UCL to dis­ci­pline anti-Is­rael mob

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BYDANIELSUGARMAN

A LEAD­ING univer­sity has pledged to dis­ci­pline stu­dents who hounded an Is­raeli speaker on its cam­pus.

Hen Mazzig, a for­mer IDF com­man­der in the West Bank, was es­corted away from Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don last Oc­to­ber af­ter anti-Is­rael ac­tivists broke into a lec­ture hall and shouted abuse.

UCL this week pub­lished a 28-page re­port de­tail­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions made by a se­nior aca­demic who in­ves­ti­gated the episode.

Pro­fes­sor Geraint Rees crit­i­cised the con­duct of anti-Is­rael protesters, say­ing in­di­vid­u­als had “planned to pre­vent the event tak­ing place; cre­ated a hos­tile, ag­gres­sive and in­tim­ida­tory at­mos­phere; and con­ducted their protest nois­ily and ag­gres­sively such that many stu­dents, staff and other at­ten­dees felt in­tim­i­dated by their be­hav­iour”.

Ac­tivists had planned to “pre­vent the le­git­i­mate ex­er­cise of free speech”.

How­ever, the re­port also crit­i­cised the be­hav­iour of “a small mi­nor­ity” of those who at­tended the Friends of Is­rael So­ci­ety’s ses­sion, say­ing some had “en­gaged in ag­gres­sive and phys­i­cally in­tim­ida­tory be­hav­iour”.

MrMazz­ig­was­crit­icalof the­out­come but Jewish stu­dents and com­mu­nal groups broadly wel­comed the find­ings.

Mr Mazzig said: “The fact the re­port has come out three months af­ter the event and it was de­layed sev­eral times is trou­bling for me.

“I also find it sad that UCL haven’t reached out to me once even to ask for my re­ac­tion to the event, or my ex­pe­ri­ence of it. As a speaker there, I hope they will en­act some of the rec­om­menda- tions, but I’m not sure I would feel safe to go back to UCL af­ter what hap­pened to me and the stu­dents at the event.”

UCL said no in­di­vid­ual was con­tacted di­rectly, but a pub­lic call for ev­i­dence was is­sued when the in­quiry was launched.

The re­port rec­om­mended that five protesters who were UCL stu­dents “should be re­ferred to the rel­e­vant of­fi­cers for con­sid­er­a­tion of dis­ci­plinary ac­tion”. The devel­op­ment of a code of con­duct for vis­i­tors to the cam­pus and the need for the univer­sity to re­view how high-risk events are run will also be con­sid­ered. The use of in­flam­ma­tory chant­ing was noted by the in­quiry, in par­tic­u­lar the words “from the river to the sea, Pales­tine will be free”.

The re­port said the chant “ap­pears to be call­ing for the de­struc­tion of the state of Is­rael. This goes beyond calls for a ‘free Pales­tine’” and could be “con­sid­ered an­ti­semitic”.

Pro­fes­sor Michael Arthur, UCL Provost, met Jewish stu­dent and com­mu­nal or­gan­i­sa­tions on Tues­day to dis­cuss the re­port’s find­ings.

Liora Cad­ranel, UCL JSoc pres­i­dent when the in­ci­dent took place, said Prof Arthur had been “re­as­sur­ing”.

“He, to­gether with his team, has ap­proached the in­ves­ti­ga­tion with the ut­most of pro­fes­sion­al­ism with no bi­ases,” she said.

In a joint state­ment, Jewish groups in­clud­ing the Board of Deputies and Union of Jewish Stu­dents praised the re­port as “thor­ough, de­tailed and bal­anced”. They said it was “a warn­ing to any­one con­sid­er­ing in­dulging in such ac­tiv­ity in the fu­ture”.

Devora Khafi, a Jewish stu­dent who claimed she was as­saulted at the event, said:“There­c­om­men­da­tion­scon­tribute topre­ventin­gany­thing­likethishap­pen­ing again. They pro­vide a set bound­ary to the lim­its protests can take.”

Prof Arthur said UCL would “ex­plore the po­ten­tial for a return visit by Hen Mazzig as a tan­gi­ble sign” of UCL’s com­mit­ment to free­dom of speech.

The clashes at UCL in Oc­to­ber

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