Anti-Israel activists attempted to disrupt a talk by a former Israeli Deputy Prime Minister at a London university last night.
Dan Meridor, who served in Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet from 2009 until 2013, spoke at the King’s College (KCL) campus in the Strand, central London, at an event co-hosted by the Pinsker Centre, and the KCL and City University Israel Societies.
Video footage showed scores of student activists lining the hallway outside Mr Meridor’s talk chanting loudly and waving placards, shouting anti-Israel slogans.
Mr Meridor was also called a war criminal and Israel was labelled a terrorist state.
An argument also broke out at the entrance to the building, with a number of protesters raising complaints that they were denied access to the talk, titled ‘Threats and Challenges’.
Tamara Berens, the CAMERA on Campus UK Associate and president of the King’s College London Israel Society, told the JC that students left the lecture to "fingers pointed in our faces".
She added: "They came onto campus this evening with one aim; to intimidate us and shut down our event. They coordinated their voices to scream throughout the talk, without even a minute to allow us to listen to the speaker in peace.
"We have nothing to be ashamed about. The shameful behaviour this evening was that of protesters who do not respect the right of Israelis to free speech. The shame is on those who would rather take away our platform to speak than engage with us openly.
"It is disgraceful that in 2018, Jewish university students should be made to feel afraid or ashamed to walk freely on campus."
The lecture saw Mr Meridor discuss his time in office, including his account of the failed peace process attempt orchestrated by then-US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The Union of Jewish Students condemned what it called “shameful scenes” outside the lecture theatre, accusing demonstrators of attempting to intimidate attendees.
A UJS spokesperson said: “Debate and discussion are vital aspects of university life, as is the right to protest. However, intimidating those who try to hear a variety of views with chants of ‘shame’ is not conducive to informed and respectful dialogue, which should be front and centre of university life.
“We are now in contact with students and campus security at King's College London, seeking constructive actions regarding both this event and the future.”
Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Board of Deputies, said that he would be in contact with Professor Edward Byrne, the King’s College principal, to “gain assurances that there will be no repeat”.
He said: “While the Board of Deputies supports the right to demonstrate peacefully, we were appalled at the scenes last night at King’s College London where those attending a talk by Dan Meridor were barracked and intimidated in a completely unacceptable way.”
Debate over how to organise events featuring Israeli speakers has raged since an October 2016 talk by social activist and ex-IDF commander Hen Mazzig, jointly held by the UCL Friends of Israel and King’s College London’s Israel Society, was halted after demonstrators stormed the venue.
King's College London insisted police had not been called to last night's event, contrary to media reports, and nor were any protestors escorted from the campus. It defended its procedures for holding such events.
A spokesman for the university said: "If our review process highlights any potential risks, we put additional conditions in place before permitting the event to proceed.
"These conditions include recording the speeches to ensure that the events take place within the law, an independent event chair, additional security in place and having senior representatives of the university and the Students’ Union in attendance.
"Universities have a unique challenge to create environments in which open and uncensored debate from all sides on issues of political, scientific, moral, ethical and religious significance can take place without fear of intimidation and within the framework of the law.
"We are proud of our diverse community and are absolutely committed to academic freedom and free, peaceful and respectful dialogue where people have conflicting views."