A controversial former Arab MK is set to speak at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) this week.
Haneen Zoabi was criticised in 2014 for refusing to describe as “terrorists” the Palestinian abductors of Israeli teenagers, snatched from a bus stop in Gush Etzion and later found dead.
“I don’t agree with the abduction, but I don’t think the abductors are terrorists because I’m looking at the macro, at the context of the occupation,” she told the Israeli broadcaster Channel 2 at the time.
She made headlines in May 2010 when she joined a convoy of ships attempting to breach the blockade of Gaza, on which nine protesters died.
The annual SOAS conference on 6 March entitled “The Injustice of the Century: the Legitimisation of Israeli Apartheid” was organised by the university’s Centre for Palestine Studies.
The event description says the “former Knesset Member … and renowned Palestinian leader Haneen Zoabi will argue that in light of recent developments such as President Donald Trump’s so-called ‘Deal of the Century’, Palestinians and progressives need to develop a moral and political understanding of the question of Palestine as a colonial issue and not as a struggle for a state. ”
Zoabi, who did not stand for re-election last year after a decade in the Knesset, was the first Israeli-Palestinian woman to be elected on an Arab party’s list.
She has previously said she experienced “character assassination, ongoing incitement, unceasing attempts to make me disappear, to silence me, to distort my opinions and even my image, to disqualify me to distance me from the political arena.”
The Office for Students monitors SOAS and other campuses for the purposes of the Prevent anti-extremism program. When approached for comment, a spokesman for the regulator explained: “SOAS is expected to have policies and procedures in place that meet the expectations of the Prevent statutory guidance … Our role is to examine the decision making process for any particular event where there has been a concern that the Prevent duty has not been fulfilled. We will monitor this event accordingly.”
A spokesman for SOAS said the university takes its duties under Prevent “extremely seriously” and that views expressed at events do not represent a university endorsement.
“There is no place for hate speech on the SOAS campus and freedom of speech does not permit the expression of racist or antisemitic views,” he said.
“We support the right of SOAS academics to invite speakers and host debates on contentious and difficult issues. We pride ourselves on our diversity and we know that this will sometimes create tensions and disagreements,” he added.
The Centre for Palestine Studies was approached for comment on Wednesday.