Students call for intifada at London protest against pro-Israel speaker

Pro-Palestinian protesters called for 'intifada' and 'revolution' as they protested Yoseph Haddad's talk at UCL


Some Pro-Palestinian students were heard calling for an "intifada" at a protest against a pro-Israel speaker at University College London (UCL) on Tuesday.

While demonstrating against Yoseph Haddad's speech to the Israel society at UCL, some students chanted "there is only one solution - intifada, revolution" in reference to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

An intifada is a rebellion or uprising, and in this context, it refers to Palestinians using violence against Israel. Previous Palestinian intifadas have involved hundreds of attacks on Israeli civilians.

The demonstration started on the main campus of UCL where around 50 protesters from various London universities gathered to march in protest of Yoseph Haddad, an Israeli Arab who is speaking at various events in the UK this week organised by Israel education organisation Stand With Us UK, including at UCL.

Short speeches were given in the quad before the students marched to Tottenham Court Road a few minutes away, where Haddad's talk was taking place. One of the speakers told the crowd: "This man is a war criminal who served in an army full of war criminals defending an apartheid state. What you're doing here is a righteous deed, what you're doing here is an honourable thing. Don't be shy about it - be loud about it."

Despite the call for students not to be shy, many covered their faces entirely so they could not be identified in videos from the event.

The protesters then marched to a UCL building on Tottenham Court Road where Haddad was speaking. They were chanting, "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" - a phrase many deem antisemitic as it calls for the elimination of the State of Israel.

Other chants called for "occupation no more", and also said, "Israel is a terrorist state".

As the students arrived at the building, a Jewish man, David Clark, happened to be walking past. He confronted one of the protests saying "Israel, Israel". One of the protest leaders, whose face was covered, used a megaphone to shout pro-Palestine slogans at him.

More speeches were given outside the UCL building, and one speaker said: "We're not speaking as Arabs, Palestinians, we're not speaking as people who feel deeply for the Palestinian people. We're speaking on behalf of people who can't speak for themselves."

Meanwhile inside, Haddad's talk to Jewish and other interested students continued unaffected. He described the reality of Israel from his perspective as a Christian Arab-Israeli and spoke about his desire to integrate Arab-Israelis further into society to help build more community connections and a sense of national pride and identity.

Speaking to the JC following his talk, Haddad said: "My mission is first of all to come and say, you have one way to think about Israel. The reality is completely the opposite. As I said in my lecture, I'm not saying Israel is perfect. I'm not saying there is no racism or discrimination. We have problems.

"But the way to solve it is not what they're doing. The way to solve it is only with partnership together - Jews and Arabs in Israel. And after that, we can also solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Haddad had originally intended to go outside and speak to the protesters after his talk. However, his security team decided that it would not be safe for him to do so, and he was rushed out of a back exit.

Of the protests, he told the JC: "We are in a democracy and they should act like it. Today, it's me and it's Israel. Tomorrow, it could be any other topic that doesn't fit their narrative. This is something that we need to address way before we speak about Israel and Palestine."

He added: "If someone opposes my opinion, I won't threaten them. Come, listen, say what you want, and I will debate you. I will try to prove you wrong based on the fact and reality that I see. But they don't even want to listen to me - they want to silence me.

"But I'm not intimidated. I'm not going to stop despite the hatred and bullying. They are the ones who are afraid because my voice exposes them, and my voice shares some truths and realities on the situation in Israel."

Itzik Zarfati, executive director of StandWithUs UK, added, “We are proud to bring the story of Israel to students across the UK. Unfortunately, every day we learn that even in 2023, freedom of expression is not guaranteed – but we are committed to reaching every student wherever they are.”

Haddad's talk at UCL is part of a week-long tour of the UK with Israel education organisation Stand With Us UK. He is speaking on campuses and at institutions about his perspective on life in Israel and the conflict with the Palestinians.

A spokesperson for Students’ Union UCL, said: “Each year we support our societies and student groups to host more than 1,000 guest speaker events.

“We’re here to ensure that these events are student-led, able to take place safely, and that the freedom of expression within the law of all those participating is protected.

“As a students’ union, we don’t make judgements on the political position of speakers, and we don’t endorse the position of any speaker.

“Many of our student societies invite speakers who are disagreeable to others and, in rare cases, speakers who have made previously controversial statements, are invited.

“In the same way we support student groups to invite challenging speakers, we support other student groups to safely oppose or protest these speakers.

“In these circumstances, we put in place procedures to ensure that freedom of expression within the law is protected for all those participating, including for those wishing to oppose the speaker through protest.”

A UCL spokesperson added: “Ahead of this event, we worked with Students’ Unions UCL to carry out a thorough risk assessment, to ensure the speaker event and counter protest could both take place.”

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