A Jewish student was removed from a pro-Israel conference in London on Sunday after distributing anti-Israel material to attendees – and then invited back in to sit on a panel for the Union of Jewish Students.
Annie Cohen and two accompanying friends were escorted out of the We Believe in Israel conference by the Community Security Trust after being caught filming the event’s 1,500 participants and handing out anti-Israel leaflets.
Ms Cohen was then allowed back into the event to sit on a UJS panel titled: ‘The fifty shades of grey between anti-Zionism and antisemitism’. Her two friends were also allowed back in and sat in the audience.
Luke Akehurst, director of We Believe in Israel, which is backed by Israel advocacy group Bicom, said: “They were chucked out of the conference because they broke the terms under which they were there.
“They were filming people and handing out leaflets.
“I arrived on the scene after they were removed by the CST.”
Ms Cohen and her two associates were then allowed back into the event by Mr Akehurst.
He said: “I did not want to leave the UJS panel with only one speaker. I am not in the business of telling people what to say.
“We came to a compromise. The conditions were they leave their filming equipment and leaflets at the front desk.”
A spokesman for the CST said: "They were asked to leave upon the organisers' request, as they were distributing leaflets and filming attendees, contrary to prior agreement not to do so. When they agreed to stop, they were let back in."
Ms Cohen sat on a panel with UJS campaigns director Maggie Suissa and Daniel Gross, chair of University College London’s JSoc.
Jewish Leadership Council public affairs officer Jay Stoll, who chaired the session attended by around 50 people, said Ms Cohen held up leaflets from Jewdas, an anti-establishment group which is critical of Israel and describes itself as offering “radical voices for the alternative diaspora”.
“I was very surprised the UJS had her on the panel to be honest,” said Mr Stoll.
“A couple of people in the audience were very unhappy – there was a lot of back-and-forth between her and one woman."
A spokesperson for the UJS said: “Annie is neither a member nor a representative of UJS and was speaking in a personal capacity.
“UJS invited Annie to present one way of attempting to distinguish those who criticise Israel politically and those who do so under the guise of antisemitism.
“Due to Annie’s past experience of leafleting at demonstrations for Gaza on how to campaign for Palestine without being antisemitic, we believe it was relevant to hear her view on this widely debated matter.
“Annie made it clear that her general politics do not believe in nation states.”
Ms Cohen said: “I work with an organisation called Jewdas. I just want to make it clear that I wasn't representing Jewdas at the conference, we did not wish to attend as an organisation.
"I did hold up a Jewdas leaflet, it was 'how to criticise Israel without being antisemitic' which is what I had been asked to talk about."
The pro-Israel event, attended by MPs including Tory Michael Gove and Michael Dugher, the shadow minister for Transport, was infiltrated by a handful of pro-Palestinian activists who tweeted throughout the event.
Mr Akehurst said: “Clearly other people snuck in. There was a Palestinian guy trolling the whole thing.
“We tried to keep it a space for our side but clearly other people snuck in.
“We cannot get the credentials of everyone that applies to attend the conference.”