker Centre for Zionist Education, which plans campus events on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and co-hosted Meridor, said on Monday that it did not oppose students’ “democratic right” to peacefully protest, but noted that “the sacred right to freedom of speech is also extended to visiting Israeli lecturers, including Mr Meridor.”
The Centre — founded following a violent protest against the former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency at KCL in 2016  — said those “responsible for tonight’s protest cannot possibly lay claim to the right of free speech while simultaneously calling to deny that right to others.”
“The calls to singularly boycott only visiting Israeli lecturers remain both discriminatory and in fundamental violation of the concept of freedom of expression,” it argued.
A spokesperson for KCL said that the university reviews campus events before they take place, and places “additional conditions in place” on those that may pose potential risks.
“These conditions include recording the speeches to ensure that the events take place within the law, an independent event chair, additional security in place and having senior representatives of the university and the Students’ Union in attendance,” the university said.
“We are proud of our diverse community and are absolutely committed to academic freedom and free, peaceful and respectful dialogue where people have conflicting views.”
In its submission to a recent parliamentary probe on UK universities, the Board warned that “Free speech is being curtailed in the name of pro-Palestinian activism by shutting down through violence speakers who originate from Israel.”
Over the course of the same inquiry, the advocacy group UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLI) argued in written testimony that campus events organized by Jewish or pro-Israel clubs “have been deliberately closed down by violent riots organised by Palestinian societies on a number of occasions in recent years.”
To lessen the risk of such interruptions, administrators and student unions have imposed certain restrictions on events with pro-Israel speakers, UKLI asserted. These range from limiting public advertising and permitting entry only to ticket holders with a valid ID, to requiring the presence of security personnel, which Jewish and pro-Israel societies are sometimes asked to pay for.
“Thus the current position tends to be that meetings with Israel-supporting speakers can go ahead at British universities, but often only under onerous conditions which make it unlikely that they will be attended by students who are not already sympathetic to Israel,” UKLI wrote. “By contrast, there are rarely any similar restrictions on anti-Israel speakers, who often deliver highly misleading propaganda, inflaming hostility towards Israel and those who support it.”


==============================================================

 
'THEY CAME TO INTIMIDATE US AND SHUT DOWN OUR EVENT'
Dan Meridor welcomed with shouts of ‘Shame,’ protests at London university event
 
Speaking at King's College, the former Israeli deputy prime minister's hopes that demonstrators would engage in 'civilized discussion' were dashed by 90 minutes of screaming
 
 
Dan Meridor, left, onstage at a highly protested event at King's College London, February 13, 2018. (Courtesy Pinsker Centre)
Dan Meridor, left, onstage at a highly protested event at King's College London, February 13, 2018. (Courtesy Pinsker Centre)
LONDON — Former Israeli deputy prime minister Dan Meridor faced a difficult beginning to his whistle-stop trip to the United Kingdom this week, where he spoke to students on university campuses.
In a visit organized by a new campus organization, the UK-based Pinsker Centre, Meridor faced a hostile, shrieking crowd of about 60 students at King’s College, London. On succeeding nights, the former politician had two calm and peaceful meetings in Durham and Oxford.
The Pinsker Centre, formed after Jewish students faced violent disruption at the King’s College campus in 2016, says its mission is “to preserve freedom of speech on British university campuses and allow a non-hostile platform for discussion on Israel.”
It joins forces with existing campus organizations such as the local student Israel society. King’s is part of London University and the week’s first event was jointly promoted by Pinsker, King’s Israel Society and City University’s Israel Society.
The hostility at King’s was spurred by the fact that the King’s College Action Palestine Society (KCLAP) advertised the Meridor event on Facebook, encouraging people to come and protest.
Stringent rules as to who could or could not enter the Great Hall of King’s central London campus were laid down by the King’s College authorities. It was a ticket-only event, but in the end many of those opposed to Meridor bought tickets but chose instead to stand outside the Great Hall, keeping up a screaming, baying protest designed at disrupting the speech.
Students who wanted to enter the Great Hall to listen to Meridor had to run a gauntlet of a yelling crowd, shouting “War criminal” and “Shame,” shouts they maintained throughout the 90-minute meeting.
The demonstrators displayed homemade red and green posters bearing the same words — and one audience member is said to have walked out of the event and torn apart one of the posters, something now being investigated by King’s College.
Prof. Menachem Klein of Bar-Ilan University, presently a visiting research fellow at King’s, was designated by the university authorities to chair the meeting where security staff surrounded the audience.
A protestor at King’s College, London holds a sign accusing Dan Meridor of responsibility for the nine people killed aboard the Mavi Marmara flotilla in June 2010. Large demonstrations protested Meridor’s visit to the university on February 13, 2018. (Courtesy Pinsker Centre)
Anyone who wanted to take pictures of the protesters before the event had an extra hurdle: Some complained and forced the security staff to make people — including this reporter — delete the pictures. But as people left the event, many of the protesters themselves stood taking photographs of the audience.
In a long statement released after the meeting, the KCLAP protesters wrote: “We’d like to call out King’s College for not addressing how Palestinian students on campus feel as a result of their institution’s complicity in upholding an unjust system of illegal military occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.”
Meridor himself was sanguine about the protests. He told The Times of Israel before the meeting that he believed in dialogue and hoped that it might be possible for those who were critical of Israel to come inside and have “a civilized discussion.”
This ultimately did not prove possible and after the meeting concluded, King’s Israel Society president Tamara Berens announced that the police had been called and that anyone who did not feel comfortable facing the protesters should wait inside the hall until the police arrived. Although King’s College insisted that the police had not been called, a call was made by the Israeli Embassy in response to a request from students inside the Great Hall.
In the end, most of the audience chose to walk through the protestors. One disgruntled King’s College student not connected to the event told The Times of Israel that, “all they [the protesters] want to do is yell and intimidate, and I can’t stand it.”
In a statement, the Pinsker Centre organizers said, “However much one may disagree with such conduct, we cannot stress this enough: In a free society, it is the students’ democratic right to peacefully assemble, voice protest and exercise their right to express their opinion.
“However, in our free society, the sacred right to freedom of speech is also extended to visiting Israeli lecturers, including Mr. Meridor,” the statement said.
Throughout Dan Meridor’s speech at King’s College, London on February 13, 2018, anti-Israel protestors shouted in an attempt to disrupt the proceedings. (Courtesy Pinsker Centre)
 “They came onto campus this evening with one aim: to intimidate us and shut down our event,” said King’s Israel Society president Berens. She accused the protestors of coordinating their shouting “to scream throughout the talk, without even a minute to allow us to listen to the speaker in peace.”
Berens said the protestors exhibited “shameful behavior” and did not respect the right of Israelis to free speech.
“The shame is on those who would rather take away our platform to speak than engage with us openly. It is disgraceful that in 2018, Jewish university students should be made to feel afraid or ashamed to walk freely on campus,” she said.
A King’s College spokesman said the institutions has procedures in place to check the appropriateness of events and speakers hosted on campus. “If our review process highlights any potential risks, we put additional conditions in place before permitting the event to proceed.”
 Dan Meridor speaks at King’s College, London, February 13, 2018. (Courtesy Pinsker Centre)
 The spokesman underlined the “unique challenge” faced by academic institutions to create “open and uncensored debate… without fear of intimidation and within the framework of the law.
“We are proud of our diverse community and are absolutely committed to academic freedom and free, peaceful and respectful dialogue where people have conflicting views,” added the spokesman.
But Jonathan Arkush, the outgoing president of the Board of Deputies, the representative body of UK Jewry, said the Board will soon be complaining directly to the King’s College head because of the “intimidation” felt by Jewish students.
A second complaint is likely to be made by the Union of Jewish Students. The union claimed that university security officials had assured organizers that demonstrators would be kept outside the building. “Sadly, this did not happen and the shameful scenes of attempted intimidation then ensued. We are now in contact with students and campus security at King’s College, London, seeking constructive actions regarding both this event and the future,” said the student union.

A checkered history in Durham

In view of the scenes at King’s College, which drew widespread national and global criticism from Jewish groups, there was understandable anxiety about Meridor’s subsequent appearances at Durham and Oxford.
Durham, in particular, has a checkered history on the Israel-Palestine conflict. The Durham-Palestine Educational Trust offers two scholarships a year for a master’s degree at the university, one of whose conditions of acceptance is that the candidate must be “an active ambassador for Palestinians” during their stay in Durham.
Protestors ‘welcoming’ attendees at Dan Meridor’s address at King’s College, London, February 13, 2018. (Courtesy Pinsker Centre)
But the Durham event passed peacefully, with no disruption.
More worries were expressed about the Oxford event after 20 separate student groups, spearheaded by the Oxford Students Palestine Society and including the Oxford Jewish Students for Justice in Palestine, took to Facebook to denounce Meridor’s forthcoming visit and calling on the sponsoring societies to withdraw the invitation.
But Jonathan Hunter, chair of the Pinsker Centre, reported that there had been no trouble.
“The rain deterred people,” he said. “Only those on the guest list were allowed in the building and the college insisted on private security — which it paid for itself — which is unprecedented and something which should be emulated by other universities.”
Opening the King’s College event, Klein made it clear that he and Meridor came from opposite sides of the political fence, and yet he introduced his guest as “a disappearing type of Israeli politician,” joking that Meridor had never yet been the subject of an investigation by the Israeli police.
In a wide-ranging analysis of the situation in the Middle East, Meridor may have surprised some of his audience as he appeared to regret the “nationalist” line taken by the current Israeli government at the expense of the “liberal” approach which he said was “part of the DNA of the Likud party.”
Making a strong case for the pursuit of the two-state solution, Meridor said he deplored a situation in which “religion adds rigidity” when people came to vote. And, he admitted, speaking of relations with America, that he did not “feel at home” with the evangelist movement which has expressed support for Israel.
In what might be a veiled message to his former government colleagues, Meridor concluded, “Liberal values are under attack all over the world. But our test as Israelis is how we treat minorities.”
=========================================================


 
Oxford student paper
http://cherwell.org/2018/02/18/societies-condemn-platform-for-israeli-politician/

Societies condemn platform for Israeli politician

The Oxford Israel Forum, the PPE society, and the International Relations Society defended their decision to host of the speaker
By Libby Cherry  
February 18, 2018
Oxford societies have attacked the decision to invite former deputy prime minister of Israel, Dan Meridor, to talk at Christ Church.
The Oxford Amnesty International Group supported an open letter from the Oxford Students’ Palestine Society condemning the Oxford Israel Forum, the PPE society, and the International Relations Society for hosting the speaker.
The letter was also signed by multiple individual SU campaigns, including Oxford Climate Justice and the Oxford Arab Cultural Society.
The letter read: “For over 30 years Meridor has been party to grave breaches of international law while holding office; acts which violated the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
“We find it deeply distressing that this individual representing the Israeli regime should be given a platform in Oxford, especially by student societies that were established to enlighten and educate students about international affairs.
“Meridor’s inpunity for these heinous war crimes are contrary to our university’s core purposes, and our student community’s commitment to justice and equality.
“We wish the Palestinian people, who are struggling for their rights with great dignity, to know that we do not extend him an invitation; and to tell them that Meridor is not welcome at our University.”
The Oxford University Palestine Society told Cherwell: “The letter was written for two reasons.
“The first was to explain the reasons why it was such a terrible thing to do, so that members of the hosting societies, however few in number they are, can learn some facts about whom they were welcoming.
“One hopes if they had known this individual record, they would reject any association with him, or complicity in inviting him.
“The second is because the Palestinian people are now facing terrible human rights violations. When we thought of them hearing about Oxford doing such a shameful thing, it made us want to let them know, at the very least, that most of us here are appalled that some students could be so callous, and so ignorant, as to extend an invitation to this individual.”
The Oxford Israel Forum told Cherwell in a statement: “Free and respectful dialogue is the only path to a lasting solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict.
“That certain factions seek to bully into silence guests invited to the University is a very sad state of affairs.
“No evidence was provided for the vitriolic accusations made against Mr Meridor, because there is none. He is known and respected internationally for his dovish views.
“The statement issued against him, with its outright defamation, betrays the true agenda: to end constructive discussion and silence speakers, not because of their views, but because they come from the only Jewish State.
“The Oxford Israel Forum is proud to stand in defiance of this baseless hatred and in support of freedom of speech.”
The PPE and the International Relations Society said in a joint statement: “Hosting speakers does not equate to endorsing them or their views.
“An important part of the educational process is having one’s views challenged.”
Meridor has spoken at numerous UK universities this month. His speech at King’s College London this month was met with protest.
A King’s College student, Rebecca Wright, told Cherwell: “I do think it’s disappointing that Jewish students’ feel like this is a violation of their freedom of speech. I think there would have been more respectful methods, but the way they’ve done it certainly has gained a lot of publicity within the university and beyond for their cause.”
Additional security measures were implemented for the talk at Oxford. Meridor told Cherwell in regard to the King’s incident: “I expected it but I think it’s totally wrong, they called me a war criminal.”
He added: “There was shouting outside and some background noise but it’s only part of a free society that people have a right to shout. The problem is not that they demonstrated, they have a right to demonstrate if they don’t agree with them.
“The problem is that rather than talking, they demonstrate, rather than discussing things with us and coming in and asking me questions that are serious questions and hearing my response and agreeing – you know, this is a better way to solve problems.
“With these guys nothing will help, there was always anti-Semitism in Europe and it is present in many places but many people aren’t anti-Semites, many criticisms of Israel I think it’s legitimate to criticise us (sic). I think when you criticise this government or that government it’s fine if you do it in a normal way – say we don’t agree with your policy here, can we discuss it further.
“This is something we don’t do to any other country, why do we single it out? If we don’t agree with Britain we criticise what they do but we don’t say that Britain shouldn’t exist. This is something I don’t accept.”
The national branch of Amnesty International also condemned other speakers invited by the Israel Forum. Shortly after delivering his speech at Oxford in January, Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, was banned from a London branch of Amnesty International.
The event he was supposed to speak at, a debate on the UN Human Rights Council’s treatment of Israel, was cancelled.
Amnesty International said: “We do not think it appropriate for Amnesty International to host an event by those actively supporting settlements.”
==============================================================

 
As student societies of Oxford University, we wish to express our deep shock and concern at the decision of ‘Oxford Israel Forum’, ‘Oxford PPE Society’ and ‘Oxford International Relations Society’ to host Israeli politician Dan Meridor, and to affirm that he is not welcome in our community.
For over 30 years Meridor has been party to grave breaches of international law while holding office; acts which violated the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. In 2010 he was forced to cancel a trip to the UK for fear of arrest for war crimes under British law. The charges stemmed from his role as Deputy Prime Minister, when the Israeli military attacked an aid ship in international waters, which was bringing assistance to the blockaged Gaza Strip. Israeli soldiers boarded it by force, murdering nine innocent humanitarian activists in cold blood, and injured many others.
Meridor was Cabinet Secretary during Israel’s 1982 military invasion and occupation of Lebanon, which killed tens of thousands of civilians, including the massacre of Palestinian refugees at Sabra and Shatila camps in Beirut. In 2012, he served as Benjamin Netanyahu’s deputy during the brutal eight-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip by land, sea and sky, when over 100 Palestinian civilians were killed. These actions were condemned as war crimes by the United Nations, international tribunals, and countless international human rights organisations.
Between 2009 and 2013, Meridor was Minister of Intelligence. He was in charge of Israel’s security agencies notorious for detention without trial, and torture of Palestinian prisoners, including children. The Israel Committee Against Torture (ICAT) reported that in Meridor’s time in office this torture continued: “routinely and systematically… with the state’s knowledge and agreement”. Torture methods include beatings, shackling in stress positions, food and water deprivation, isolation in solitary confinement, violent shaking, psychological degradation, threats to family, and other actions that cause irreparable physical and psychological damage.
During his time in government, Israel has continued to forcibly transfer Palestinians from their homes with house demolitions, restrictions, deportations and discriminatory legal practices. Successive UN, scholarly, and fact-finding reports and studies have identified this system of institutionalised racial discrimination as a form of apartheid. Meanwhile Israel subjects Gaza to a sustained siege – now entering its 11th year – while, 70 years after their dispossession, they continue to deny Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes, and to imprison children who stand up to a violent military occupation.
We find it deeply distressing that this individual representing the Israeli regime should be given a platform in Oxford, especially by student societies that were established to enlighten and educate students about international affairs. Meridor’s inpunity for these heinous war crimes are contrary to our university’s core purposes, and our student community’s commitment to justice and equality. We wish the Palestinian people, who are struggling for their rights with great dignity, to know that we do not extend him an invitation; and to tell them that Meridor is not welcome at our University.
We call on the ‘Oxford Israel Forum’, ‘Oxford PPE Society’ and ‘Oxford International Relations Society’ to withdraw their invitation to Meridor immediately, in the name of dignity, and of basic human rights. 
Oxford Students’ Palestine Society Oxford Jewish Students for Justice in Palestine
Oxford Arab Cultural Society Oxford University Amnesty Society
Eden Palestine Fellowship – Rhodes Palestine Team Common Ground Oxford
Oxford University Pakistan Society Oxford SU Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality
Oxford SU Class Act Campaign Oxford SU Disabled Students’ Campaign
Oxford SU LGBTQ+ Campaign Oxford SU Women’s Campaign
‘On Your Doorstep’ Homelessness Campaign Oxford Climate Justice Campaign
Oxford Living Wage Campaign Oxford Migrant Solidarity
Oxford RS21 Oxford for Dunkirk
Free Education Oxford ‘Hard to Get’ Research and Reading Group




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