The Israel Society at Kings College London (KCL) has said it is considering legal action against the university’s student union after it promoted Israel Apartheid Week in a newsletter sent to tens of thousands of students.
In what was described by the society as an “unprecedented” step, the student union included information about events being run on campus during Apartheid Week – the annual nationwide programme of anti-Israel activism.
The week, the newsletter said, “raises awareness of Israel’s apartheid system over the Palestinian people and builds support for the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”
Apartheid Week events began yesterday at KCL, which has more than 25,000 students.
The email was sent out in the name of the KCL student union’s (KCLSU) student officer team including Momin Saqib, the union president. Earlier this month, Mr Saqib was videoed taking part in a protest at the university outside a talk given by Dan Meridor, a former deputy Prime Minister of Israel.
Hadar Langerman, a member of the KCL Israel society and Fellow of the Zionist CAMERA on Campus UK educational organisation, said it was unheard of to have Israel Apartheid Week publicised in an email signed by student officers. “There are procedures in place where students can ask for their events to be advertised, but this is unprecedented,” she said.
Tamara Berens, president of the KCL Israel Society and campus associate for CAMERA, said: “This is the only student society event of the entire year that KCLSU has advertised and endorsed, with absolutely no right to do so.”
She said the Israel Society had informed Mr Saqib and Professor Ed Byrne, president of the university, that the society believed the union had contravened rules governing charities in sending the email.
“Promoting ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ is not within KCLSU’s usual charitable objects, and is therefore unlawful. It also contravenes the commitment of KCLSU as a charity not to run a political campaign,” Ms Berens claimed.
“KCLSU is showing they have no respect for the rights and welfare of the students they claim to represent. I demand that KCLSU apologise for contravening their own procedures to advertise such a discriminatory event. Jewish and Israeli students are shocked and confused.”
KCLSU rejected any suggestion that it was in breach of charity rules.
It told the JC: "The officer email of Friday 23 February 2018 included a story in relation to three events hosted by the student societies KCL Action Palestine and Demilitarise King’s which are happening as part of Israel Apartheid Week.
"Our elected officers often include links to a wide range of events from our campus community such as Holocaust Memorial Day, Strictly Come Dancing events, TEDxLondon events or other events hosted by our 260 student societies."
It added that the Apartheid Week events were "initiated and arranged by one of our ratified societies rather than by the trustees or senior staff of KCLSU".
The union said it had received one complaint which it was responding to in line with its complaints procedure.
It said: "KCLSU has in place a number of measures designed to ensure that no group is discriminated against, harassed or otherwise subject to derogatory treatment in any union setting or as a result of union activity. These measures are of course intended to support Jewish students as well as all other groups. KCLSU has zero tolerance of antisemitism and racism (in its widest forms) and will not hesitate to stop an event if unlawful or extremist views are promoted, supported or endorsed."