Police called as protesters disrupt uni event with former Israeli deputy PM
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Police called as protesters disrupt uni event with former Israeli deputy PM

Screaming crowd of more than 60 students heckle meeting with politician Dan Meridor, shouting 'shame' and calling him a 'war criminal'

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

A screaming crowd of about 60 students barracked an Israel Society meeting held at Kings College London’s campus, resulting in the police being called to ensure the safety of the audience and the speaker, the former Israeli deputy prime minister, Dan Meridor.

The meeting was jointly held by Kings Israel Society, City University Israel Society, and a new campus organisation, the Pinsker Centre, a UK based organisation whose mission, it says, “is to preserve freedom of speech on British university campuses and allow a non-hostile platform for discussion on Israel”.

But this ambition largely failed as a hostile crowd gathered outside the Great Hall in which Mr Meridor addressed his audience, in a speech moderated by Bar-Ilan Professor Menachem Klein, currently a visiting professor at Kings.

Students bearing red and green daubed posters, with the words “War Criminal” roughly scribbled on them, began screaming at anyone who was making their way into the hall to hear Mr Meridor.

Dan Meridor

Some of the protesters complained about having their photographs taken, although a number of them were eagerly photographing members of the audience who emerged from the event later in the evening.

Kings College security men, who patrolled inside the hall throughout, would only allow those who had previously registered into the event, in order to avoid disruption; but chanting and screaming from outside continued throughout Mr Meridor’s address and the question and answer session which followed, making it at times impossible to hear the speaker.

Mr Meridor himself was sanguine about the protests. He told the JN before the meeting that he believed in dialogue and hoped that it might be possible for those who were critical of Israel to come inside and have “a civilised discussion.”

But that did not prove possible and after the meeting concluded, Kings Israel Society president Tamara Behrens announced that the police had been called and that anyone who did not feel comfortable running the gauntlet of the protesters should wait inside the hall until the police arrived.

Kings College protesters demonstrating against former Israeli deputy prime minister, Dan Meridor
Picture credit: The Pinsker Centre

In the end most of the audience chose to walk through the screaming, baying crowd. One Kings student who had nothing to do with either side was thoroughly fed up. He told the JN: “All they [the protesters] want to do is yell and intimidate, and I can’t stand it.”

Professor Klein made it clear that he and Mr Meridor came from opposite sides of the political fence, and yet he introduced his guest as “a disappearing type of Israeli politician”, joking that Mr Meridor had never yet been the subject of an investigation by the Israeli police.

In a wide-ranging analysis of the situation in the Middle East, Mr Meridor may have surprised some of his audience as he appeared to regret the “nationalist” line taken by the current Israeli government at the expense of the “liberal” approach which he said was “part of the DNA of the Likud party”.

Making a strong case for the pursuit of the two-state solution, Mr Meridor deplored a situation in which “religion adds rigidity” when people came to vote. And he admitted, speaking of relations with America, that he did not “feel at home” with the evangelist movement which has expressed support for Israel.

In what might be a veiled message to his former government colleagues, Mr Meridor concluded: “Liberal values are under attack all over the world. But our test as Israelis is how we treat minorities.”

A UJS Spokesperson said  they are “deeply disappointed that those wishing to attend a talk by KCL Israel Society were intimidated and harassed.”

They add: that “chants of ‘From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free’, calling for the destruction of Israel, were heard at the protest last night. UJS has consistently argued that this open demand for Israel’s destruction must have no place on any campus.”

President of the Board of Deputies, Jonathan Arkush, condemned the incident saying: “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. Clearly, there are deficiencies in King’s College’s event management which allowed these scenes to take place. We will be contacting  the Principal to discuss last night’s events and to gain assurances that there will be no repeat.”

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder commented: “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.”

He added: “These students have shown a complete disregard for academic freedom and expression, and are sending a dangerous message that hostility and force are legitimate methods of protest. The World Jewish Congress supports the right to peaceful demonstrations, but it is never acceptable to engender fear in the name of political activism.”
You can watch a video from the event taken by the Pinsker Centre, here:

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments