Brunel union investigation after anti-Israel protest

Brunel University's students union is looking into a protest that saw demonstrators stage a fake checkpoint scene to oppose a talk by an Israeli diplomat.

Ran Gidor, an official at Israel's London embassy, spoke at the Uxbridge university earlier this month in an event organised by the social sciences department.

His presence on campus prompted a small group of anti-Israel activists to hang a sign proclaiming "free Palestine" on a statue of engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the university's namesake.

They also set up a fake military checkpoint and brandished blue toy guns at the protest.

According to one student, the demonstration was "provocative and aggressive rather than peaceful and level-headed".

Following the protest, which a union representative said was not organised with the university's knowledge, an emergency motion was put forward to the union's Student Assembly condemning "any violence or intimidation of any student by another" and mandating the union to investigate what happened.

Jonathan Ellenby, co-president of Brunel JSoc, praised the union for its support and said Jewish students would be making a complaint to the university.

He said the protest was deeply offensive to some JSoc members. "I will be ensuring the union properly investigates all the relevant issues, to guarantee our members feel safe on their campus.

"Changes need to be made to make students aware of what is acceptable, including procedures and guidance for future protests."

A spokesman for the university said that its intention was "to protect and promote lawful freedom of speech and assembly.

"Unless there is clear evidence that university policy is likely to be breached, or in the event that public order offences are committed, then we have every intention of maintaining this position."

Amir Ofek, spokesman for the Israeli embassy, said: "We are all too familiar with the trend of a small, loud and vulgar group gatherings trying to affect a fruitful academic dialogue.

"We thank the university for making sure the event ran smoothly."

    Last updated: 10:57am, February 1 2012