Mob storms Is­rael event on­cam­pus

Vi­o­lence at King’s Col­lege — while BDS threats to venue halt Manch­ester rally

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY JC RE­PORTERS

THE EX­TENT of the chal­lenge fac­ing Is­rael sup­port­ers in Bri­tain was thrown into sharp fo­cus this week.

Dozens of stu­dents were evac­u­ated from an event on Tues­day evening as a mob of anti-Is­rael ac­tivists at­tempted to break into a lecture room where for­mer Shin Bet se­cu­rity chief Ami Ayalon was speak­ing.

The at­tack came on the same day that the or­gan­is­ers of a ma­jor pro-Is­rael rally con­firmed they had been forced to post­pone the gath­er­ing af­ter their venue can­celled the book­ing amid claims of “gross in­tim­i­da­tion” from BDS sup­port­ers.

Both in­ci­dents came in the week that a study into free speech on univer­sity cam­puses re­vealed a height­ened state of cen­sor­ship — es­pe­cially to­wards stu­dents host­ing pro-Is­rael speak­ers.

The vi­o­lence at King’s Col­lege in cen­tral Lon­don erupted when pro­test­ers smashed a win­dow, threw chairs and set off fire alarms as Mr Ayalon spoke to mem­bers of the univer­sity’s Is­rael So­ci­ety.

Two Jewish cam­pus lead­ers were forced to hold off around 10 anti-Is­rael pro­test­ers who broke into a hall.

As a re­sult, the talk was stopped and the lecture room — filled to ca­pac­ity by more than 50 stu­dents — was evac­u­ated.

Es­ther End­field, of the univer­sity’s Is­rael So­ci­ety, said she was as­saulted in the in­ci­dent.

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion was launched by the univer­sity af­ter more than a dozen po­lice of­fi­cers rushed to the scene to re­store calm.

The in­ci­dent at King’s Col­lege came on the same day that the North West Friends of Is­rael group con­firmed its rally — planned to take place in Manch­ester next week — had been post­poned.

The JC has seen emails which show the man­age­ment at the city’s Sheri­dan Suite venue had been deeply con­cerned about the prospect of a ma­jor dis­tur­bance at the venue if the pro-Is­rael event went ahead.

A pro-Pales­tinian cam­paign group had lob­bied the Sheri­dan Suite in the past week, ac­cus­ing it of be­ing as­so­ci­ated with “apartheid, with the killing and maim­ing of thou­sands, many of them chil­dren”.

Board of Deputies pres­i­dent Jonathan Arkush said the venue had “caved in”. Pulling out amounted to a “brow­beaten, craven” re­sponse, he said.

TWO JEWISH stu­dents held off a mob of pro-Pales­tinian thugs as an Is­rael event at a Lon­don univer­sity de­scended into vi­o­lence this week.

Es­ther End­field and Joseph Stoll, pres­i­dent and vice-pres­i­dent of the KCL Is­rael so­ci­ety, barred at least 10 pro­test­ers from forc­ing their way into the room at King’s Col­lege where for­mer Shin Bet head Ami Ayalon was giv­ing a talk.

They were sub­jected to a vol­ley of abuse, in­clud­ing be­ing called “Nazis” as they stood their ground.

At one point, ac­cord­ing to Ms End­field, she was struck Is­rael So­ci­ety pres­i­dent Es­ther End­field was struck on the arm on the arm. She later re­ported the as­sault to the po­lice.

“It was an­i­mal-like be­hav­iour — dis­gust­ing. I was shocked by what I was see­ing,” said Mr Stoll, 21. “They were bang­ing chairs in front of us and shout­ing ‘war cim­i­nals’, ‘Nazis’. It was very in­tim­i­dat­ing. Es­ther was cry­ing hys­ter­i­cally. “My con­cern was for the stu­dents at the talk. If the pro­test­ers had got in­side I wasn’t sure what would have hap­pened. I think it would have been a lot worse.” Ms End­field, 20, said she had been ter­rifed.

“At one point I was against the door and Joseph was pro­tect­ing me. I was cry­ing be­cause I was scared and didn’t know what to do.

“This girl hit me and my phone dropped out of my hand. I was try­ing to film, she just came up to me and hit me on my arm.

“Some peo­ple were try­ing to punch the door to get into the room. They were very ag­gres­sive and an­gry. It was com­pletely un­ac­cept­able.

More than 100 peo­ple had turned up to hear Mr Ayalon, who is tour­ing UK cam­puses with left-lean­ing Zion­ist group Yachad.

The venue, at King’s Col­lege Lon­don’s Nor­folk Build­ing on its Strand cam­pus, could only ac­com­mo­date 60 peo­ple, leav­ing a group of around 30 pro-Pales­tinian ac­tivists out­side the build­ing.

They banged on the win­dows, held up flags and chanted slo­gans in an at­tempt to dis­rupt the meet­ing.

A smaller group man­aged to break into the build­ing where they were con­fronted by Ms End­field and Mr Stoll. De­nied ac­cess to the room where the talk was be­ing held, they set off fire alarms, threw chairs, and smashed a win­dow.

One stu­dent who was at the talk said: “It was re­ally quite fright­en­ing in­side. There was bang­ing on the ceil­ing — stamp­ing.”

Ex­tra cam­pus se­cu­rity guards and stu­dent union safe space of­fi­cers had been drafted in but they were un­able to stop the vi­o­lence and called the po­lice.

But when the 15 of­fi­cers ar­rived they told Ms End­field that they could not make pro­test­ers leave the build­ing as it was pri­vate prop­erty.

The talk was halted 30 min­utes be­fore it was sched­uled to end when when po­lice de­cided to evac­u­ate the build­ing over fears of a fire risk. Mr Ayalon and par­tic­i­pants were es­corted out via a back en­trance.

Po­lice said later they were in­vesti- gat­ing an al­le­ga­tion of as­sault and crim­i­nal dam­age. No ar­rests have so far been made.

Pro­fes­sor Ed Byrne, King’s Col­lege prin­ci­pal, has also launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the in­ci­dent.

A spokesman said: “Pro­fes­sor Byrne will also be writ­ing to stu­dents to re­mind them that vi­o­lent protest is to­tally un­ac­cept­able… We do not, and will not, con­done the use of any form of vi­o­lent protest.”

King’s Col­lege stu­dent union con­demned the vi­o­lence and said it would co-op­er­ate fully with the univer­sity’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

In a post on its Face­book page the KCL Ac­tion Pales­tine so­ci­ety also con­demned the vi­o­lence.

“That the event es­ca­lated into a dis­rup­tion was be­yond our con­trol and not in­cited by any mem­ber of our com­mit­tee… We re­fute any in­volve­ment with what took place be­yond this.”

In a state­ment the Union of Jewish Stu­dents said: “There can be no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the events last night at KCL.

“The KCLSU Is­rael so­ci­ety were host­ing an event about peace and were greeted by vi­o­lence and in­tim­i­da­tion. The fact that the po­lice had to be called by the univer­sity in or­der to pro­tect stu­dents from fel­low stu­dents is a dis­grace.

“It is how­ever im­por­tant to note that th­ese acts were caused by a loud mi­nor­ity. Just 25 peo­ple man­aged to dis­rupt an event at­tended by nearly

60 while over 100 oth­ers who wished to hear the speaker and en­gage pos­i­tively were turned away as there was no more space for them.”

Univer­si­ties Min­is­ter Jo John­son said there “was no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for vi­o­lent in­tim­i­da­tion that cur­tails free speech”.

“Bri­tain and Is­rael share many im­por­tant aca­demic links and speak­ers must be able to ad­dress meet­ings peace­fully. Our univer­si­ties should be safe spa­ces for stu­dents to ex­pand their minds,” he said.

In a state­ment Yachad said: “We con­demn their ac­tions in the strong­est pos­si­ble terms — at­tempt­ing to shut down de­bate and di­a­logue runs con­trary to the val­ues of Yachad.”

A state­ment from the Is­raeli embas- sy in Lon­don said the at­tempts to shut down the meet­ing were “shock­ing and shame­ful”.

It added: “It re­flects the fear that groups cen­tred on ha­tred of Is­rael har­bour to­ward those who pro­mote di­a­logue and a peace­ful so­lu­tion in our re­gion.”

The em­bassy said it would con­sult with “the rel­e­vant Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties, to en­sure that vis­it­ing Is­raeli speak­ers are not ha­rassed on UK cam­puses.”

Mr Stoll, 21, who is cam­pus di­rec­tor for Is­rael ad­vo­cacy group Stand With Us, said the in­ci­dent had showed him that “th­ese guys are not in­ter­ested in what any­one has to say. If you are Is­raeli you are es­sen­tially not wel­come on cam­pus.”

Po­lice at King’s af­ter the at­tack

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PHOTO: PA

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