LONDON—The Union of Jewish Students in Britain (UJS) — which represents some 8,500 students in the UK and Ireland — denounced anti-Israel activists who attempted to disrupt an address by former Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor at King’s College (KCL) in London Monday night.
Meridor, who served in Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet from 2009 until 2013, spoke at the King’s College campus in the Strand, central London, at an event co-hosted by the Pinsker Centre, the KCL and City University Israel Societies.
The event attendees were intimidated and harassed by protestors who “sought to drown out the speaker.”
Video footage showed scores of student activists shouting anti-Israel slogans and calling Meridor a ‘’war criminal’’ and labelling Israel ‘’a terrorist state.’’
An argument also broke out at the entrance to the building, with a number of protesters raising complaints that they were denied access to the talk, titled ‘Threats and Challenges’.
Tamara Berens, President of the London Israel Society, told the Jewish Chronicle : ‘’They came onto campus this evening with one aim; to intimidate us and shut down our event. They coordinated their voices to scream throughout the talk, without even a minute to allow us to listen to the speaker in peace.
“We have nothing to be ashamed about. The shameful behaviour this evening was that of protesters who do not respect the right of Israelis to free speech. The shame is on those who would rather take away our platform to speak than engage with us openly.
“It is disgraceful that in 2018, Jewish university students should be made to feel afraid or ashamed to walk freely on campus.”
Meridor, who serves today as president of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, spoke about his time in office, including his account of the failed peace process attempt orchestrated by then-US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The Union of Jewish Students said ‘’debate and discussion are vital aspects of university life, as is the right to protest. However, intimidating those who try to hear a variety of views with chants of ‘shame’ is not conducive to informed and respectful dialogue, which should be front and centre of university life.’’
Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Board of Deputies, said that he would be in contact with Professor Edward Byrne, the King’s College principal, to “gain assurances that there will be no repeat”.
He said: “While the Board of Deputies supports the right to demonstrate peacefully, we were appalled at the scenes last night at King’s College London where those attending a talk by Dan Meridor were barracked and intimidated in a completely unacceptable way.”
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder also decried the “contemptuous demonstration” exhibited by the student protesters and urged King’s College to do everything in its power to prevent such an incident from occurring again.
“It is appalling and concerning that at an academic institution of such high esteem as King’s College, which thrives on political diversity, student protesters would stoop so low as to threaten their fellow students and a former state official,” Lauder said.
“We urge King’s College and other institutions of higher learning to underscore the value of academic freedom and to ensure that students are given the opportunity to engage in their own political thought and discussion in a spirit of full safety and security,” Lauder added.