One Man Protest for Anti-Zionist Speakers

A man holding an Israeli flag stands outside of the Students' Union UCL building at 25 Gordon Street. Behind him are three security guards, looking on.

Although The Times wrote last week that “hundreds of students have protested against University College London’s decision to host two controversial pro-Palestinian speakers”, when The Cheese Grater rocked up at the event we found just one lone man with a considerably sized flag.

The talk, given by Miko Peled and Dr. Azzam Tamimi titled “Segregated and Unequal: Palestinian Life under Apartheid Israel” was organised by Friends of Palestine. The talk received much media attention from sites such as The Jewish Chronicler and The Algemeiner denouncing the event as anti-Semitic.

Last September, Mr. Peled’s comments at a fringe Labour Party conference led to an investigation into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party by Deputy Leader Tom Watson.

Mr. Peled was quoted as saying, “This is about free speech, the freedom to criticise and to discuss every issue, whether it’s the Holocaust: yes or no, Palestine, the liberation, the whole spectrum. There should be no limits on the discussion.” He also compared Zionism to Apartheid and Nazism.

At least two hundred students signed a letter to UCL expressing their concern regarding the welfare of Jewish students in the light of the event, although they never received an answer.

The president of Friends of Israel, Alexandra Taic, explains that many Jewish students felt unsettled by the invitation of Mr. Peled to the University. Whilst she stressed that neither Friends of Israel nor the Jewish Society oppose the speakers’ right to challenge the Israeli government, many students feared that the event would have a distinctly anti-Jewish character and would target the Jewish students on campus.

She added that the event’s scheduling on Friday evening precluded many Jewish students from attending the event due to the Sabbath.

Though the event and speakers had initially received full approval from UCL, the university subsequently imposed many limitations. The president of Friends of Palestine, Jannat Ahmad, told The Cheese Grater that the event was made exclusively accessible to students only, and that the room booked for it was changed multiple times.

Ms. Ahmad stressed that Friends of Palestine had no intention or interest in targeting Jewish students or instigating anti-Semitism. The society also denied deliberately scheduling the event on the Sabbath and explained that the date was determined solely by the availability of the speakers.

Weronika Strzyżyńska
Photo Credit: Tina Yao