A Hamas sympathiser who likened Zionism to Nazism and claimed the Israeli “lobby” yields “enormous influence” on British Jews is due to speak at University College London.
Members of the Friends of Palestine Society are hosting an event with the Palestinian academic Azzam Tamimi on Tuesday.
Tamimi has previously expressed support for terror group Hamas, telling a group of protesters in 2009: “Today we are all Hamas!”
The academic said he considered sacrificing himself for Palestine “a noble cause”, telling the BBC in 2004 it was “the straight way to pleasing my God and I would do it if I had the opportunity.”
The anti-Israel academic has also compared Zionism to Nazism several times, including in a tweet from 2014.
In an op-ed in the Guardian, Tamimi claimed the Israeli “lobby” had created a stalemate, writing: “The enormous influence yielded by Israel and its lobby on sections of British Jewry has made it rather difficult for Muslims and Jews to work together.”
His forthcoming appearance has been criticised by the UCL Friends of Israel Society and the Union of Jewish Students.
“Free speech is a core value at UCL and one which we as a society uphold and respect, but a line must be drawn when it descends into hate speech,” the UCL Friends of Israel Society said in a statement.
“It is therefore of grave concern to us that someone who targets a national group and who incites others to commit crimes, has been granted the liberty to promote these views.”
Union of Jewish Students campaign organiser Daniel Kosky said the appearance was “deeply disturbing”.
Kosky added: “We fully support UCL Friends of Israel Society in their efforts to draw attention to the hateful and violent language Azam Tamimi has spewed at rallies and events, including at previous university events.
“We have sought to have UCL review whether it is suitable to allow someone who in our view incites hatred to be given a platform.
“We are disappointed that this platform is being offered. We are somewhat reassured by the steps being taken by UCL to ensure no incitement to hatred or violence takes place and that extremist views are not left unchallenged.”
Board of Deputies Vice President Amanda Bowman said: “Azzam Tamimi has a record of inciting hate against Jews, has openly expressed his affiliation to Hamas, a proscribed terrorist organisation, and has equated the actions of Israel with those of the Nazis in the Holocaust.
“Any one of these is reason enough not to host this speaker. UCL must ensure that students are not subjected to hate speech of this kind. We support UJS and UCL Friends of Israel in their opposition and we are deeply disappointed the event is going ahead.”
Tamara Berens, campus associate for CAMERA on Campus, said: “An open supporter of Hamas and a proponent of the libellous and antisemitic comparison between Israeli security policy and Nazism, he flagrantly violates the IHRA definition of antisemitism.
“UCL Friends of Palestine frequently host speakers who deny the agency of the Jewish people to define antisemitism.
“As well as espousing this view, Azzam Tamimi also once expressed his desire to sacrifice himself for Palestine, seemingly alluding to his desire to carry out a suicide attack.”
A spokesperson for UCL’s student union said an independent chair will ensure the event is conducted in an open and constructive atmosphere.
The student union said: “In line with our freedom of speech protocols, we welcome a wide range of views and opinions, but these must always remain within the law, no matter who expresses them.
“We understand that this policy can sometimes mean that a platform is given to speakers with views that some people find offensive.
“We do not take these concerns lightly but feel that the principle of freedom of speech within the law is an important one that should be maintained even in challenging circumstances.”
A UCL spokesperson added: “UCL views the right to debate and challenge ideas as fundamental to the nature of a university, and is committed to ensuring that free and open discussion can take place in an atmosphere of tolerance for different viewpoints.
“Our code of practice on freedom of speech underlines our commitment to securing freedom of speech within the law for all staff, students and visiting speakers.”