Israel supporter ‘punched in head’ at Soas film screening

In an audio recording of the incident, a voice can be heard threatening Mr Millett with 'a f***ing pasting'


A pro-Israel activist has been left “shaken” after allegedly being physically assaulted after the screening of an anti-Israel film at a London university.

Richard Millett said he was “punched on the side of the head” by a man he described as “totally drunk” at the event at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

According to an account Mr Millett published on his blog, he was accosted following a panel discussion on the film, when he had just identified himself as being sympathetic to Israel.

A … white male, much taller than me and much younger, probably in his mid to late twenties” approached him. In an audio recording of the incident, a voice can be heard saying “I’ll tell you what, you’ll get a f***ing pasting. You’ll get a f***ing pasting.”

The man walked off but returned and, according to Mr Millett, “tried to slam my phone out of my hand and also punched me on the side of my head”. In the recording, Mr Millett can be heard shouting “leave me alone”.

Mr Millett told the JC he had contacted police and Soas about the incident.

“I wrote to Soas, who responded and were very apologetic and said they were going to thoroughly research what happened” he said.

“I'm hoping they'll have CCTV. I've been to hundreds of events but never been hit although I've been regularly threatened and abused”.

He said that alleged assault had left him  “unsure about attending these events now”.

He called for greater security on campus.

 “Anyone can walk in”, he said.

“There are no names, no security in the room. At one stage I thought he [the alleged assailant] was going to head butt me. But what if he produced a knife? There was no one around trying to stop him. No one tried to stop him after he hit me. He was allowed to walk away.

“Security must remain and be visible until everyone is safely out of the event and has left Soas premises. This should be the same at all universities”.

The alleged incident happened on Tuesday evening at a screening of The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States.

Narrated by Roger Waters, the former Pink Floyd band member and prominent BDS activist, it features appearances from anti-Israel figures including Norman Finkelstein, Max Blumenthal and Stephen Walt. The film claims to “explore how the Israeli government, the US government, pro-Israel lobby have joined forces, often with very different motives, to shape American media coverage of the conflict in Israel's favour”.

The panel discussion after the screening featured Mr Waters via a Skype link, and by John Pilger, the author of the infamous cover piece for the New Statesman in 2002 called “The Kosher conspiracy” about the supposed influence of the Israel lobby in Britain. Professor Dina Matar, a senior lecturer at Soas, was also a panellist. The event was held jointly by Soas’s Centre for Media Studies and Centre for Palestine Studies.

In a statement from Soas, the university said it was "extremely concerned about the allegations of an assault following an event at the School this week.

"There should be no place for violence on the SOAS campus. Diversity is key to the SOAS mission and we want all our students, staff and visitors to feel welcome.

"We are reviewing footage and investigating the incident fully. At this time, we have no evidence that SOAS staff or students were involved.

"SOAS takes concerns expressed about events which take place on our premises very seriously. We have a properly constituted procedure for managing the planning for and the conduct of events at SOAS. This is designed to ensure we maintain a neutral platform and ensure that all members of our diverse community are free to express their opinions in a mutually respectful and collegial environment. This can only be conducted effectively in an atmosphere of open enquiry, mutual tolerance and intellectual freedom".

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