London college criticized for lax response to violent anti-Israel protest
Pro-Palestinian protesters trapped Jewish students in a lecture hall where an Israeli guest was speaking.
By LIDAR GRAVÉ-LAZIUpdated: NOVEMBER 3, 2016 12:14
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has criticized University College London for its “unserious response” to a violent anti-Israel protest that took place on the college’s campus last week.“UCL issued an unserious response in which the violence was denied, despite video footage that showed physical coercion,” CAMERA executive director Andrea Levin said this week.Police officers were called to the CAMERA- sponsored event last Thursday to put down the violent anti-Israel protest that saw Jewish students, trapped in a lecture room with Israeli guest speaker Hen Mazzig, who was invited to speak about Israel and gay rights issues.Pro-Palestinian protesters were caught on film coming through windows, screaming anti-Jewish slogans and shoving Jewish students.Levin accused UCL of downplaying the extent of the mob attack, calling it a “small but noisy group of protesters.”“It wasn’t small. Scores can be seen on video,” she said. “Police had to escort Jewish students through crowds of demonstrators screaming for the destruction of the Jewish state. UCL seems more concerned with public relations than with protecting Jewish students’ rights of free speech. It’s shameful.”CAMERA has called on UCL to take the threat against Jewish students seriously by expelling any students who broke into the event and to shut down any campus groups that were responsible for organizing the protest.AdvertisementIt also called on the university to invite more Israeli speakers to the campus as a way to “broaden discourse on the Middle East.”“UCL needs to respond meaningfully, not just try to quell bad publicity,” Levin said. “Mob behavior mustn’t be tolerated on any campus.”The day following the event, UCL issued an initial statement that said the event was “widely advertised and open to the public, and as a result a small but noisy group of protesters attended and occupied the rooms where the event was originally meant to take place. UCL Security found an alternative location and ensured the event went ahead safely.We regret protesters took measures to try to prevent the event from happening but stress that the protest was nonviolent.”UCL said it was aware the police attended the event following “accusations of assault,” adding that it was “instigating an inquiry” into the event and “will take appropriate disciplinary action where there is clear evidence that students may have breached our disciplinary regulations.”In a request for comment by The Jerusalem Post to CAMERA’s allegations of an “unserious response,” the UCL spokesman said the college has “instituted an investigation to examine all the circumstances of the meeting on Thursday.”The spokesman also said an updated response was issued two days after its initial statement that addressed the allegations of violence.“Initial investigations into the event are under way,” the statement said. “We have received allegations of violence and intimidation which, if confirmed, we condemn in the strongest possible terms. These allegations will be the focus of our continuing investigation, and we will be working with the police if necessary to pursue evidence. We reiterate our position that we are a university that supports both the right to free speech and of protest. The latter must, however, be conducted in a respectful and peaceful manner. As part of our investigation we will be reviewing our procedures to ensure this is adhered to.”