Ex-student claims university giving 'free rein' to extremism over Israel Apartheid Week

Founder of Israel Society at King's College, London, alleges double standards applied to block pro-Israel speakers on campus


The founder of the Israel Society at King’s College London has written to the university’s principal Professor Edward Byrne to express his anger at Israel Apartheid Week events due to take place on the campus.

Sami Steinbock, who also served as a representative for Union of Jewish Students on the Board of Deputies, accuses the university’s leadership of giving “free rein” to extremism which has “embedded itself within the student population at King’s”.

He says the university’s leadership had given extremists a “free ticket” to speak out without anyone countering their views.

“How much worse can it get?” he asks the principal in his email.

In the strongly-worded message, Mr Steinbock outlines how he had previously attempted to arrange for several Israelis to speak at the university – only to be blocked on numerous occasions.

But the same obstacles, he claims, were not placed in the way of the King’s College Action Palestine Society, which has previously hosted a range of controversial speakers.

He cites a planned IAW talk next week by Professor Farid Essack, a South African Muslim scholar, who, he says, has been accused of making statements with antisemitic content and of sympathising with the Charlie Hebdo attackers.

Mr Steinbock calls on Professor Byrne to consider whether the talk should be allowed to go ahead.

He says: “As it stands, it looks like Jewish students are being bullied, intimidated and discriminated against by the authorities upon whom they rely for their welfare – while groups who have been previously violent on campus are allowed to host extremely controversial speakers without any mitigations being imposed for whatever reason.”

King’s College has been contacted for comment.

Mr Steinbock told the JC: “There are clear issues with double standards here. Israeli groups have to go through all sorts of hurdles and often have events postponed.

He claimed that universities are seeking approval from Palestinian societies before allowing pro-Israel speakers to appear on campuses.

“How can this be right?” Mr Steinbock asked.

A King’s College London spokesperson said: “ We do not tolerate racism or harassment of any kind and are committed to respect for all of our students and staff.

Universities have a unique challenge to create environments in which open and uncensored debate from all sides on issues of political, scientific, moral, ethical and religious significance can take place without fear of intimidation and within the framework of the law. King’s is no exception.

The university has strict procedures in place to check the appropriateness of events and speakers hosted on campus, as well as promoting beneficial relationships between all individuals and groups at the university. Due process has been followed in relation to the KCLSU events taking place next week.”

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