The president of the Board of Deputies has expressed his “dismay and anger” over an event at University College London featuring pro-Palestinian speakers, one of whom said that “Zionists should be treated like Nazis”.
The talk, titled Segregated and Unequal: Palestinian Life under Apartheid Israel, was held by the university on Friday night under a heavy security presence and strict ID checks.
Israeli-born Miko Peled, an outspoken anti-Zionist, addressed the audience alongside Azzam Tamimi, a prominent Palestinian activist.
The JC reported that Mr Peled described Israel as a “racist, apartheid regime, engaged in ethnic cleansing and genocide”, while Mr Tamimi asserted that Zionism is a “racist ideology”.
In a letter to the provost of UCL, Professor Michael Arthur, Board president Jonathan Arkush said that the two speakers have in the past “expressed views which go beyond the legal and regulatory boundaries of free speech”.
He also referred another UCL event, in October 2016, when police officers had to accompany Jewish students from a lecture hall after they were trapped by anti-Israel protesters who interrupted a talk by Hen Mazzig, a former IDF commander.
He wrote: “I am deeply disappointed to be writing to you, a year after last year’s events at UCL, to express the Jewish community’s dismay and anger at the event that took place on Friday.”
The university defended its decision, insisting that it "supports freedom of speech provided it stays within the law", but that it will "review its processes" in the wake of the event.
A UCL spokesman said: “We have a rigorous system of checks and approvals designed to ensure that events are properly organised with the necessary safeguards to ensure that while speakers enjoy the benefits of free speech, all steps are taken to make sure they pass off smoothly, peacefully and within the law.
“In the case of the recent event involving Miko Peled and Azzam Tamimi, both speakers gave a written undertaking in advance to follow the code for events run under the aegis of the students’ union.
"This stipulates that UCL will not allow any communication that is threatening, abusive or insulting or any that target anyone on the basis of race, nationality or religion. We also had in place an independent chairman.
“One of our main concerns is the safety and security of our students and staff so we are pleased the event passed off peacefully. We appreciate that people can be offended and keep our procedures constantly under review. We will therefore review our procedures in light of the criticism of the event.”
Mr Arkush is due to meet Professor Arthur on Wednesday, when the latter returns from a visit to China, the Board said.
“I will be telling him that the Board of Deputies has very serious concerns which I intend to pursue with determination,” Mr Arkush said.
“I am simply unable to fathom out how UCL could have acted with such a lack of wisdom and common sense in permitting this meeting, despite concerns put to them by their own students, academics and UJS.”