Daily Mail

So much for safe spaces...

Rabble of campus activists storm Israeli’s guest lecture

- By Eleanor Harding Education Correspond­ent

STUDENT activists threw chairs, chanted slogans and set off fire alarms as they forced an Israeli speaker to abandon a lecture about peace in the Middle East.

More than two dozen protesters besieged the meeting room at King’s College London’s Strand campus in protest at the invitation to Ami Ayalon.

Demonstrat­ors claimed Mr Ayalon is a ‘racist Zionist’ because he was once head of Israel’s internal security service, Shin Bet.

It is the latest in a series of incidents that have seen speakers shouted down or barred by militant groups despite student unions claiming to operate ‘ safe space’ policies to ensure free speech and safety.

Horrified witnesses at the KCL on tuesday evening said problems arose when protesters swelled the number trying to enter the lecture to 200 when the room holds just over 50.

Activists unable to gain admission, some banged on windows, threw chairs and tried to storm the room.

One window was smashed while Esther Endfield, president of the college’s Israel Society, was allegedly hit as she tried to calm matters. Mr Ayalon tried to continue before police were called. About 15 officers arrived and campus security evacuated the building but no arrests were made.

Miss Endfield, 20, said: ‘It was terrifying. the protesters were trying to force their way in. I got pushed against a wall and a girl hit me. Other people were hurt. People were hitting fire alarms. the speaker tried to talk above them but it was difficult.’

the event had been billed as a ‘challengin­g discussion’ which would address stability in the Middle East, the peace process and security.

However, members of King’s College London Action Palestine objected to giving a platform to Mr Ayalon, claiming the former Leftwing Israeli MP was ‘ no different from the more overtly racist Zionists in the Israeli state apparatus’.

Miss Endfield said: ‘I would have loved it if they had come to ask the speaker questions. Instead, they succeeded in shutting down the event.’

She had ensured three campus security guards and three students’ union ‘safe space’ officers attended.

KCL said an ‘urgent investigat­ion’ would be held and the university principal would write to students to ‘remind them that violent protest is totally unacceptab­le and that we expect them to be tolerant and respectful of others’ views’.

the students’ union said it ‘takes this very seriously’ adding that ‘we don’t support violent action’. Universiti­es minister Jo Johnson said there was ‘no justificat­ion for violent intimidati­on that curtails free speech.’

KCL Action Palestine said it ‘categorica­lly condemned any aggression that took place’. It added: ‘KCLAP had planned to challenge Ami Ayalon and inform the audience of his complicity in the torture of Palestinia­ns as former head of the Shin Bet.’ the incident comes amid complaints of growing intoleranc­e towards pro-Israel students on UK campuses. Militant groups have also tried to ‘no-platform’ other speakers, including feminists Germaine Greer and Maryam Namazie.

However, a number of extremist Islamist speakers have been invited to speak on campus.

Britain’s students: the new fascists?

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