"Zionists should be treated like Nazis", pro-Palestinian speakers told a 150 strong audience at University College London (UCL) on Friday evening.
The heavily condemned talk, Segregated and Unequal: Palestinian Life under Apartheid Israel, was held under heavy security presence and strict ID checks.
Israeli-born Miko Peled, who describes himself as a human rights activist, was speaking alongside Azzam Tamimi, a prominent Hamas supporter. Pointing to his pink BDS badge, he told the audience that he was speaking about “justice, freedom and tolerance.”
Responding to the criticism surrounding the event, he said: “If there is going to be any hate or incitement, it is certainly not going to come from us.”
However, Mr Peled went on to describe Israel as “a racist, apartheid regime, engaged in ethnic cleansing and genocide.”
He continued: “The intent of the state of Israel has never been to live with the Palestinians; the intention from the very beginning was to destroy and get rid of them.”
Midway through the evening, two Jewish students left the room, saying: “You’ve got two liars here – a self-hating Jew and a terrorist sympathiser.” They were met with jeers and laughter from the rest of the audience.In his speech, Mr Tamimi claimed he had been “silenced” for previous comments defending Hamas’s suicide bombings. At a similar event in 2012, he had said: “I’d be a martyr for my country, of course. If you’re not prepared to die for your country, then you are not a patriot.”
He lamented to the audience: “Many universities do not invite me because of the efforts of the pro-Israel lobby.”
During what was an impassioned speech, Mr Tamimi repeatedly accused Zionism of being a “racist ideology”, which determines a chosen land for a select group of people. He said: “Think about it for a minute, you think there is a true god that favours a certain people because of the colour of their skin? It cannot be god; it must be some idol, a man-made deity.”
He paused before quipping: “God is not an estate agent.”
The two speakers were asked about the impact of the Jewish and Israeli lobbies in the United States. Mr Tamimi said “The pro-Israel lobby uses all sorts of dirty tactics.”
Mr Peled added: “For the last two years there has been this witch-hunt against antisemites and Holocaust deniers.”
He went on to compliment Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and Palestinian support, saying Corbyn “shows clear leadership. You put away this nonsense about Holocaust denial and this nonsense about antisemitism. You focus on what’s important.”
A student from UCL Friends of Israel, probed Mr Peled on a tweet from 2016 where he said: “Jews have a reputation for being sleazy thieves.”
Mr Peled claimed that his comment had been taken out of context, but did not respond to the accusation that he was perpetuating antisemitic tropes, except to denounce Israel’s government for being “sleazy thieves.”
She also asked Mr Tamimi about his previous statements defending suicide-bombing. As the student spoke, the audience members began to shout in outrage, saying “shut your mouth”, while the security staff started converging on her.
Mr Tamimi responded angrily, shouting: “What do you expect [Hamas] to do? Of course, they will rebel, they will fight, they will do something.”
When pressed to clarify, he shouted: “We are not in a court. I do not have to answer you.”
Mr Peled added: “I’m not going to tell [Hamas] how they need to respond. The expectation that Palestinians will not respond with violence is absurd. ‘Is it right or is it wrong?’ is not the question.” This was greeted by loud applause and shouts of ‘preach’ by the audience.
When the JC asked Mr Peled why he compared the 90 per cent of British Jews who support Zionism to Nazis and asked why they should not be able to defend themselves, an audience member said: “You’re wrong. You shouldn’t ask a wrong question.”
Mr Peled answered: “Why should we tolerate Zionists? Why do people who believe in and advocate for a racist and violent ideology believe that they get to speak up and have a seat at the table?
“Would we allow any members of the KKK? Would we allow Nazis? No. On that same token, Zionists do not deserve a platform.”
After the talks, Amber Pinto, student & StandWithUs UK coordinator, said: “The event was a gross injustice to students - being advertised as a student-only space yet the room was filled with adults, there was no presentation of information or facts and the event gave a one-sided racist view as was to be expected”