A university’s plan to host an Israeli speaker whose previous talk was halted by anti-Zionist protests has drawn an angry reaction from Jewish students who will be barred from the event.
A University College London spokesman explained that the university has “maintained from the start” that it would be a UCL-only event, which means students from other universities will not be able to buy tickets.
He added that it would not be appropriate to alter its plans since the investigation into the disturbance at the 2016 talk criticised “late changes made” to arrangements for the event.
This week the university invited activist and ex-IDF commander Hen Mazzig back to its campus after his October 2016 talk, jointly organised by the UCL Friends of Israel and the King’s College London Israel Society, was abandoned after demonstrators stormed the venue.
Both speaker and attendees had to be led to safety under police escort, with eyewitnesses reporting that protestors were “shouting and banging on the windows”.
UCL said its invitation to Mr Mazzig demonstrated a commitment to free speech. Many Jewish students who attended the talk two years ago are upset that they will be unable to hear him speak at the January 25 event.
A petition, established by the SOAS Jewish Society and the Israel societies of UCL and King’s College London, calling for UCL to open the event to students of other universities had attracted 247 signatures by Tuesday afternoon.
Tamara Berens, the CAMERA on Campus UK Associate and president of the King’s College London Israel Society, said: “We are shocked that an event that is meant to serve as a symbol for free speech and making amends with the Jewish community is not permitting the student victims of the attack on the event of 2016 to be a part of it.”
Ms Berens, who attended Mr Mazzig’s previous talk, said: “UCL wants to show they are standing up for free speech, but preventing the attendance of the victims from last year’s event… shows they are cowing to the anti-Israel demonstrators.”
Mr Mazzig told the JC he had hoped that the community of Jewish students of London universities would be able to “come together for this symbolic event”.
Devora Khafi, a student at Queen Mary University of London student who was hurt during the protests, said she thought it would have been “normal” for UCL to invite her and others who were caught up in the 2016 protest as an act of reparation.