Palestinian academic blames 'Zionist lobby' for cancelled King's lecture

An event that was scheduled to take place at King's College London featuring the Palestinian academic Azzam Tamimi was moved to another University of London location on Monday, following protest from KCL’s Jewish students.

The lecture was organised by the pro-Hamas publication Middle East Monitor (MEMO) to pay tribute to the late Egyptian academic Abdelwahab Elmessiri – a Holocaust revisionist who disputed that six million Jews were killed at the time.

It was moved after KCL’s Israel Society wrote to university staff, saying the lecture would give “succour to hard-line fanatics who desperately want to see nothing short of the destruction of the state of Israel” – not least because of the appearance of Mr Tamimi.

The former director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought has a long history of making controversial statements to students in the UK. In 2010, he was investigated by police after he told students at London’s School of African and Oriental Studies that he “longs to be a martyr” and that Israel “must come to an end”.

Speaking at the event’s new location at London Senate House, Mr Tamimi told his audience: “This function was very difficult to organise. The Zionist lobby used their pressure in order to convince King’s College to cancel it.

"It is regrettable that in the UK, universities - great institutions of learning - succumb to pressure from the Zionist lobby."

President of KCL’s Israel Society Sami Steinbock said: ”It is sad to hear people still talk of Zionist lobbies. This is just one example of why we as students should work to ensure that this hate speaker is not allowed on our campus."

Jonathan Hunter, StandWithUS UK's campus director, added: "It is funny how Tamimi explained grassroots student pressure as organised professional lobbying, using all the typical tropes that we are accustomed to.

"It wasn’t the ‘Zionist lobby’ – whatever that means - that cancelled the event. It was Tamimi’s long history of disturbing comments, which university authorities recognised when student activists brought them to their attention."

UJS' campaigns director Maggie Suissa praised the protest at King's. She said: "Seeing such a broad coalition of students, both Jewish and non, come together to stand against hate is a reminder that intolerance and discrimination has no place on campuses today."

Last updated: 6:18pm, May 22 2014