By Sharona Schwartz Pro-Palestinian activists threw chairs, broke a window and set off fire alarms to try to disrupt a talk given on a London college campus by an Israeli politician who is a left-wing peace activist promoting the two-state solution, that is, separate states for Jews and Palestinians.
The British newspaper the Jewish Chronicle reported that police were called in for the Tuesday night speech by former Israeli Labor Party lawmaker Ami Ayalon, which, in theory at least, should have been safe given the “safe space” policy at King’s College London.
The Chronicle reported that only 56 people were let into the room, which meant protesters who had intended to interrupt his talk were left outside.
A student who was there told the Chronicle, “The room was ambushed: banging on the windows, waving flags, bashing the door. You could hear screaming. … It was really quite frightening inside.”
Video taken from outside the event showed the mayhem as well as a broken window:
Richard Millett, a blogger who writes about Israel, attended the event and posted his observations on his blog: “As soon as the doors shut, the frustrated anti-Israel activists pounded the doors and the windows looking into the talk. They screamed ‘Free Free Palestine,’ ‘Viva Viva Palestina,’ and ‘From the River to the Sea Palestine will be free’ and smashed a window.”
The “From the River” chant refers to the idea of wiping out the state of Israel from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
Millett noted that, ironically, hanging behind Ayalon was a white board “describing the rules for ‘safe spaces’ at universities.”
He noted, “But there is no ‘safe space’ for an Israeli-Jew at British universities.”
The blogger wrote that the anti-Israel activists passed out leaflets falsely accusing Ayalon of war crimes when he served as head of the Shin Bet security services.
Millett wrote that they also “accused Ayalon of being ‘overtly racist’ for supporting a two-state solution because this implies ‘Israeli Jews must always be a majority … due to a fear of losing the ethnic and colonial supremacy Israel has enjoyed since 1948.’”
This video taken inside the venue gives a sense of just how noisy the interruption was:
It is with bitter feelings of frustration and upset that I post this video. Tonight, I co-hosted an event at Kings College London with Ami Ayalon, former director of Shin bet (currently a left wing pro- peace activist). Unfortunately we were only able to secure a small room with short notice to an oversubscribed event. This meant that many protesters (along with other regular people) did not manage to gain access to the talk. Confronted with this, violent protesters set off multiple fire alarms to interrupt the talk. They also banged on windows, threw chairs and screamed to the top of their voices. Attendees inside felt the walls and windows shake as they were struggling to hear the talk, looking genuinely scared for their security. Indeed they had reason to. It got violent as a few managed to push their way into the building, brake a glass window and physically assault a friend of mine (and co-organiser Esther Endfield, KCL Israel society President). This came along with a tirade of verbal abuse inches from the faces of many jewish students. It got to a stage where the police felt the need to call in around 15 police officers and two vans. 2 female friends of mine cried from the fear and abuse and I stood there staring at a poster on the door declaring Kings College London to be a ‘safe space’ and thought – what a lie. The truth is, universities across the UK are not safe spaces (if you happen to be a Zionist Jew). It shocks me how universities and students seem to obsess on the provision of ‘safe spaces’ when a few students are offended by an old statue in Oxford (Cecil Rhodes), whilst there is a total disregard for Israel supporting Jews who are intimidated on a constant basis (in this case even assaulted). Unfortunately the event had to finish half an hour early for security reasons. The assault has been reported to the police. Protecting the free speech of violent protesters violated the free speech of Ami, a man who merely wanted to engage in dialogue with a receptive audience. This is a sad state of affairs. What about his freedom to speak? What about our freedom to listen? I’ve genuinely had enough. Enough with the intimidation. Enough with the alarms. Enough with the long wasted hours of organising events that get ruined by hateful extremists. Enough with university apathy towards their Jewish minority. But silence is not the answer. We will continue because giving up is exactly what these hate-filled, extremist cretins desire. Jewish and Israeli students will not be silenced. My co Jamie and I are already planning our next event (and hoping to get some university work done amongst all this madness). For updates of future events, ‘like’ this page LSE SU Israel Society .NOTE – Please do not reproduce this statement or any part of it in any national media publication without my explicit permission (which will not be likely). Thank you.
Posted by David Tamman on Tuesday, January 19, 2016
An organizer of the Ayalon visit, Esther Endfield, said she was assaulted at the event and that chairs had been thrown at her. She also noted that fire alarms were set off on every floor of the four-story building.
“When did it become so unsafe in one of the global universities in the world that we can no longer hold an event without being scared of our safety,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
The Chronicle reported that about 20 police officers arrived to protect the event.
Here is some of the footage I filmed last night of people banging on the windows and intimidating those inside pic.twitter.com/0hKTo48qC9
— Russell Langer (@R_Langer) January 20, 2016
Jo Johnson, the British minister for universities and science, said, “Our universities should be safe spaces for students to expand their minds, and there can be no justification for violent intimidation that curtails free speech.”
King’s College echoed that sentiment, issuing a statement saying that “violent protest is totally unacceptable and that we expect them to be tolerant and respectful of others’ views and opinions.”
The Union of Jewish Students said in a statement, “The fact that the police had to be called by the university in order to protect students from fellow students is a disgrace.”
The Metropolitan Police said they were investigating allegations of assault and criminal damage.