Bristol Students’ Union charged £500 in “outrageous” security costs for an event with Israeli ambassador Mark Regev, while charging nothing to safeguard a similar campus talk by his Palestinian counterpart.
Sabrina Miller, president of the Bristol Middle East Forum (BMFE), took to Twitter to express her dismay after being told BMFE would need to cough up the cash to invite Regev to speak on campus last month.
She tweeted: “Bristol SU charge £489 if I invite in Mark Regev from the Israeli Embassy but charge £0 for bringing in Dr Husam Zomlot from the Palestinain embassy. These outrageous security costs prevent certain speakers coming to UK campuses and show a complete, not even subtle bias.”
Miller posted a letter on Twitter from the Bristol Students’ Union, which stated that the talk on 24 February, was “reviewed and escalated through our normal processes”.
It continues: “Due to the nature of the proposed speakers, approval is subject to… mandatory mitigations”. These include “a designated security presence… to ensure safety and manage any protest that materialises”. The letter adds: “Security services have quoted £489.24 to cover the cost of this service.”
Miller posted a second letter regarding a request for Dr Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian representative in the UK, to speak on 9 March.“Based on the current risk level, only passing security attention is required” Bristol Students’ Union, replied, adding it “carries no cost”.
Both the events with Mark Regev and Dr Husam Zomlot were subsequently cancelled.
Daniel Kosky, Campaigns Organiser: “We have long argued that the decision to impose security costs on Jewish and Israel societies constitute an attack on free speech. It is no secret that events run by Jewish and Israel societies can receive hostility from other students, which is no fault of their own. It is wrong that universities continue to leverage the threat of political protest to Jewish and Israel societies as a means to charge them to hold their events. We will continue to strongly advocate for this discriminatory practice to end.”
A Bristol SU spokesperson said: “For any event with high-profile speakers we consult with the University’s Security Services team and defer to their judgement over the level of security required. Bristol Students’ Union does not set the security costs, or collect the payment.
The speakers were invited to different events which carried different levels of risk as assessed by the student event organiser and Bristol SU.”
We do not discriminate between speakers and follow the same process for all speaker events.”