University accused of not publicising talk by Israeli speaker

Jewish students say University College London is keeping Hen Mazzig’s lecture ‘under the radar’ to avoid anti-Israel protests


Jewish students have expressed their dismay at University College London’s (UCL) failure to publish details about a talk on Israel in its online events calendar.

Hen Mazzig, a former officer in the Israeli Ministry of Defence’s COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) unit, was invited back to speak by the University authorities, after a now-notorious 2016 event at the university, where a talk he was given was halted by anti-Israel protesters and he and his audience had to be escorted to safety by police.

UCL has said its invitation to Mr Mazzig demonstrates a commitment to free speech. However, Jewish students have complained that the event, which takes place on Thursday afternoon, is open only to UCL staff and students.

The 2016 talk on UCL’s campus was organised by with Israel societies at UCL and King’s College London, with students from other universities attending.

Khulan Davajaav, CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) on Campus UK Associate and SOAS Jewish Society President, said:

"It's really upsetting that UCL students didn't get the opportunity to hear about this event first from the university. Instead, the news first came to students via a Facebook post by the UCL Friends of Palestine Society, in which they attempted to vilify Mazzig as a ‘war criminal’, and again called for protest.

“The victims of the 2016 event such as myself, who had a violent protester force open a window in the room and land on me, feel insulted by the university trying to hide Thursday's event by not giving it due publicity. If UCL intended to amend its relationship with the Jewish community through Thursday's event, they should know they are making it even worse while they try to keep it under the radar, because we again feel like the Jewish community needs to hide."

A spokesperson for UCL said: “The event has been publicised on staff and student newsletters.

“The UCL public events calendar only lists events that are open to the general public which is why Hen Mazzig’s event doesn’t appear there. We have made clear from the beginning that it is an all-ticket UCL only event.”

The spokesperson added: “The visit has been widely publicised. UCL’s home page carried details of Hen Mazzig’s visit with a feature news piece for nine days.” 

Aviva Slomich, international campus director for CAMERA, expressed disappointment. “While upholding freedom of speech on campus is the right thing to do, and should be commended and emphasised, it appears that UCL is so frightened that its own students will repeat their violent behaviour, or doesn’t truly believe in its own calls for freedom of speech.”

Anti-Israel protestors have announced they are planning a demonstration at UCL today against what they have called “the normalisation of apartheid and occupation”.

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