Fake checkpoint and fake guns, but violence still erupts at LSE

Israel Apartheid Week spawns one stunt too many for Jewish students

By Marcus Dysch, February 23, 2012
Palestinian students in camouflage trousers, pretending to be Israeli soldiers, surround a ‘suspect’ and point fake machine-guns at him

Palestinian students in camouflage trousers, pretending to be Israeli soldiers, surround a ‘suspect’ and point fake machine-guns at him

Fights broke out on campus between Jewish and pro-Palestinian students during an anti-Israel protest this week.

Water bombs and punches were thrown during the clashes at the London School of Economics on Monday as activists staged an Israel Apartheid Week demonstration.

Members of the students' union's Palestine Society constructed a 10ft-long mock Israeli army checkpoint, and an "apartheid wall", in front of a main school building.

Around 10 students manned the checkpoint, including Lois Clifton, LSE student union's executive officer responsible for "peace" initiatives.

Many fellow protesters wore high-visibility vests with IDF written on the back and carried large mock machine guns, which they "aimed" at students attempting to access the building. The group repeatedly acted out scenes in which they dragged each other across the ground, claiming to replicate Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

Jewish and Israeli students complained to the student union that the protest was offensive and victimised them.

Fake 'security' is intimidating Jewish students

During the afternoon a number of students attacked the wall. It was claimed some had shouted "death to Israel" as they threw water bombs, knocking down the wall. A scuffle broke out and at least one Jewish student was punched. LSE security officers stopped the fight and restored calm. None of the attackers have been identified.

LSE's Israel Society condemned the violent scenes and said: "Jewish students were attacked by Palestine Society protesters in response to water balloons thrown at their mock wall.

"The Palestine Society's interpretation of an Israeli checkpoint… was intimidating for Jewish students as they held [mock] guns and called Jewish students 'Israelis' as they walked through. The protests further angered students who have been directly affected by the conflict.

"Provocative acts instigated by the Palestine Society only serve to fuel tensions on campus. Dragging women kicking and screaming along the floor, as they simulated, is not an accurate description of reality; rather it is a disgusting simplification of a complex situation for both sides."

A Union of Jewish Students' spokeswoman said: "UJS has consistently opposed these fake security checkpoints as being intimidating to Jewish students. These stunts can only ever prove divisive here on British campuses.

"UJS sincerely appeals to Jewish students at LSE and elsewhere not to be provoked into aggressive actions; and hopes that university authorities will play a responsible and fair part in calming tensions."

Student union officials said the checkpoint re-enactment had initially been "peaceful" and added: "The students' union believes in the right to peaceful protest but condemns the violence.

"The safety and welfare of students is of the utmost importance and the union will be investigating the matter immediately in conjunction with the school."

Last year UJS ran a hugely successful Israel Awareness Week to counter the apartheid week claims.

It chose not to repeat the project this year, but did help organise a number of events on campuses with Israeli speakers including Daphni Leef, leader of the J14 social justice movement (which sparked last summer's tent protests in Israel), and panel debates with Arab and Jewish Israelis.

Last updated: 1:58pm, February 23 2012