An interesting evening at LSE


By Robyn Rosen
December 7, 2010
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Last night I was refused entry into a lecture at LSE.

The lecture was by Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper and was entitled How much influence does the Zionist lobby exert in the US and UK?

Mr Atwan, who was invited by the Palestine Society, was captured on video in 2007 on MEMRI TV saying: “If the Iranian missiles strike Israel – by Allah, I will go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight if the Iranian missiles strike Israel.”

Before the event, a statement on Mr Atwan’s website denied “defamatory” statements made on his Wikipedia page and said: “It would be a regrettable thing indeed if Israeli students, rather than engaging in a proper debate, are able to silence one of the few voices that speaks for the Palestinians.”

Unusual to use the word “debate” considering requests by the Israel Society to bring their own speaker to balance the panel were refused.

I arrived at Clement House for the talk at 5.30pm. The lecture was due to start at 6.30pm. I was informed by stewards and security guards that those with LSE student or staff cards would be given priority, followed by those with London university cards, followed by members of the public.

Despite reports about the lecture on Harry’s Place and the Jerusalem Post and more than 170 attendees on the Facebook group, representatives from the Palestine Society claimed they had not anticipated the large turnout.

I waited at the front of the queue with about 50 other members of the public while students took their seats. After everyone with LSE cards and London university cards had gone into the room, the rest were told that room was full, and due to health and safety rules, no more were allowed in.

I spoke to Zac Sammour, president of the Palestine Society and said that I was from a newspaper and that it was important that a representative from the press was present. I was told that a representative from Al-Jazeera had made it into the hall and so the press was present. Curious as to how Al-Jazeera were given access without a student card, I was told they had let in members of the public. I was again confused, as I had been at the front of the queue and was there an hour before it started but heard no announcement about others being let in.

I said I was from the Jewish Chronicle and said it was important to have other representatives present. I asked if I could stand at the back of the room or even outside with the door open. All my requests were refused due to health and safety regulations.

I was told that a full recording was taken and would be made available to the public and am still awaiting an unedited copy.

COMMENTS

Jonathan Hoffman

Tue, 12/07/2010 - 15:11

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The following (from StandWithUs) was written by a student at LSE who attended Abdel Bari-Atwan's talk at the University on Monday, December 6th. Atwan is the editor-in chief of the London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi. He was hosted by the LSE Palestine Society.

The anti-Jewish, oops, I mean Anti- Israel lobby

I got a called a Nazi tonight, well all of us Jews did! I had prepared myself for an anti-Israel sentiment but not out-right anti-Semitism.

When I was first accepted to LSE I was warned from all sides about how anti-Israel the University is and when I saw that Bari Atwan was lecturing there tonight, I wasn’t all that surprised. I am South African and newly Israeli, I know about democracy and understand free speech, so even though Mr. Atwan had proclaimed that he would dance on Trafalgar square if Israel were bombed, I was going to go hear what he had to say anyway. Israel just like any other country should be open to criticism and a dissenting voice. While I did joke that nothing quite starts my week off like a little bit of Israel bashing, a little bit of Israel bashing I can handle. Anti-Semitism however, is an entirely different matter.

For the most part nothing that Atwan had to say surprised me. His talk was full of the usual clichés. The Israeli lobby dictates all of the US decisions, us Israelis are heartlessly killing Palestinian children and it is the Israelis that are causing the failure of the peace process. These arguments are nothing new (bring me a cup of coffee I will happily sit and debate them with you). I also didn’t mind listening to some of his more dubious comments about how Hamas is a peaceful, democratic movement and how he wouldn’t possibly be able to trust any Arab who would make a peace deal with Israel. So wait, Mr. Atwan, are you no proponent of peace then? Where Atwan did differ from the usual rant is his interchangeable use of the words, Zionism, Israelis and Jews. He managed to express his outright disgust at the fact that if one criticizes Israel they are immediately labeled an anti-Semite (and opened with a disclaimer that not all Jews love Israel), yet he himself failed to separate the Jewish Nation and Israel. He referred to “our Jewish neighbors”, “the Jewish lobby” and my personal favorite was when he pointed to a Jewish student and shouted “YOU bombed the children in Gaza”, an action he denied less than two minutes later. The oh so very impartial chair had no interest in calling him out on any of this, in fact she seemed to be quite enjoying herself as she rolled her eyes at any challenging questions.

Atwan is a proponent of the one state solution and the right of return for all Palestinian people, a move that would ultimately result in the loss of a Jewish majority in the land of Israel. So after 2000 years of yearning for a country and facing persecution in almost every area we settled, we once again would be left without a land to call our own. A safe haven. Tonight proved the dangers of this. We may not be facing forced conversions or expulsion, we may not be locked up in concentration camps, but anti-Semitism is not dead. The myths of the protocols live on, and we need a country we can flee too, and an army to protect us. When a speaker cannot separate Israel the country and the Jewish people, and a student in the audience screams at how we are all Nazis, they have simply proven our point for us. So I guess even though I was offended, as a Jew and as an Israeli, I owe you a thank you after all, Mr. Atwan?


Jon_i_Cohen

Tue, 12/07/2010 - 15:57

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I wonder what Mick Davis and his "pals" at the JLC and UJIA have to say?


mattpryor

Mon, 12/13/2010 - 12:33

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This should get wider publicity.

It's bloody outrageous.

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