University College London (UCL) has defended its invitation to expelled Labour activist Jackie Walker to talk part in a panel discussion next month, reiterating its adherence to “freedom of expression”.
Ms Walker, who was expelled from Labour in March for “prejudicial” and “grossly detrimental” comments, will be a panellist at book launch event: “The Responsibility of Intellectuals – reflections by Noam Chomsky and others after 50 years”.
The book of essays, including a contribution from Ms Walker, has been released to mark half a century since the publication of Prof Chomsky's book 'The Responsibility of Intellectuals'.
In 2016, Ms Walker, a former vice-chair of the pro-Corbyn Momentum campaign group, was suspended from the party after claiming that “many Jews” were “chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade”.
Readmitted a few months later, she was again suspended after attending a Jewish Labour Movement event at party conference, where she wrongly said that Holocaust Memorial Day did not commemorate other genocides and said that she “still haven’t heard a definition of antisemitism that I can work with.”
It then took two and a half years to expel her.
Ms Walker claimed she was the victim of a "lynching" led by the "Zionist Jewish Labour Movement and their supporters."
The description of the UCL event, which is being organised by the Institute of Advanced Studies, said Ms Walker and others would “describe the personal price they have paid for speaking out.”
A UCL spokesperson told the JC: “UCL views the right to debate and challenge ideas as fundamental to the nature of a university, and is committed to ensuring that free and open discussion can take place in an atmosphere of tolerance for different viewpoints.
“Our Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech underlines our commitment to securing freedom of speech within the law for all staff, students and visiting speakers. It makes clear that freedom of expression is protected by the law, but is not unfettered.
“We expect speakers to be sensitive to the diversity of our inclusive community and to show respect to all sections of that community.
“UCL has carried out a thorough risk assessment and will be implementing a number of measures around this event.
“We will be asking all speakers, including Ms Walker, to comply with our Code of Practice as a condition of attending the event. This requires that the views and ideas put forward do not give rise to an environment in which people will experience – or could reasonably fear – harassment, intimidation, verbal abuse or violence, with particular reference to the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, including religion and belief.
"The expression of antisemitic tropes or positions would be considered unacceptable under this Code of Practice.
“Other measures in place include appointing an independent chair who will ensure the event is conducted in an open and constructive atmosphere to ensure a safe environment is created for peaceful debate to take place.”
Ms Walker has enjoyed support from prominent left wing activists, including film director Ken Loach, who said she should be allowed to play a significant role in the party.
Prof Chomsky defended her, saying: "I wholeheartedly support the right of anyone to criticise Israel without being branded antisemitic."