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King's principal apologises after Israeli students 'banned' from campus

Professor Ed Byrne met with the Israeli students personally

    Kings College London (Photo: Flickr/ Poppet with a Camera)

    A university chief has met Israeli students after they were “aggressively” ejected from his campus.

    Professor Ed Byrne, principal of King’s College London, spoke to the students from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in a “productive and friendly meeting” on Monday.

    The Israelis had come to the UK as part of “Isreality”, an initiative created by StandWithUs UK, an Israel education organisation, as part of its nationwide Peace Week campaign.

    The project is a response to the annual “Israel Apartheid Week” activities which take place on campuses. The Israeli students had planned to share their stories about the reality of life in Israel with their British counterparts.

    However, according to Tamir Oren, StandWithUs UK executive director, “the university staff banned the students from entering, cancelled their permission for our event on Monday and even harassed the students.

    “One of the university’s staff ripped their visitor stickers in a very disrespectful manner. The students were offended by the way they were treated, in addition to the fact they were not able to express themselves and their opinion wasn’t heard at all.”

    In response to representations by Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies, and Jonathan Turner, chairman of UK Lawyers for Israel, Prof Byrne agreed to meet the Israeli students.           

    Tamara Berens, president of KCL’s Israel Society, said: “We had a productive and friendly meeting where the Principal apologised personally to each individual student for the harassment they had faced. He affirmed his commitment to the many ties King’s holds with Israeli institutions.

    “He is committed to allowing Israeli students to visit campus and stressed that the treatment they faced was unacceptable. However, there remain ongoing issues with violence and aggression against Israeli speakers. 

    “We will continue to work with the university to encourage them to create frameworks to punish discriminatory, aggressive anti-Israel protestors.”

    Mr Turner said the meeting included “a frank exchange of views”.

    “Prof Byrne emphasised KCL’s commitment to freedom of speech,” he said.

    “We expect him now to deliver by removing the discriminatory restrictions on the Israel Society, deterring future disruption by showing that those responsible will be severely punished.”

    Prof Byrne said the meetings with the Israelis and with Jewish community representatives had been “constructive and engaging”.

    “We have listened carefully to, and are considering, all the concerns that have been raised. We remain fully committed to fostering strong academic links with Israel.”

    Last month, anti-Israel activists attempted to disrupt a talk being given at King’s by Dan Meridor, a former deputy Israeli prime minister.

    In August 2016, an event featuring Ami Ayalon, former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency and now a peace activist, was interrupted by protesters. A pro-Palestinian student was subsequently convicted of assault by beating, having struck the then-president of the Israel Society.

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