Jewish leader threatened at LSE Israel debate

By Robyn Rosen, January 14, 2011
(From left) Dr John Chalcraft, Professor Daniel Hochhauser and Professor Kevin Featherstone

(From left) Dr John Chalcraft, Professor Daniel Hochhauser and Professor Kevin Featherstone

A senior LSE professor allegedly threatened to “slap” the senior vice-president of the Board of Deputies, Jonathan Arkush, following a debate at the university.

The incident occurred after the LSE student union’s Israel Society and Palestine Society held a joint debate last night entitled: “This house believes in an academic boycott of Israel”.

At the end of the debate, Jonathan Arkush approached anthropology professor Martha Mundy, who had been watching the debate, on the top floor of the auditorium. He praised Professor Kevin Featherstone, who had chaired the event, as being “fair”.

According to Mr Arkush, she then said to him: “I want to give you a slap in the face” and accused him of “professional defamation”.

Mr Arkush said after the incident: “It was enlightening to be the object of a vitriolic attack from a person who holds an academic position at LSE.

“I can now understand better the atmosphere which Jewish students have to suffer on campus.

“How she believes that screaming and threatening violence will help her cause is beyond me.”

But Professor Mundy had a different response. In a letter of complaint sent to the JC on January 15, she wrote: "I felt considerably harassed by what I perceived as organised male aggression.

"I responded to this ambush by telling the man in ironic exasperation that I could slap him for such a remark, repeating that the comparison represented professional defamation, and asking him to identify himself.

"He has turned this reaction to his aggression into an allegation of a threat by me."

The university received complaints about Professor Mundy, who is co-convener of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), after she chaired a lecture by controversial speaker Abdul Bari Atwan last month at the university.

That event, held on December 6, is being investigated by police after 30 Jewish students walked out in protest.

The boycott motion was overwhelmingly rejected last night after consultant medical oncologist Professor Daniel Hochhauser argued against it and LSE Reader in history and politics, Dr John Chalcraft, argued in favour.

Last updated: 11:35am, April 18 2011