'I felt like a Jew in Nazi Germany': SOAS Israel supporter

The incident happened at an Israel Apartheid Event at the School of Oriental and African Studies

The incident happened at an Israel Apartheid Event at the School of Oriental and African Studies

Members of the Israeli education organisation Stand With Us have said they felt "shaken and distressed" and like victims of the Nazis after a pro-Israel protester was bitten on the cheek at an Israel Apartheid Week event at SOAS, the School of Oriental and African Studies.

The alleged victim was taken to University College Hospital after the incident at the Celebrate Palestine event yesterday, while two men were arrested on suspicion of affray.

Stand With Us members were discussing the issues when, according to supporter Tony Coren, the atmosphere turned hostile and a man started saying that the best thing the Jews had ever done was to go into the gas chambers.

Witnesses said a second man then launched himself at the alleged victim, punching and biting him.

Gili Brenner, a Stand With Us coordinator who was at yesterday's protest, said she had been disturbed to be told by organisers that by coming to the event they had "asked for it".

She added: "The people involved, fearing negative publicity, started accusing us shouting, "how dare you come here? It's a Celebrate Palestine event, you knew what would happen."

"I didn't think I would ever get to a stage in which I would feel like a Jew in Nazi Germany, and I don't say it lightly."

Michael Dickson, the organisation's Israel director, called on the university to condemn the "disgusting act of violence against peaceful Israel supporters" and those who incited it.

He said universities should more carefully monitor such events "to ensure that hate speech, violence, and suppression of free speech do not occur".

He added: "It is unacceptable that violent rhetoric by Palestinian supporters spills over into violent actions. Universities must have a policy of zero tolerance for hate speech and antisemitism."

Joy Wolfe, UK Chairman of Stand With Us, warned that such attacks represented a limit to peaceful demonstration. She said: "It is unthinkable that in the UK people can be prevented from expressing their opposition to incitement, hatred and blatant antisemitism which, given the outrageous comments about Jews this undoubtedly was.

"It is important that the right to challenge anti-Israel events be protected, and Israel's supporters must not be intimidated or silenced by mindless violence."

A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London said they would closely follow the police investigation.

He added: “This is another example of the hostile, extremist environment, and restrictions on free speech overtaking British campuses.

"University managements can not negate responsibility any longer - turning a blind eye to the radicalisation on campuses only contributes to the ongoing escalation in violence and hate.

"We look forward to clear answers from the university on how it views the weekend’s events.”

A SOAS spokesman said: "At approximately 3pm on Sunday a fight broke out involving four individuals in a public space outside the main SOAS building. The School's security officers called the police, who arrived a few minutes later and arrested two males.

"Neither person is a SOAS student or staff member. The incident is now a police matter.

"The School deplores the use of violence and hate speech and will not tolerate them in or around its premises. We are in touch with the police and await their report on this incident."

Last updated: 3:48pm, March 21 2011