No arrests or protests at Stern’s London talk

Arab human rights group had called to detain former IDF general for war crimes.

February 1, 2017 23:19
2 minute read.
MK ELAZAR STERN addresses an audience at University College London on Tuesday

MK ELAZAR STERN addresses an audience at University College London on Tuesday. (photo credit: JOSH DELL)


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LONDON – Despite a heavy security presence and a location kept secret until the very last moment, on Tuesday for the first time in seven years, an Israeli MK publicly addressed a British university campus.

Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern delivered a talk and question-and-answer session to a packed lecture theater at University College London, in which he discussed his IDF career and experience in the Knesset, as a part of a tour this week of the UK alongside young Yesh Atid activists and strategists.

The talk took place the same day the university released its report into events surrounding an October 2016 presentation by Hen Mazzig, an Israeli writer and former officer with the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Unit, which was disrupted by anti-Israel protesters to such an extent that Mazzig and those attending were forced to barricade themselves in a room for their safety.

The report, which admitted to failings on the part of the university to uphold its “Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech,” acknowledged that there was “evidence that a smaller group of protesters intentionally disrupted the rights of others to exercise freedom of speech within the law, and that their behavior caused stress and anxiety to students and staff at UCL.”

Commenting on the report, the Communities Security Trust – the charity focused on the protection and security of British Jews – said it welcomed “UCL’s attempts to quickly and thoroughly investigate this matter, but it is sad that such a thing should even be needed.”

Interruptions at talks by prominent Israelis are not uncommon in Britain.

In January 2016, a talk at King’s College London by Ami Ayalon, the former head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), was severely disrupted, with chairs thrown and windows smashed, ultimately resulting in the evacuation of the building in which the event was being held.

Tuesday night’s talk was part of a speaking tour by Stern of several UK universities, as well as of the Houses of Parliament.

Stern’s visit has not gone unnoticed.

In a press release, the Arab Organization for Human Rights in UK called for his arrest, urging the War Crimes Unit of the Metropolitan Police to arrest the MK, stating: “Those who commit crimes of war have no place at legislative and educational institutions.”

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid spoke to British Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey about the calls to arrest Stern.

Lapid asked Quarrey to have his government protect Stern from organizations aiming to boycott, divest and sanction Israel while he is in Britain.

“Stern came to London to struggle against the lies of the BDS Movement against the IDF,” Lapid said. “I am sure you will do everything you can to protect him during his stay. Stern is a respected officer who did much to for the security of the state.”

Lauren Chaplin and Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

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