A pro-Israel protester has been taken to hospital after being bitten on the cheek outside SOAS, the School of Oriental and African Studies, today. Police arrested two men on suspicion of affray. They have been bailed without charges for dates in April.
Four activists had decided to go to SOAS after learning that a Celebrate Palestine event was taking place as part of Israel Apartheid Week. Two of them, Tony Coren and Gili Brenner (of Stand With Us), went inside the university and had a number of conversations with the student participants. Mr Coren said: "We had placards and some information packs, and we had some very interesting and civilised discussions."
But suddenly, Mr Coren said, the atmosphere turned hostile. "About four or five people were standing around Gili, Ro'i Goldman, and the fourth member of our group. One man began to say some extremely unpleasant things about Jews. He said that the best thing the Jews had ever done was to go into the gas chambers. He [the fourth activist] asked if he could film him. The man said yes, adding that 'these things should be heard.'"
Another man then came forward and told the abusive man that he did not have to be filmed or interviewed. Despite the abusive man agreeing to be filmed, Mr Coren said, the second man, who was "big and burly and of Middle East appearance," allegedly launched himself at the activist, grabbing at his camera, punching him and then biting him on the cheek.
"There was a struggle and the university security guards came out. A number of other people then began to say we shouldn't be there. The president of the union came out and said we had made our point. A policeman strongly advised us to leave."
Ro'i Goldman, who plans to study in the UK next year, said he was very shocked by the experience. But Tony Coren said he was not shocked, but was angry that the university authorities had indicated that by their very presence, the protesters had possibly provoked the attack. The alleged victim, whose name the JC is withholding for community security reasons, was taken to University College Hospital.