LSE attacked for scrapping banker's talk

By Robyn Rosen, February 17, 2011
Thilo Sarrazin: Jewish gene

Thilo Sarrazin: Jewish gene

The London School of Economics has been accused of hypocrisy after it cancelled a lecture by a controversial German banker following threats from anti-fascist demonstrators.

Thilo Sarrazin, who has previously referred to the existence of a "Jewish gene", was due to speak in a debate organised by the university's German Society on Monday.

Just before the event was due to start, the university's management cancelled it, though it later took place off campus at a nearby hotel.

Mr Sarrazin, 65, was forced to step down from Deutsche Bundesbank last year, after he said: "All Jews share a particular gene," in his book Germany Does Away With Itself.

An LSE spokesman said: "We received information at a late stage that the event was likely to suffer severe disruption, beyond peaceful protest outside the venue.

"Reluctantly, LSE decided that it could no longer ensure that the event tonight would be able to proceed in an orderly fashion and that free speech could be ensured for all participants.

"In addition, the LSE students' union advised yesterday that the event could seriously harm good campus relations if allowed to proceed (contrary to their previous position). Because of this combination of factors, the School's senior management decided the event could not take place. LSE remains committed to the principle of free speech within the law."

In December, a lecture by Abdel Bari Atwan where he accused Jewish students of "bombing Gaza" and referred to the "Jewish lobby" was allowed to go ahead despite concerns raised by the Union of Jewish Students and the university's Israel Society.

Mark Gardner, of the Community Security Trust, said: "This tells you everything that you need to know about how the campus really works.

"Freedom of speech and racism are only ever raised when it suits the political cliques that run student unions and other university bodies.

"The hypocrisy could hardly be more blatant."

Raheem Kassam, director of Student Rights, which monitors extremism on campus, said: "It is disappointing that the LSE cancelled the event only on the threat of disruption and a lack of resources. They should be tackling the real issue of intolerance and hatred. If mob rule is all it takes to shut down a speech, it is easy to see how freedoms may not be protected, but extremist speakers may still use the university as a platform if enough people fail to protest.

"The process of approving these things is all very strange and not at all transparent."

Jonathan Arkush, senior vice president of the Board of Deputies, said: "While we are pleased that the LSE student union appears to be moving in the right direction, clearly there is still a substantial amount of work to be done to ensure that their events are appropriately regulated and that they are acting consistently and taking full responsibility for what happens on their campus."

Last updated: 1:50pm, February 17 2011